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Dannehy: With Nagy’s Tenure on Life Support, His Possible Successors Come into Focus

| November 17th, 2021

Under Matt Nagy, the Chicago Bears have been notoriously horrendous after the bye week. They are 0-3, with two of those losses against backup quarterbacks, and two of the three being complete blowouts. Another woeful showing this week would take place in front of his potential replacement: Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

Nagy is done. At least, that’s what NFL Insider Benjamin Allbright has reported, stating the Bears have already begun doing background checks on other coaches, mentioning Vance Joseph and Brian Daboll specifically.

Sunday’s matchup with Baltimore brings an interesting option to Soldier Field in Roman. Baltimore’s offense isn’t lighting up the league, but they sit a respectable 12th in scoring and second in yardage, despite numerous injuries. A major reason for that is Lamar Jackson’s ability to do everything on the field and it is easy to see how Justin Fields could fit in an offense that maximizes a quarterback’s mobility as well as his ability to throw the ball down the field.

What makes Roman more interesting, though, is that he isn’t just reliant on Jackson being an MVP. He brings a unique and exotic running scheme that has had his team leading the league in rushing each of the last five years he has been an offensive coordinator. His teams have never finished lower than eighth in rushing and have been inside the top five in yards per attempt seven times in nine seasons.

Roman has been in the NFL a long time, coming in under Dom Capers in Carolina. If available, Vic Fangio figures to be his top candidate as defensive coordinator, as the two were together in Carolina, Houston, Baltimore and San Francisco.

But do you really want Fields taking so many hits? While Jackson has proven to be excellent at avoiding big shots, Fields has been just the opposite. He takes a big hit every week. It isn’t hard to see why this kind of offense isn’t preferred when the top priority is protecting a young quarterback.

But Roman isn’t the only strong candidate who figures to be available for the Bears in this cycle, here’s a quick look at some of the others, in no particular order:

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Brian Daboll, OC, Buffalo

The emergence of Josh Allen has made Daboll a hot name — Allbright said he is the top candidate for the Bears job — but it’s worth wondering who deserves credit for Buffalo’s success.

Before Allen became an MVP candidate, Daboll only once coached an offense that finished outside the bottom-10 in scoring. They have regularly been near the bottom of the league in turnovers and, of course, his teams haven’t won much as he was a part of three coaching staffs that were fired  — largely because they couldn’t score.

Many want to fire Nagy because of his work with Justin Fields, but Daboll’s offense had almost identical production with Josh Allen as a rookie.

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Vance Joseph, DC, Arizona

Much of the credit for Arizona’s success this year has gone to Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, but Joseph has quietly coordinated a top-five defense.

Joseph was a bad hire in Denver where they went 11-21 in two seasons, but he is known as a strong leader and a great defensive mind. He has turned what was one of the worst defenses in the league to one of the best.

He has bounced around the league and has a lot of connections. We could see him bring Hue Jackson is as his offensive coordinator — a position he failed to adequately fill with the Broncos.

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Kellen Moore, OC, Dallas

Moore has the Cowboys as the top offense in the league, even with Dak Prescott missing one game and clearly not being right in another. The Cowboys are top five in the league in rushing and passing yardage.

Of course, the Cowboys have a ton of talent. In addition to Prescott, they have a top running back in Zeke Elliott, an elite backup in Tony Pollard, one of the best groups of receivers in the league and an offensive line that has had a really strong season. But the 2021 season may not be the strongest argument to hire Moore. Look at 2020 when Prescott missed most of the season and the offensive line was a mess, they were still 17th in scoring and 14th in yardage.

There are no excuses with Moore, he just gets the job done. But his lack of connections could make his first staff an issue.

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Josh McDaniels, OC, New England

The Patriots are 15th in yardage and sixth in scoring with a rookie quarterback and average talent at skill positions.

In fact, the Patriots have almost always been average at skill positions and almost always had a top offense.

There are well-known questions with McDaniels, and he’ll want the keys to the organization. But there probably isn’t a better offensive coordinator. (And the Bears very much liked him when interviewing him for years ago.)

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Jim Harbaugh, HC, Michigan

The narrative around the job Harbaugh has done at Michigan is a little silly.

He has been the most successful coach the program has had since Lloyd Carr, winning at least eight games in every full season he has coached there. At 9-1 in 2021, Harbaugh is still being seen as a failure. Perhaps that is the sign that he needs to return to the NFL, where he went 44-19-1 and was a couple of bad bounces away from three straight Super Bowl appearances.

Harbaugh is a CEO-type who, like McDaniels, would want full control, but he has shown the ability to hire great assistant coaches.

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Byron Leftwich, OC, Tampa Bay

Three years with three top-three scoring offenses is hard to argue with.

What’s more exciting is how Leftwich is able to do it and how that would fit with Justin Fields. Nagy joked about a touchdown-to-touchdown mentality with Fields and that’s something Tampa Bay actually practices. Leftwich has continued Bruce Arians’ “no risk it/no biscuit” philosophy, utilizing a deep passing attack that constantly threatens defenses.

Questions:

  • How important is Leftwich to Tampa’s success?
  • Would the Bears want to gamble on another potential Nagy?
  • Is Tampa’s lack of a run game concerning?
  • With his only connection being Arians, how would he fill out a staff?

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Pat Fitzgerald, HC, Northwestern

When the season began, I asked someone who has been close to several coaching searches who his pick for the next Bears coach would be if Nagy were fired. His first answer: Pat Fitzgerald.

It isn’t a secret that Fitzgerald was the top choice for Mark Murphy before the Packers hired Matt LaFleur. It’s more unknown how much the Bears have kicked the can, though it has been said that Fitzgerald met with the team before Nagy was hired.

Fitzgerald has done about all he can at Northwestern and he surely knows that. He has said the Bears are the one job he would leave for and there were reports that it was he who requested the interview four years ago.

He wants the job, badly.

Do the Bears want him?

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