There were many teams who had disappointing 2017 seasons. Some teams, like the Cleveland Browns, who finished with an 0-16 record, decided not to fire their coach. Others, however, like the Indianapolis Colts, decided to clean house in the coaching department. There were a whopping seven head coaching changes in the past year, and it may be difficult to diagnose what those coaches should and/or will accomplish in their endeavors with their respective teams. In this edition, I will be analyzing the expectations for 2018 and beyond for newly hired Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy.
The previous five seasons for the Chicago Bears have been extremely disappointing. After firing Lovie Smith due to missing the playoffs in 2012, new GM Phil Emery hired Marc Trestman to be the next head coach. Both of the men just mentioned were nothing short of a disaster. Both of them were fired in the 2015 off-season after just two years in their respective positions. Ryan Pace was hired as the new GM, and he hired respected NFL coach John Fox to be the next head coach. Expectations were lofty for Fox, but he did not deliver. Fox was fired on January 1, 2018 (or “Black Monday,” as it has been dubbed by the NFL media) after winning just 14 games in three years as Bears’ head coach. Pace, however, was given a contract extension because the McCaskey family was impressed with the talent that had been brought in since 2015. Pace went on to hire the best, young offensive mind on the head coaching market: Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy.
Immediately after Nagy’s hiring the Bears were on the radar. With a promising core of young players (most notably QB Mitchell “Mitch” Trubisky), the Bears were a free agent destination. They were able to convince defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to stay, which brought stability to the defense. Chicago’s biggest names on defense are safeties Eddie Jackson (FS) and Adrian Amos (SS) and CBs Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara and Bryce Callahan. With all of their powers combined, that group could make up the next “No Fly Zone” or “Legion of Boom.” The front seven is also very impressive, with Leonard Floyd, Nick Kwiatkowski, Danny Trevathan, 2018 8th overall pick Roquan Smith and promising rookie Kylie Fitts at linebacker. On the d-line, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman have solidified themselves as very good players, while Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris are promising young DEs. Vic Fangio is arguably the best defensive coordinator in the league, so this unit could be top 7 or even top 5 in the league for years to come.
On offense, Nagy brought in former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich to be the offensive coordinator, and arguably the best offensive line coach in the country, Harry Hiestand. The 2017 Bears’ receiving core was probably the worst in the entire NFL (Kendall Wright led the Bears with 59 receptions). In free agency, they brought in former Jaguars’ star Allen Robinson, former Falcons’ burner Taylor Gabriel and quality depth piece Bennie Fowler. They followed that up by adding Memphis star Anthony Miller in the second round of the draft and Georgia deep threat Javon Wims in the seventh round. Pace has turned in the NFL’s worst group into one of the NFL’s best in just one off-season. At tight end, they brought in former Eagle Trey Burton, who has all the intangibles to be the next Travis Kelce in Nagy’s offense. Adam Shaheen and Dion Sims are two promising tight ends that return from last year. The Bears have arguably the best running back duo in the league with bruiser Jordan Howard and speedster Tarik Cohen. On the offensive line, the Bears have solid left tackle in Charles Leno Jr., 2018 second round pick James Daniels at left guard/center, 2016 second round pick Cody Whitehair at guard/center, top tier right guard Kyle Long, and Bobby Massie at right tackle, who is the weak link this o-line. At quarterback is up and coming sophomore Mitchell “Mitch” Trubisky, along with Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray, who have both played in Nagy’s system and will serve as mentors to Trubisky. So there is a lot to be excited about this Chicago offense moving forward.
So now we know about the Bears’ roster, but what do the coaches bring to the table? Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has been very successful over his 24 year NFL career with his traditional 3-4 defense, which will work nicely with Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan being two stud inside linebackers. The 3-4 defensive uses 3 down linemen, 4 linebackers, and 4 defensive backs. Mark Helfrich, the offensive coordinator, was known for his spread/RPO offense at Oregon. The spread offense is a run-oriented strategy that usually uses the shotgun formation and spreads the defense out in order to create running lanes. It requires a mobile offensive line and receivers that are able to hold blocks. RPO stands for run-pass option, which is just what it sounds like. The quarterback is in the shotgun formation with a back by his side. The QB will put the ball in the back’s chest as if it were a handoff. The QB will scan the field to analyze the amount of defenders in the box. If there are 4 or 5, generally the QB will complete the handoff. If there are more than 5 defenders in the box, the QB will simply pull the ball out and throw it. Nagy uses the Andy Reid West Coast Offense, which also uses RPOs, but will also feature short to intermediate passes that spread the defense out horizontally and allow the receiver to gain yards after the catch. The backs and tight ends will be used heavily; Nagy’s two favorite personnel groups are 22 (two backs, two tight ends) and 13 (1 back, 3 tight ends). Nagy also will not be afraid to use the pass to set up the run.
There is definitely a lot to be excited about in the future of the Chicago Bears. They have a smart GM, a great coaching staff, a great roster and lost of cap space. I think Matt Nagy will have an average win % of .732 throughout his career. The Andy Reid coaching tree speaks very loudly; some of the coaches in that are Ron Rivera, Pat Shurmur, Doug Pederson, Todd Bowles, Sean McDermott, Steve Spagnuolo, Brad Childress and John Harbaugh. Another thing is Mitchell Trubisky, who has a super high ceiling now that he has coaches who know what they’re doing on offense (sorry, John Fox and Dowell Loggains). Matt Nagy and Pace along with Trubisky are the three top dogs in all of Chicago sports for the foreseeable future. I think those three will win at least one Super Bowl together. When people call Matt Nagy a “home run” for the Bears, I disagree. I would say he is more of a grand slam in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 7 of the World Series.