Bears

Anthony Miller's earned the Bears' trust. Now he just needs to prove he can keep it.

Anthony Miller's earned the Bears' trust. Now he just needs to prove he can keep it.

Given how confusing and uncertain the Bears’ offense has been this season, there’s a bit of irony in the fact it has always been clear when they do or do not trust Anthony Miller. 

Like, for instance, the first three games of the season, when Miller was targeted five times, catching three balls for 17 yards. Or in the three weeks leading up to their Week 11 loss in Los Angeles, when Miller had four catches on six targets. He’ll disappear as quickly as he reappears a month later, and working to remain consistent throughout a full season has proved difficult through the first two years of Miller’s career. 

“He cares. He cares a lot,” Mitch Trubisky said. “He works his tail off in practice. Just that communication from him – that he wants the ball, and you know that he has the ability to get open within this offense. He's done a lot from the learning standpoint about where he belongs within each spot, within each concept, and even when he's not getting the ball, where he's blocking, who he's blocking.” 

Then there are stretches, like over the last month, when he looks like he could be a focal point of the offense. He’s been targeted 37 times over the last four games, with 18 receptions, 313 yards and a touchdown (finally!). Miller’s not the first wide receiver to insist he’s a volume guy and definitely won’t be the last, but the offense is inarguably more dynamic when Miller’s involved – which, so far, has meant finding a drive or two where he gets four or five targets. 

“I definitely feel different,” Miller said after setting a career-high in receptions (9) and yards (140) during the Bears’ Thanksgiving win over Detroit. “I feel like I’m getting more opportunities, I feel like I’m getting more involved. When I’m more involved I feel like I can make a lot of plays for this team. Coaches have just been giving me the opportunities and I’ve been taking advantage.” 

The Bears’ coaches will certainly take 9 receptions for 140 yards, but Miller's talent as a pass catcher has never been what frustrated Matt Nagy, Mark Helfrich and company. It was Miller’s habit for mental mistakes – like cutting a route off two yards short on an interception in Los Angeles – and undisciplined play, like the taunting penalty on a touchdown celebration in London. To Miller’s credit, Nagy is quick to give the wide receiver credit for never making the same mistake twice; a finer attention to executing details also happened to be what the head coach liked most about Miller’s touchdown against Dallas. 

“What I liked about Anthony was he caught the ball and he set up his blocks and got vertical,” Nagy said. “It was aggressive. He had a mindset that no one's stopping him getting to that goal line and you felt it. And you felt the energy after he scored. Just again another example of guys detailing leverage, detailing what they're supposed to do, executing and making us look like good coaches.” 

This season, Miller’s seemed to have a weird, probably-coincidental habit of playing well for three game stretches, and then disappearing for three game stretches. It’s actually kind of uncanny. If you’re superstitious you may want to look away, because right now he’s one (quiet) game removed from his best three-game stretch of the season. Give us some reassurance, Mitch! 

“He's earned that trust and he's been busting his tail to get on the same page with me,” the quarterback said on Wednesday. “And he's done a tremendous job for this offense, especially stepping up when some of the other guys being out.”

Under Center Podcast: Kevin Clark & Robert Mays of the Ringer

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Kevin Clark & Robert Mays of the Ringer

For today's podcast for Super Bowl week in Miami, host Laurence Holmes has two separate discussions with two great guests. Kevin Clark and Robert Mays of the Ringer join the podcast to discuss why the Chiefs and Niners are in the Super Bowl and what the Bears are missing that's holding them back from a Super Bowl.

Part 1 with Kevin Clark

(2:19) - All the NFL players wanted to talk about Kobe Bryant at Media Night

(5:58) - What is the Ringer?

(7:24) - There is a lot that can be learned from Kyle Shanahan

(11:16) - What is Matt Nagy doing wrong with the Bears

(13:36) - What should the Bears do with Mitch Trubisky?

Part 2 with Robert Mays

(20:21) - Interview starts with Mays/ innovation of offense with Reid and Shanahan

(22:31) - Shanahan had the coolest offense Mays has ever seen

(25:16) - Can Matt Nagy be Shanahan?

(26:55) - What are the Bears options at QB?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Under Center Podcast

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Patrick Mahomes gives Matt Nagy ringing endorsement

Patrick Mahomes gives Matt Nagy ringing endorsement

The story of the Bears 2017 NFL Draft is a tale of what could've been. Had GM Ryan Pace decided now-Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes was a better quarterback prospect Mitch Trubisky, it's conceivable that Chicago, not Kansas City, would be playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

It's a nightmare Bears fans will live through for years and years (and years, and years). And that nightmare isn't limited to the Soldier Field faithful. Coach Matt Nagy has first-hand experience of what life with Mahomes could've been like in Chicago after working with the strong-armed gunslinger as the Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2017.

Mahomes, who sat that season behind veteran Alex Smith, said Nagy was a big influence in his first year as a pro.

‘‘Nagy was amazing with me and my transition into the NFL," Mahomes said this week from Miami, via the Chicago Sun-Times, "being able to relate to me, being able to go out there and let me play fast and be who I am."

RELATED: Bears add QB in latest 2020 NFL mock draft

Mahomes attempted just 35 passes that season, but Nagy's role in his jump from Texas Tech to the NFL made a lasting impact.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Nagy after two seasons with Trubisky. It isn't necessarily Nagy's fault, although questions about his play-calling ran wild throughout the 2019 season. But Trubisky's physical skill-set isn't (nor will it ever be) comparable to Mahomes'. There's a lot less for Nagy to work with and we may never see his real impact on the quarterback room until the Bears decide to move on from the former second overall pick.

Mahomes will forever haunt Bears fans. But maybe, just maybe, hope remains with Nagy in charge. And maybe, just maybe, he'll have the same Mahomes-effect on whoever QB-next is in Chicago, whether it be Trubisky or a new face in town. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.