Full disclosure: I’m a Bears fan. I’ve suffered through the initial optimism/eventual despair of the Marc Trestman era and I’ve been numbed through the dreary John Fox seasons. The impact that Matt Nagy, the former Chiefs offensive coordinator, has had on this historic franchise has been incredible.
Nagy is the first Bears head coach, since George Halas in 1920, to win double digit games. That indicates the first-rate job the ex-Delaware and Arena League quarterback has done in turning this team around. The Bears have gone from worst to first in the NFC North when many expected a more modest 8-8 record, or even less.
The offence, which was probably even less innovative and creative than most 1920 offensive schemes under Fox and previous offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, has become amongst the most exciting to watch in the league.
Nagy, who also calls the offensive plays, is unafraid to use creative formations and trick plays, whilst frequently putting his trust in his players to go for it on fourth down. Heck, offensive lineman Bradley Sowell and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks both scored touchdowns on offensive plays this year.
Last year’s number two overall pick, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, has shown a good level of development in his first year under Nagy’s mentorship, though perhaps not the Jared Goff style year two leap people were expecting.
Trubisky is undoubtedly better this season but he still has had issues with accuracy and decision making at times this season. (Maybe writing this the day after the Bears playoff loss to Philadelphia wasn’t a good idea, but that first half indicated some of the common problems with Trubisky’s play this year: struggling when his first read is taken away; throwing short of the first down marker; and having potential interceptions overturned).
The former North Carolina Tar Heel was always going to need some seasoning given he only started 13 games in college and there is significant evidence of improvement. Next year though, he needs to be able to put the team on his back more; that’s why general manager Ryan Pace traded up to draft him, not to be a complementary piece.
But I’m getting off track (that playoff loss hangover is really barking). Nagy has changed the culture of this team and re-energised the city about the Bears again. Whilst the defensive scheme is all Vic Fangio, Nagy was wise to hang onto the ex-Niners defensive coordinator, enabling him to continue to build on the progress made defensively last season. That’s a coach putting his ego aside and not bringing in his own staff just to make his mark on the team.
On the other hand, the decline in the running game has been sad to see. Jordan Howard who surpassed 1,000 yards rushing under Fox has been an afterthought in Nagy’s offence. The Bears changed their blocking scheme to one utilised previously which enabled Howard to come on strong down the stretch, but the bruising back could have been utilised better this season to place less pressure on his young QB.