Hoge: As Matt Nagy Promises Changes, Will That Include The Play Caller?

Matt Nagy. Getty Images)

SOLDIER FIELD — The Bears’ offense is bad. And there’s very little evidence to suggest it will get better.

Worse, we’re pretty much at the point where you have to wonder if quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will get better.

These are the harsh realities Bears head coach Matt Nagy faces after his team fell completely flat out of a bye week in a game they absolutely had to win. Without Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook, the New Orleans Saints came into Solider Field and completely dominated, winning 36-25.

At halftime, it felt like the Bears were fortunate not to be getting blown out. When the game was over, they were blown out. Don’t let the final score fool you. It was 36-10 before the Bears’ offense managed two touchdowns in garbage time.

“We just have no rhythm,” quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. “It’s not about pointing fingers. We’re struggling as an offense.” 

Nagy spent the bye week trying to fix his running game while also attempting to get his injured quarterback back on track in his development. Sunday, both were colossal failures. The Bears managed just 17 rushing yards and Trubisky was terrible. Again, ignore the numbers. He finished 34-of-54 for 251 yards and two touchdowns, but 132 of those yards and both touchdowns came on the final two drives. After the game, Nagy seemed more concerned with the running game.

“The run game has to get going,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. It just has to get going. You can’t run it for 17 yards in the NFL and think you are going to win a game. You should get 17 yards on one run play.”

Of course, you can’t have only seven rushing attempts either. That’s a franchise record low. 

“As a play caller, when it’s 2nd & 9 and 2nd & 10 and 2nd & 8 and you’re moving the ball throwing it, you’re getting first downs throwing it, that’s what the objective is to get 1st downs,” Nagy said. “I don’t care if I have to throw the ball 60 times a game, if that’s what’s going to help us win a game or if I have to run it 60 times, I don’t care, I want productive plays. It’s not that hard.”

It’s hard to blame Nagy too much for that mindset when he’s getting absolutely zero from his running backs. And it’s fair to point out that as Nagy called all those throws, his quarterback failed to complete the pass on at least three big third downs. It’s part of why the web of blame keeps connecting to almost every facet of the Bears’ offense.

The list of failures is long: no running game, Trubisky overthrowing wide receivers, Anthony Miller running a wrong route, Miller and David Montgomery both fumbling, and Trey Burton dropping an easy first down.

To summarize in a different way: the Bears can’t run the ball, so they throw it, but the quarterback can’t hit wide open receivers and when he does, they drop the ball. And then when Nagy goes back to the running game, they fumble the ball. 

I’m sorry, but there isn’t a play-caller in the NFL that is going to look good under those circumstances. And yet, how do you only attempt to run the ball seven times?

“When you have a chance to make a play, when it’s your job to make a block, when it’s your job to make a throw, when it’s your job to do it, you do it,” Nagy said. “When it’s my job to call a play, you do it. You call the right play and you put them in the best situation possible. And until we start recognizing that and understanding that, then nothing is going to change.”

Concerning for 2019 is that Nagy’s offense looked worse than it did before the bye. Concerning for 2020 and beyond is that Bears might need a new quarterback. 

Both of those sentiments seemed incredibly unlikely back in the summer. While no one was expecting the Bears to lead the league in points or Trubisky to win MVP, it seemed like the floor was somewhere in the middle of the pack, both offensively and among NFL quarterbacks. And while Trubisky’s first two NFL seasons weren’t spectacular, it certainly seemed like he wouldn’t be in need of a replacement anytime soon. Now, if something doesn’t change in a hurry, general manager Ryan Pace will have to at least bring in serious competition in the offseason.

Asked after the game if he remains committed to Trubisky, Nagy said, “Yeah, absolutely.” 

The fact that we’re even having that conversation in Week 7 shows you how bleak it looks on offense. The Bears are 3-3 — the same record they had at this point last year — but the arrow appears pointed in a completely different direction. Last year, the Bears fell to 3-3 after competing hard with the Patriots, who went on to win the Super Bowl. This year, they fell to 3-3 after looking incompetent on offense and losing to a team that didn’t have its starting quarterback, starting running back, starting tight end or No. 3 wide receiver.

“Something’s gotta change,” Nagy said. “And I’ll say this: something will change. I don’t know what it is and you guys might not know — maybe you will, maybe you won’t — but something will change. Because it’s not good enough right now.”

Well, we know the quarterback is not changing, so what about the play caller?

“I’m not going to get into all that. If I did (give up play-calling duties), no one here would know,” Nagy said.

It’s notable that Nagy’s answer on that question was much different than his full commitment to Trubisky. 

It’s certainly possible that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich could have a positive impact on the play-calling. Maybe he would remain more committed to the run. But would that automatically fix the problems all across the offense? That seems like a stretch. 

“We’ve got to figure out how we turn this thing around,” Nagy said. “We understand that. But you run out of time, too. You know, so every week that goes by, every week matters. We’ve just got to find a way to win.”

The clock is ticking. And the playoff window is closing. 

Adam Hoge covers the Chicago Bears for WGN Radio and WGNRadio.com. He also hosts “The Hoge & Jahns Podcast.” Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.

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