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Saints at Bears Game Preview, Volume I: An Open Letter to Matt Nagy

| October 17th, 2019

Dear Mr. Head Coach,

Your offense sucks.

I know that’s an abrupt way to start a letter, and may discourage you from reading any further, but I’ve never been known for my subtlety. Your offense isn’t struggling. It isn’t sub-average. It just flat out sucks. It sucks in America. It sucks in England. It sucks. And being an offensive-minded head coach, that’s on you.

Your left tackle, a damn good player, looks like he belongs in the XFL.

Your most dynamic weapon, Tarik Cohen, has been useless for five weeks.

Your quarterbacks, both of them, look like they left their playbooks in the men’s toilet at Rossi’s.

But more than anything else, this entire offense

lacks coherence. If someone were to ask me right now, “What is the Bears offense” I would have no earthly idea how to answer. And I have the strange suspicion you’d stammer a bit as well.

You were brought to this organization to modernize the operation, specifically when it comes to moving the football. (Hell, we even co-authored a tee shirt proclaiming you’d do just that.) Pace and Fox built the all-world defense. You were the finishing touch on one of the most dramatic rebuilds in organization history. Year One was a massive success. You won 12 games. You won the NFC North. But the offense had very little to do with that.

Year Two was supposed to be the year the complete picture emerged. But through five games, the offense not only doesn’t look better than 2018…it looks significantly worse.

So, you know, fix it. Just fix the fucking thing. Get creative. Coach the players up. Make this unit better. You had the bye week to diagnose the ailments and this thing is quite diseased. Now load up the syringe with penicillin and jam it into your offense’s ass. No more excuses.

There are about 15 teams that can win the Super Bowl and you coach one of them. But that status currently exists despite the script you author each week. Fix it. Because while you’ve tried to absorb the blame for the struggles, you’ve yet to receive much criticism.

That won’t last much longer.

Sincerely,

Some Guy in Queens

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ATM: Pressure on Nagy to Fix Bears Offense

| October 8th, 2019

The weeks after the bye week will tell us a lot about the Bears head coach and whether he really is the genius he was portrayed as or just another in a long line of coaches who got off to hot starts, but couldn’t adjust.

Typically, teams with great coaches excel in the area of their coach’s expertise. That isn’t a good sign for Nagy, whose Bears are 28th in scoring and 30th in yardage through five games. That comes after they struggled for much of the second half last year, including just one offensive touchdown in a playoff loss.

The offense is broken and Nagy needs to fix it.

The problems start at the offensive line where the Bears made an offseason decision to swap Cody Whitehair and James Daniels, a move that has made them definitively worse at two positions. Add in the clear regression of Charles Leno Jr. and an aging Kyle Long and you have one of the worst units in the league.

Then, of course, there are issues at quarterback. The move to 202 stalled out when Nagy admitted they had to simplify the offense for Mitch Trubisky. A simplification isn’t a bad thing, but it’s the second time they’ve had to do that this year, cutting back after they broke training camp. We were told not to read too much into that.

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ATM: Bears Season Begins Now, and Nagy Needs to Trust Trubisky

| September 18th, 2019

After two wonky games to officially open the NFL season, we’re soon to find out who the 2019 Bears are. That will only happen, however, if the coach starts trusting the QB.

A 1-1 start to the season always seemed likely since – as was well documented throughout last week – nobody wins in Denver in Week 2. (Of course nobody predicted what actually took place down the stretch.) The demise of the team’s defense was greatly exaggerated. Reports of an offensive regression, however, don’t appear to have been aggressively predicted enough.

One of the biggest things to emerge from the win over Denver was Matt Nagy flat out not trusting his quarterback. The Bears had third downs and between two and three yards SIX times in the game and chose to run the ball on four of them. Do coaches who trust their quarterbacks take the ball out of their hands this often? I don’t think so.

It’s not uncommon for teams to run in those situations, but it is odd for them to insist on running it like the Bears did. After the game, Nagy said he intentionally had a conservative game plan in order to keep his defense rested, in the heat and high altitude. Perhaps that helped prevent the collapse until late in the fourth quarter but scoring points would’ve made any incoming collapse less significant.

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Bears at Broncos Game Preview Volume II: The Football Stuff

| September 13th, 2019

One of the best dogs in the country. Biker Jim’s. Denver.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And I have never had this strong a belief in the Chicago Bears defense.


Trite, Boring Thoughts on the Broncos

  • Attacking the Broncos defense is ALL about neutralizing their edge rushers – Von Miller and Bradley Chubb – because the rest of Vic Fangio’s group is mediocre. How did the Raiders do this? First, they gave Derek Carr a ton of quick, easy throws. (Commentator Steve Levy even compared Carr’s MNF performance to Phil Simms’ historic Super Bowl in terms of completion percentage.) Second, they committed to the run game even though it wasn’t particularly successful. This kept play-action believable and kept Miller and Chubb a half-step slower.
  • Joe Flacco didn’t play poorly in the opener but he’s in this tiny collection of aging, modern quarterbacks who need everything working around them to be successful. Players like he and Eli Manning don’t have the legs to extend plays so they need a rush game and they need brilliant protection. If Bears keep Freeman and Lindsay quiet in the run game, it’s hard to see the pass rush not harassing Flacco endlessly. If that happens, the mistakes will flow.
  • Courtland Sutton is going to be a star in this league and the Bears better be aware of his location at all times Sunday. He bought a timeshare in the middle of the field against the Raiders. It’ll be interesting to see if he plays with that level of boldness against a far more intimidating, physical defense.

Tweet of the Week


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ATM: Nagy Must Cure the “Bye Week Blues”

| September 10th, 2019


The more time the Chicago Bears have had to prepare for game day under Matt Nagy, the worse they’ve been.

Last Thursday’s loss dropped the Bears to 0-4 under Matt Nagy when they have had more than eight days to prepare for a game. That stretch dates back to last season’s opener when they fell to Packers 24-23. It also includes includes a post-bye week loss to a bad Miami team led by Brock Osweiler and a post-Thanksgiving loss to a bad New York Giants team.

The only real similarity in all of the losses was inconsistent and sloppy offensive play. While the defense let them down in all three losses last year — allowing more than 30 points twice — the offense wasn’t necessarily sharp either. “Not sharp” would be a generous assessment of last week’s performance.

Why the Bears tend to struggle in these situations is a bit of a mystery. It’s possible that Nagy over-thinks the games. That appeared to be the case Thursday when many of his scripted plays appeared to be designed to trick the defense. That worked a year ago when the Bears marched down the field on their first two possessions against the Packers. But this is a different Packers defense, with six new starters, and they didn’t fall for any of Nagy’s misdirection.

Could the Bears have benefited from preseason action? There is some evidence.. Of the five quarterbacks who didn’t throw a single pass in preseason, four struggled for at least a half. Trubisky and Rodgers were terrible. Jared Goff’s Rams got going offensively, but he struggled individually, finishing with a passer rating of just 69 in a 30-27 win over Carolina.

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2019 Season Preview Volume I: The Facts

| August 27th, 2019

Today is the beginning of a three-part season preview, broken into specific categories: Facts, Hopes and Predictions. 


After Marc Trestman’s first season in Chicago, fans became irrationally optimistic.

No, the team didn’t have a winning record. No, they didn’t make the postseason. No, they couldn’t play a lick of defense. But the offense was fun to watch and Bears fans didn’t know how to handle that. So they jumped right to, “This team is winning it all in 2014!”

This space fought that optimism from day one. Teams don’t win Super Bowls with terrible defenses and the coach/quarterback relationship looked combustible to any objective observer.

What followed was the most embarrassing season in the history of the franchise. The Kromer Campaign.

This year the optimism is warranted. The Chicago Bears are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. And there are three facts to support that contention.


Fact 1. The Bears have the best defense in the league.

Does it require any more explanation? This Bears defense is frighteningly talented and Pace/Nagy added Chuck Pagano – one of the more aggressive defensive play callers in the sport – to lead them. If this group is ranked outside the top five in any of the important categories it’s because they have suffered several debilitating injuries. If the Bears find themselves with home field advantage in the postseason, this defense would make them overwhelming favorites to make it to Miami.

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Self-Scouting Matt Nagy’s 2018 Play-Calling

| May 6th, 2019

The Bears offense showed significant improvement in 2018, but still was an average-to-below average unit overall. There’s been plenty of focus about the need to get better on that side of the ball, and that starts with scouting yourself. Some coaches have play-calling tendencies in different down and distance situations, and opposing NFL teams scout those to help their play calling in response. With that in mind, I looked at down and distance trends for Chicago’s’ offense in 2018. All statistics are from the NFL Game Statistics and Information System and Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder.


First Down

The Bears were very balanced on first down, with 231 runs and 223 passes for a 51/49 split. Unfortunately, they were not very effective on the ground, where they averaged only 3.6 yards per carry. This is a significant step down from 2017, when they averaged 4.1 yards per carry, and 2016, when they were at 5.2.

Lest we be tempted to blame Jordan Howard, I’ll note that 142 of the 231 runs (62%) were his, and those actually gained 3.7 yards per carry. So the rest of the team was actually slightly worse than Howard on 1st down. One way or another, the Bears need to figure out how to improve running on 1st down and/or run less and throw more.

Speaking of throwing it, the Bears averaged 7.0 yards/attempt on 1st down, a healthy but not overwhelming number that was right around average for all NFL passing stats in 2018. Teams always average more yards/play passing than running, but when the discrepancy is this large, you should probably consider throwing it more.


Second Down

When it comes to 2nd down, context is needed. A 3-yard gain is great on 2nd and 2, pretty good on 2nd and 5, and awful on 2nd and 10. With that in mind, I split the data into 4 groups based on the distance required to get a 1st down. The table below shows the results.

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ATM: Out of the Hunt. So Now What?

| February 13th, 2019

The Chicago Bears won’t be signing Kareem Hunt. The great debate ended before the offseason officially began, as the former Kansas City Chiefs running back, facing disciplinary action from the league for a history of violent behavior, signed with the Browns. Time will tell if he’s worth the trouble for Cleveland, but the Bears still need to add some explosiveness to their backfield if they hope to improve their run game.

Because while Jordan Howard is a good player, the Bears simply need more. Forget for a second his sub-4.0 yards per carry number. The Bears offense just didn’t function well with him on the field.

  • According to NFGSIS, the team averaged 4.78 yards per play in the five most frequently used lineups in which Howard was used.
  • In the five most-used lineups that didn’t include Howard, they averaged 6.8 yards per play.
  • The big difference came in the passing game, where they averaged 7 yards per pass play without Howard and 4.92 with him.

Matt Nagy seems to know it too. In the playoff game he used a formation with three wide receivers, one tight end and Cohen over Howard 21 times. Their next most-used formation was used five times, that also didn’t have Howard in it. Howard played just 22 snaps — 34% of the team’s total — against the Eagles. From a football perspective, signing Hunt would’ve been the easy move, but not one the Bears could make without knowing his availability. Now, they have to figure out something else.

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