The 2018 Bears schedule contains an unintended reference standard for loosely gauging whether the Bears have gained or lost relative ground since last season, vis a vis both the NFC North and a chunk of the rest of the NFC. That’s in the form of eight games, half of the schedule, against teams (San Francisco, Tampa Bay) that were on the 2017 Bears schedule and which defeated the Bears.
The 2018 Bears all-AFC preseason has a special little pop quiz of its own for new coach Matt Nagy.
That little let’s-see game comes in the de facto game three of the preseason, when the Bears visit the Kansas City Chiefs and Nagy faces his mentor and former boss, Andy Reid.
(Actually that’ll be game four because of the Bears playing in the Hall of Fame game; how much Mitch Trubisky and the starters play in that one remains to be seen, because of different teams and different QB situations. Last year Carson Palmer and Dak Prescott were DNP’s in the Arizona-Dallas HOF game, while Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck both started in 2016 when Green Bay and Indianapolis met. A rookie Teddy Bridgewater started for Minnesota in 2015 but Ben Roethlisberger was a Steelers DNP. Nagy may want to get a little more work in for Trubisky, while the Ravens likely will rest Joe Flacco and get Robert Griffin III in for an extended look.)
But the “normal” game three this preseason is when the starters play into the third quarter and coaches conduct some semblance of game-planning. Nagy will have spent this offseason installing the playbook and mindset that he and coordinator Mark Helfrich want in their offense and the Kansas City game will be the largest test-kitchen for them and it.
What adds to the interest in the moment is that Kansas City’s defensive coordinator is Bob Sutton, who has been the Chiefs’ DC throughout Nagy’s time as QB coach and O-coordinator on the other side of the ball under Reid.
Put another way: Sutton “knows” Nagy and his offensive tendencies. He coached “against” Nagy every KC training camp. Nagy may indeed bring new creativity to a Bears offense that running back Jordan Howard and other criticized as predictable last year, but Sutton knows a little about how Nagy thinks and something of what Nagy’s idea of creative is.
As John Fox did with his first preseason, Nagy may want to use the preseason as not only a series of evaluation sessions, but also as on-field opportunities for culture-building. Fox and GM Ryan Pace wanted to eradicate the losing ennui that had set in under Phil Emery and Marc Trestman, and while Fox did not radically alter player usage, the 2015 Bears won three of their four in preseason and did start toward changing the culture (if not the scoreboard results).
Nagy is not inheriting the broken culture that Fox and Pace did in 2015. But every coach brings his own imprinting to the job, and the 2018 preseason, particularly game three against Nagy’s old team (and coaching buddies), projects to be a little more interesting than just another preseason game.
2018 Bears preseason
Aug. 2 vs. Baltimore Ravens
Aug. 9-12 at Cincinnati
Aug. 16-19 at Denver
Aug. 23-26 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Aug. 30 vs. Buffalo Bills