Matt Nagy Can’t Let Winning Prevent Him from Addressing Ugly

Perspective is key to viewing the Bears for what they really are so far this season and it’s even more integral when it comes to them making good on what they can be over the next 10 games. If you look at the standings, where they now sit above the Packers after Sunday’s results, the Bears have a distinct 2006-ish feel. Same goes for their 5-0 record against NFC opponents. But if you throw out the results and just watch the offense, boy howdy do they look like a pig that got into the Revlon.

They’ve got a new quarterback, one who by all accounts instills greater confidence in his teammates than his predecessor, yet it feels like 3rd and six one way or half a dozen yards per attempt the other. To that end, Mitchell Trubisky’s 6.5 yards per attempt actually looks significantly better than the 5.8 from Nick Foles that was brought down by a 5.1 mark Sunday afternoon against the Panthers.

“I would first say, ‘Would you rather lose pretty or win ugly?’” Foles said after the win. “I think that we’d rather win ugly. I think that’s a common thing. I think it tells you a lot about our team. Is this who we are offensively?

“We want to improve, we want to get better, we want to have rhythm. If you can put up 50 points and lose a game, those 50 points don’t mean anything.”

I mean, yeah, but putting up 50 points behind a defense like the one helping Foles is going to win you a helluva lot of ballgames. Thing is, no one is living in fear of the Bears suddenly morphing into some kind of offensive juggernaut that can score at will. Quite the contrary, anyone who’s watched this team for the last three seasons still has to wonder whether the offense can do more than just tread water.

Matt Nagy was hired as the head coach for his acumen as a former quarterback and offensive coach/coordinator, but his overarching duties seem to be getting in the way of his responsibilities as a play-caller. Whether that’s a matter of his own perspective, be it the literal view from the sideline or a lack of trust in his QB, Nagy’s situational awareness and resultant decision-making appear to be holding the team back.

Though I have no idea exactly what they were talking about, an animated discussion between Foles and Nagy on the sideline during the Bears’ win over Tampa seemed to indicate the two didn’t share the same vision. Nor should they, since one is surveying the defense from behind the line of scrimmage and the other off to the side. Many offensive coordinators will view the field from above in order to have a better view of the whole game, so it’s possible Nagy’s limited scope is to blame.

There’s also the matter of having more on his plate as the head coach than he ever would have as an assistant, which is where so many former standout coordinators get tripped up. While it’s certainly possible to rise through the ranks as a result of success coaching one side of the ball or the other, the duties of a head coach are significantly different from those of a coordinator and can’t easily be intermingled. Just because you were a great salesman doesn’t mean you’ll make a good sales manager, nor do you see many CEOs taking customer service calls.

By all accounts, Nagy is a solid leader who has the respect of his players and understands the game at a very high level. But he also appears to be pretty stubborn when it comes to recognizing his own shortcomings as related to his team’s offensive mediocrity. They’ve gone way too far down the road to make a drastic change in that regard immediately, though it’s well past time to at least consider ceding the play-calling reins.

The Bears made significant changes after last season, firing offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, and tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride, but that all felt like scapegoating. Even if more discerning analysts can detect a few new wrinkles beyond the more obvious personnel changes, the offense still lacks imagination and the same questionable play calls define both the overall and situational schemes.

If nothing else, allowing OC Bill Lazor to exert more influence over the in-game decisions would allow for writers to use more puns. Or maybe Nagy should simply get out of Foles’ way and let the veteran take control of the offense. Even if it’s not a huge change, it might feel less like watching the QB try to drive with the e-brake still engaged.

Whatever they end up doing, the Bears need a new look if they expect to keep winning when they play teams that don’t wilt under pressure. They need a more balanced attack and more variation in order to keep defenses honest, something that will get more and more difficult as the season wears on and they start facing conference opponents for the second time.

Can the Bears keep this up and maintain their winning ways? Sure, but winning ugly has a pretty short shelf life and Nagy’s squad appears to getting pretty close to their expiration date. Of course, I have been saying that just about every week and they keep proving me wrong.

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