- The Bears face a lot of difficult decisions this offseason
- Future of head coach, general manager and quarterback are all in doubt
- What moves should Chicago make in free agency and the draft?
After an 8-8 finish and a resounding defeat to the New Orleans Saints in the Super Wild Card Round, the Chicago Bears find themselves in a tricky situation.
Do they tear it all down and rebuild the roster again with a new head coach, general manager and quarterback? Or do they stand pat with Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace and Mitch Trubisky and cling to those few shoots of optimism shown in a rollercoaster season? Such is the dilemma of a .500 team.
Here we’ll examine the case for, and the case against, moving on from these key individuals.
Reasons to fire Matt Nagy this offseason
The key questions Bears ownership should be asking themselves are whether, after three seasons in the job, has Matt Nagy fulfilled the objectives Chicago set for him when he took the job? Or is the team showing signs of being close to fulfilling those objectives?
Nagy was hired because of his credentials in running the Kansas City Chiefs offense and the role he played in developing quarterback Patrick Mahomes in his second season in the league. Clearly, Bears top brass wanted a replication of that offensive output in the Windy City.
Three years on though, it is clear that hasn’t happened. Mitchell Trubisky hasn’t developed into the player the team hoped he would be when they picked him 2nd overall. And worse than that, it seems to have taken Nagy two and a half seasons to actually formulate an offense that fits the ex-North Carolina Tarheel.
Too often Trubisky, with his obvious limitations as a pocket passer, has been shoehorned into a pass first attack. Can Bears fans honestly say they have seen the significant growth we would have anticipated when Nagy took the job?
The offense is still mediocre at best, despite the hopes that were raised during that purple patch against the Texans, Lions and Vikings. After the humbling in the Big Easy and against the Packers in successive weeks, it appears that offensive output was more a product of facing some of the league’s most sieve-like defenses.
If the offensive guru you hired can’t get that side of the ball clicking consistently, then is it time to move on?
Ryan Pace’s mistakes
Let’s face it. Pace inherited a mess of a roster in 2015. The defense was ageing and the overall lack of elite talent was noticeable.
But what do the Bears have to show for his time at the helm? Two visits to the postseason and two postseason defeats. A second head coach in Nagy, who hasn’t produced a team with a consistent winning record that can challenge the Packers dominance.
Most worryingly for Bears fans is Pace’s handling of the quarterback situation. Mike Glennon, Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles have clearly not been the answer at the position. Do you trust Pace to get it right next time?
The Saints game showed how far away this roster is in terms of competing for a championship. New Orleans are perennial contenders. The Bears are just happy to sneak into the postseason.
Trubisky continues to underwhelm
The argument of the Trubisky Truthers is that it’s Nagy’s fault. There’s been no run game. Mitch is in a system that doesn’t play to his strengths. The offensive line was woeful for a season and a half.
There’s definitely truth to that. But the fact is that as a second overall pick, you want your quarterback to be someone who can put the team on his back. And that clearly isn’t who Trubisky is. It doesn’t appear that he will be that any time soon.
His mechanics are still troubling. He still has problems moving through his progressions when his second read is taken away. He’s too ready to check the ball down short of the sticks. His deep ball accuracy is inconsistent, as it is sometimes on intermediate passes.
Is it not better for Pace, Nagy and the rest of the Bears brain trust to admit, “We got it wrong”?
Continuing with Trubisky as your starter maybe ensures your team can go 8-8 at best (as Chicago has the past two years). But it means you are accepting being a franchise that is happy with just appearing in the postseason. It says to your fan base that you aren’t trying to build a Super Bowl contender. Best to cut ties now and move on.
Nagy is still learning
Look, no head coach is perfect in their first few seasons. They make mistakes and learn on the job. Bill Belichick had to fail in Cleveland before he became the greatest coach in the modern era of the NFL. Andy Reid didn’t win a Super Bowl until his 21st season as a head coach.
Nagy, like any head coach, has made mistakes. But he will learn from them. Nagy has shown he’s willing to change. He gave up play calling duties to Bill Lazor this year. He brought Trubisky back into the line up when it was clear Foles wasn’t giving the team a chance to win in Nagy’s offense. And he allowed Lazor to craft a more Mitch friendly offense when he took over the offense.
Despite a six-game losing streak this year, Nagy never lost the support of the players. The locker room remained united and that’s a credit to the head coach’s leadership abilities. Removing him from that post could create more unhappiness and resentment amongst players who have clearly bought into Nagy’s coaching style.
Bringing in an inexperienced head coach would put the Bears back at square one with a head coach who is likely to go through all the teething problems Nagy has faced in his first three years. There also becomes a point when you simply run out of worthy candidates. If you’re firing head coaches every two to four years, are you actually giving enough time for a culture, scheme and roster to be built for long term success?
Equally, is Nagy a victim of his own (relative success)? Think of it this way. If the Bears don’t make the postseason in Nagy’s first season in charge, largely behind Vic Fangio’s impressive defensive unit, would Bears fans be as upset about a couple of 8-8 finishes?
Let’s swap that 2018 record of 12-4 for a 7-9 record. Suddenly Nagy looks like the head coach of progress. Let’s face it, that 2018 season was largely fuelled by a swarming defense able to rack up an immense number of turnovers. A high turnover rate is generally, statistically, unsustainable for a defense in the NFL. Did that season mislead Bears fans into thinking the franchise was further on in its rebuild than it really was?
Pace finds mid-draft value
It’s no secret that the quarterback position is the hardest to evaluate in sports. Very few signal callers that are drafted go on to sustained success. Should Pace’s other successes in the lottery that is the draft be ignored because of that glaring black mark on his record?
Few other GMs are as astute at finding key contributors in the middle rounds of the draft as Pace is.
Eddie Jackson (4th round), Darnell Mooney (5th round) Bilal Nichols (5th round), David Montgomery (3rd round) and Tarik Cohen (4th round) have been major contributors for this team in recent years. That’s not easy to do and many other teams would be eager to utilise Pace’s evaluation skills in that regard.
Trubisky can be effective
Ok so he isn’t Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. We get it. But Trubisky is still a quarterback this team can win with if he has key pieces around him.
That includes an effective run game and a stout offensive line. Things that he had during that playoff run in Nagy’s first year in charge. That year, coincidentally, was also the last time the Bears consistently took advantage of Mitch’s skills as a runner. Don’t make him into something he’s not.
He isn’t a pocket passer. But he’s a quarterback who can keep opposing defenses honest with his mobility and his skills as a passer in a bootleg, play action offense.
It’s no surprise he looked worse against the Packers and the Saints. In those games the Bears ran an offense that more closely resembled the one Nagy was running before Trubisky returned to the starting lineup.
Also, when he did turn it loose against New Orleans, there were some pretty good looking intermediate to deep passes made, including a sure-fire touchdown dropped by Javon Wims. If he hauls that pass in, we instead could be talking about the remarkable growth Trubisky has shown against one of the leagues best defenses.
Still don’t want Mitch to run the offense? Well, a new quarterback isn’t coming in the draft. The lack of picks and pressing needs at other positions dictate Chicago will be a little hamstrung in this year’s draft. There’ll be no moving up to grab Justin Fields or others.
What about free agency? Who you going to take? And how are you going to afford it? Trubisky could be the most affordable option for next year.