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Oestmann: This is Deeper Than Play-Calling for Matt Nagy.

| September 27th, 2021

Adam Oestmann was a colleague of DBB during our ill-fated period at ChicagoNow. But he’s a writer I’ve always admired and a genuinely good dude. Thrilled to publish his thoughts here.


It didn’t take long after the Bears hired Matt Nagy in 2018 for the media to label him the offensive guru Chicago football fans had been hoping for. The former Chiefs’ offensive coordinator had spent just a single season in that role, and only part of it calling plays. Nevertheless, the Chiefs ranked among the NFL’s best when it came to scoring points that season, finishing sixth in the league, and Nagy, it seemed, was poised to turn the tide in Chicago.

That was 2018.

Three years and into a fourth season later and – when it comes to scoring points at least – Nagy is, statistically, one of the worst offensive head coaches in the history of this franchise. Nagy’s 2019, 2020 and, thus far, 2021 points-per-game rank among the worst for the team. Ever. It would seem the offensive-minded quarterbacks guru the Bears thought they were getting didn’t exist from Jump Street.

Following a three-game losing streak and heading into a Week 10 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings last season, a reluctant Nagy relinquished play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. The Bears went on to lose to the Vikings 19-13, but an interesting thing began to happen that cannot be seen on a stats page: the Bears’ offense seemed to be forming an identity. Finishing the regular season 8-8, the team earned a Wild Card playoff berth before being knocked out by the 12-4 Saints.

Bill Lazor’s calls, it turned out, were good for more than a touchdown per game over Nagy’s (on average). In a league where many games are decided by less, Lazor’s eight points-above-replacement number was significant. If Nagy had been able to find those eight points earlier in the season, his team might have won as many as three more games.

But let’s not get too lost in the weeds.

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