With the pieces now in place, the Chicago Bears’ head coach appears to be all out of excuses.
Let me be clear — Chicago Bears’ head coach Matt Nagy has never made any excuses for the team’s lackluster performance in 2019. Not one. He handled the criticism like the stand-up guy that he is. Despite having a number of easy targets, (poor quarterback play, poor offensive line play, injuries, and even his own performance) he never pointed the finger.
After a busy offseason of moves, if those problems still persist, they won’t be labeled excuses, but rather reasons the Bears should be looking for a new head coach. While that might seem harsh, everything is in place for him to succeed. If he doesn’t, he will have no one to blame but himself.
That wasn’t the case last year. There were three major issues that plagued the Bears last season: the tight end position was a non-factor, the offensive line regressed, and the quarterback played poorly. Well, at least on paper, those have all been addressed this offseason.
We know how critical the “U” tight end position is to this offense and without a healthy Trey Burton last year, the team just didn’t have a reliable option. So this offseason they set out to remedy that problem by signing Jimmy Graham. They also bolstered the position by spending a second-round pick on “Y” tight end Cole Kmet. This will enable the Bears to run a lot of two tight-end sets, which is something Nick Foles has done effectively in the past — particularly in Philadelphia. Excuse number one has been removed.
The offensive line’s regression was a little harder to explain. By and large, the unit played fairly well in 2018, but for whatever reason they didn’t click in 2019. The organization apparently feels there is enough talent on the line, and that the problem was one of coaching, as they made minimal adjustments to the group. Instead, they let go of well-respected offensive line coach Harry Hiestand in favor of Juan Castillo and his familiarity with Nagy. Whether it will fix the problem remains to be seen, but the team did what they thought was necessary to address it, so consider excuse number two gone as well.
Finally, and most importantly, the team played poorly primarily due to the regression of third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Some of the issues that plagued him in 2018, particularly reading defenses and going through his progressions, seemed to get worse in 2019.
For months, Bears Twitter has argued over who is the most to blame for their struggles. Personally, while Nagy is not without blame, and his playcalling left a lot to be desired, I was willing to give him more grace. Why? Because it’s unclear to me, at this point, whether his playcalling impacted Trubisky or Trubisky’s weaknesses impacted his playcalling. I think it’s the latter, as many of Mitch’s problems are independent of the play-call. The play-call isn’t what causes Mitch to miss open receivers, or fail to identify the post-snap coverage.
However, with Nick Foles in the fold, we will know for sure whether Nagy is also a problem. He now has someone who knows the offense and who he trusts. If the offense struggles this year, then it’s fair to ask if they ever will under the head coach. Excuse number three is gone, and if the offense struggles in 2020, so might Nagy.