Matt Nagy is a fascinating head coach. It’s apparent from anybody who watches him work that he is an unquestioned leader of men. Somebody who treats the team like a family and truly cares for his players. He wants them to succeed. He also has a competitive streak that demands winning at all costs. The Chicago Bears are never out of a football game until the final whistle.
This is a big reason why they continue to pull off some wild comebacks week after week. It’s their own resilience but also the steadiness of Nagy himself. There is no denying his ability to motivate. Yet despite a 24-13 record to this point in his career, a lot of fans are growing tired of him. How could that be?
To put it simply, his offense has not delivered.
Nagy was brought in to win football games. That is what head coaches must prioritize. He’s done that. However, one cannot forget the other primary reason he was hired back in 2018. To fix a perennially broken Bears offense and finally get consistency out of the quarterback position. Thus far in two and 1/3 seasons, he has failed to accomplish that goal.
As a team, Chicago ranked 21st in total offense in 2018 and 29th in 2019. This year they currently sit at 27th. This despite moving on from Mitch Trubisky at quarterback whom it was often hinted was the source of the issue. Now people are wondering if it’s Nagy who is the real problem.
Is Matt Nagy too in love with his system?
One of the most puzzling aspects of Nagy’s offense is its use of personnel. Too often it feels like players who shouldn’t be on the field are getting snaps while others who should are left on the bench. For example, veteran tight end Demetrius Harris has gotten 147 snaps this season. Meanwhile, the Bears’ prized 2nd round pick Cole Kmet has only gotten 104.
Jimmy Graham, David Montgomery, and Allen Robinson are the only skill players to eclipse 200 snaps this season. Anthony Miller, who they said over and over again was ready for a breakout year, has gotten just 169. Ted Ginn Jr. who hasn’t proven worth much to this point outside of one big catch still has 55.
It feels like Nagy suffers from an affliction other head coaches have dealt with in the past. He views his players less like human beings and more like chess pieces or gears in a machine. It shouldn’t matter which ones are in the game or not. All are expected to execute at the same level. Except it doesn’t work that way.
Another coach who suffered from the same issue was Tom Landry.
While the man is revered today as one of the greatest coaches in NFL history, the Dallas Cowboys legend wasn’t free from ridicule back in his day. Landry was often accused of being far too rigid in his demands of players when it came to executing his offense. There was no flexibility. Everything had to be perfect in order for it to work. Landry didn’t want to hear about changes either.
Mike Ditka, who played and coached under him, confirmed all of it.
“Oh, the system was everything, but that’s not to say that Tom was not open to suggestions and alterations. He wasn’t averse to that, but when you suggested something different, you better have a damn good reason and something that you could prove and demonstrate on film before you suggested it.”
It took literal years before Landry finally accepted the idea of dumbing down and simplifying his offense.
It feels like Matt Nagy suffers the same problem.
Only he doesn’t have Hall of Fame-caliber talent to cover it up as Landry did for so many years. He is in love with personnel packages and finding that perfect play to catch the defense off guard. Too often he forgets that it’s players who have to execute these plays and they can’t do that when they’re having to constantly readjust and think all the time.
He can complain about guys being detailed all he wants. It’s a fair demand. Yet the reality is much of the inconsistency and sloppiness that bedevil this offense every week falls on him. Just like it fell on Landry all those years ago.