Column

Hoge: Matt Nagy just became a better head coach

Column

Given the current state of the Chicago Bears’ offense, there’s a chance that changing play-callers does very little to put more points on the scoreboard.

There’s also a chance it makes Matt Nagy a better head coach.

And by the way, he’s already a good head coach. His 25-16 record in two-plus season often gets lost in how little his offense produces, and that’s understandable. But in separating Matt Nagy the head coach from Matt Nagy the play-caller, I’ve always remained bullish on the head coach.

But I’ve also wondered why Matt Nagy the head coach hadn’t fired Matt Nagy the play-caller yet.

That move essentially happened Friday when Nagy announced offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will call plays Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field. The only difference is that unlike a true firing, this move doesn’t have to be permanent.

"We need to do what's best for us, not what's best for Matt Nagy,” the head coach said.

This is undoubtedly the best move for the 2020 Chicago Bears, and yet, it’s probably also the best move for Nagy. Will it jumpstart the offense? It definitely won’t hurt it. But as obsessed as Nagy is with the offensive side of the ball and his admitted love for calling plays – “I'd be lying to every one of you guys if I told you that this is easy. It's not easy. It's one of my favorite parts of coaching,” he said Friday – his job title starts with “head coach” and it’s ultimately his job to win football games, not call plays. As much as he still wants to be a good offensive coordinator, he doesn’t need to be anymore. He has one of the top 32 football head coaching jobs in the world.

 

That’s why my argument for Nagy giving up play-calling duties has been more about how he can be a better head coach and less about fixing the offense (although, again, it can’t hurt the offense).

On a microlevel with the offense, Nagy may be able to see more during games as he spends less time looking at his playsheet. It may allow him to be more aware of in-game adjustments that need to be made. On a macrolevel, it will allow him to be more involved with the entire team on gameday.

“I am going to be able to be on the headset and try to help (Lazor) on the front end, ‘Hey Bill, you might have two downs here. It might be four-down territory here.’ I’m going to try to do that ahead of time so that he can know a situation, how to call a play,” Nagy said. “If there’s a, ‘Hey, we’re gonna go for two here,’ I’ll give him that heads up. Or hey, ‘We’re thinking field position.’ I can really just start to see it from that point of view. I can jump on – which I’ve been doing – I can jump on with defense. I’ll see things from that side. When the offense comes off the field, I’ll be able to really get a pulse as to where they’re at. The defense. Special teams. It’s a different angle.”

It's an angle Nagy hasn’t experienced yet as a head coach. From Day 1 with the Bears, he’s been the head coach and the play-caller, even though he arrived in Chicago with very little play-calling experience. The hope was that he would be able to form half of the coveted offensive head coach/quarterback pairing that many successful NFL teams have right now. But neither the quarterback or the offense have panned out. Yet, through all that, Nagy has still held his locker room together through tough times, including during an important racial injustice movement and a deadly pandemic this year.

There is still plenty of evidence to suggest Nagy will continue to be a good head coach.

In fact, making this move might be the best evidence yet.

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