When Matt Nagy was hired as Bears head coach, comparisons to Kansas City – both their talent and approach – were immediately made by fans and media alike. How would the Bears find their version of Chiefs Player X? Who would the Bears target to run Chiefs Concept Y? But the Bears should be thinking bigger — literally and figuratively.
As exciting as Kansas City’s offense was last year, they were relatively easy to defend when the field shortened and their speed became less of a factor. The result was a shockingly bad red zone team. After ranking 30th in red zone scoring % in 2016, the team only increased to 29th last year. These were the two seasons Nagy has had at least a share of the offensive coordinator tittle.
In those two years, Kansas City scored on just 43.8% of their red zone trips. And it wasn’t like they had a bad kicker — their kickers made 47-of-51 attempts from 39 yards or less. They just couldn’t get into the end zone.
Over the same stretch under Dowell Loggains, the Bears scored on 55% of their red zone attempts. While the Bears had 23 fewer trips inside the red zone, they only managed one less score.
Conventional wisdom blames either the coach or quarterback for such struggles but both Andy Reid and Alex Smith have had success, including top-10 red zone units in 2013 and 2014. The real reason is likely their lack of size at receiver.
Out of Kansas City’s five leading pass catchers in 2016, only two measured above 6′ tall. That number dropped to one in 2017. The big target is Travis Kelce, but when he’s the only big player for opponents to worry about, it isn’t hard to give him enough attention.
Doug Pederson runs almost the exact same scheme in Philadelphia and they had the top red zone offense in the league last year. One big difference was that all six of Philadelphia’s top pass catchers measured at least 6’1″ and four were 6’3″ or taller. As a result, Carson Wentz was second in the league in red zone TD passes with 24, behind only the incomparable Tom Brady.
Small guys simply don’t score touchdowns at the same rate big guys do.
Of the 77 players who have caught at least 7 touchdowns in a season the last three years, only 14 have measured less than six feet tall. Antonio Brown, Doug Baldwin and Brandin Cooks account for nine of those seasons.
In other words, if you’re gonna bring in a small guy, he better be special or he won’t consistently find the end zone.
The goal for the Bears shouldn’t be to copy what Kansas City has done. The goal should be to take what Nagy has established with the Chiefs and improve upon it. That means being bigger and more efficient in the red zone.