Matt Nagy’s offense has had zero success against the Green Bay Packers. A lot of that blame falls upon the quarterback position, but not all of it. Nagy has known what he has at quarterback in each of the six meetings between the clubs and has not been able to compensate for Chicago’s historical deficiency. He’s tried the quick passing attack. He’s tried to force the run game. He’s tried the trick plays. Nothing.
They were mildly successful in 2018, splitting the games, and scoring in the 20s both meetings. 2019 was an abject disaster, totally 16 points in the two contests, and looking (somehow) even worse than that. The 2020 season brought no improvement, with a garbage-laden 25 in the first meeting and an impotent 16 in the regular season-defining finale.
The man running the defense in Green Bay for the entirety of Nagy’s tenure was Mike Pettine. And dominating Mitch Trubisky was apparently not enough for him to retain that role. This week, Pettine was hired by Nagy and new defensive coordinator Sean Desai as a senior defensive assistant, or something. It’s an amorphous position, without a definable role on game day, but one can assume Pettine is being brought into the organization for two distinct reasons.
First, he’ll be a veteran mind on which Desai can lean. Sometimes this kind of role can be a bit overstated but in this case, it seems appropriate. Desai has never called an NFL game. He’s never made halftime adjustments. He’s never been responsible for organizing the whole of defensive meetings during the week, or motivating the entire unit on game day. Having someone on your staff who HAS done all those things can not be considered anything other than useful.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, Pettine knows every flaw in Nagy’s approach. And it is this element that suggests another step in Nagy’s growth. The first resources Pettine will surely provide the Bears, and Nagy, are his scouting reports/game plans from their previous contests. What did Pettine view as Nagy’s (and subsequently Bill Lazor’s) play-calling tendencies? What did Pettine think the Bears offense was incapable of doing? What did Pettine view as the weaknesses of the good players on the offensive roster? For instance, how did they want to play someone like Allen Robinson? (Because whatever they did worked.)
And it doesn’t stop on the offensive side. Pettine can also lay out, in full detail, how the Packers have chosen to attack the Bears’ better half, their defense.
Nagy is often called “stubborn” by fans and radio hosts. That label has never made any sense. Why is he stubborn? Because he didn’t want to relinquish the element of coaching he loves most? Because he continually called plays an average quarterback should be able to execute in his sleep? Because around the goal line, his experimental play calls failed in 2019 and 2020 the same way they thrived in 2018 and won a Super Bowl for his pal in Philly?
Nagy did everything in his power to make this offense work but in the middle of this past season he realized he could no longer work with Trubisky and handed the reins to Lazor on Sundays. That move probably saved his tenure.
The Pettine hire is another example of Nagy’s desire to do everything possible to improve; do everything he can to be a better head coach. The man so erroneously called stubborn is displaying humility once again by admitting he doesn’t have all the answers; by sucking it up and admitting the guy who has been kicking his ass for two years might be able to provide some.
It might help. It might not. But for those hoping Nagy can still be the long-term answer as the head coach of the Chicago Bears, and that should be the whole of the fan base, it is a good sign.