I’ve always been perplexed and frustrated by the NFL’s long-running infatuation with hiring the next big thing from among offensive and defensive coordinators to be a head coach. I mean, sure, you’re always looking for the brightest minds to help your team win, it’s just that all too often those people are really good at what they do because they have a limited focus. Not only do offensive and defensive coordinators have areas of expertise, but they’ve also often got a different vantage point when watching the game.
Chuck Pagano is one of the few in his role who prefers the sideline to a box because he’s more invested in the emotional aspect of getting his players pumped up. For the most part, however, coaches can best make calls and adjustments when seeing the game unfold from above. Being on the field removes a great deal of depth perception and prevents one from seeing plays develop on a broad scope.
All of this is to say that Matt Nagy’s general failure to achieve anything more than mediocrity with the Bears offense shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. He’s far from the first former coordinator to be tabbed as a head coach only to find that either the additional duties of the role or the change in perspective make the transition incredibly difficult. In the end, some people who are great with limited responsibility simply aren’t very effective when it comes to multitasking.
So while it would be a very clear indictment of Nagy’s cred as an offensive guru and QB whisperer if Bill Lazor’s play-calling jump-starts the offense, the move might mean Nagy is really settled into his own role. He’s an excellent leader by all accounts, one who engenders respect and loyalty from his players and the coaching staff. Being able to delegate authority and then being content to oversee and offer feedback rather than having full control would mean that he’s truly acting as a head coach rather than swimming out of his depth as the de factor OC as well.
There are, of course, some obvious mitigating factors here, not the least of which is the roster GM Ryan Pace has assembled. Then you’ve got all the injuries decimating the offensive line, the backfield, and the QB depth. It’s hard to believe anyone could actually be successful given what the Bears are facing right now, but the real issue to this point is that questionable decision-making and apparent communication flaws have served as hallmarks of the offense.
As strange as it may sound, solving those issues with Lazor as a more active play-caller might actually be a strong endorsement for Nagy to continue in his role moving forward. And I don’t mean that he’s now better able to scapegoat continued struggles, though I suppose that can’t be overlooked as a possibility. Rather, it’s that the Bears will have a head coach who’s able to lead and motivate without having to fully control a facet of the game he may not have been best suited to run in the first place.
After losing three straight and with just seven left to play, a simple adjustment could be enough to propel the Bears down the stretch. Or it’ll fail miserably and we’ll see scorched earth at Halas Hall. Either way, all three of you will get to read what I think about it.