Turf issues and headset issues. Both seem to be the norm at Soldier Field these days.
For the second time in as many home games, the Chicago Bears dealt with headset issues Sunday, this time resulting in Bears head coach Matt Nagy using a walkie-talkie to relay play calls to quarterback Andy Dalton on the field.
“Our headsets went out for basically the whole second half, so when we were backed up it was like high school out there, I’m trying to yell the plays you’re getting from up top,” Nagy said after the Bears’ 33-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
The issue appeared to start in the third quarter when Nagy could be seen yelling calls out to Dalton on at least the final three plays of a 13-play touchdown drive. The next offensive series began at their own 2-yard-line, which was when Nagy was using hand signals to communicate the plays to Dalton.
“We started doing that before we had the walkie-talkies so when (offensive coordinator Bill Lazor) is giving me the play, I gotta yell it down to Andy and make sure he gets it,” Nagy said.
Unfortunately that series ended with Dalton throwing his third interception of the game, on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. By then, the Bears had configured a back-up walkie-talkie for Nagy so he could talk to Dalton in his helmet. Typically, Lazor — who sits upstairs in the team’s coaching booth — has direct one-way communication to the quarterback’s helmet until there’s 15 seconds left on the play clock.
“There were times it was going out. And there were times I could hear some of it,” Dalton said. “There were times when I couldn’t hear any of it. So it was just working through that. And I thought we handled it well with the situation that it was. But you’d like the headsets to work at all times.”
If Nagy was getting the calls from Lazor, the communication on the coaches’ headsets couldn’t have been the issue. The head coach said Dalton just couldn’t hear Lazor. Once Nagy got a hold of the walkie-talkie, he could be seen looking at his play sheet while talking into the walkie-talkie in between plays. It certainly made it look like he was calling the plays.
“I obviously have all of the coaches on mine, upstairs. They can talk to me. Andy couldn’t hear Bill. Bill was calling the play, I had the walkie talkie, so Bill was saying the play to me and I was relaying it into Andy,” Nagy said.
If that was the case, the Bears appeared to pull off the play call relay very quickly, because Nagy was talking into the walkie talkie almost immediately following each play. After the game, he insisted Lazor was calling all the plays.
“Bill is calling all the plays. And I have input if there is situationally, if there is a feel or there is something and that’s been always. Nothing has changed from any other games. Today was a normal day,” Nagy said. “We had the headset go out so literally it’s like just going through a second half without a headset. So we gotta be able to adjust and use the walkie talkie and that’s where there is a communication between Bill, myself and Andy.”
Unfortunately the headsets going out is somewhat of a normal occurrence at Soldier Field. Multiple league sources over the years have pointed out that Soldier Field tends to have more issues with the headsets than most stadiums. In the Bears’ last home game against the Baltimore Ravens, Nagy burned a timeout when he lost headset communication before a crucial fourth down call. He initially sent the punt team on the field, but then called timeout and put the offense back on the field after he was able to communicate upstairs with a walkie talkie.
Asked Sunday if he knows what the problem is at Soldier Field, Nagy said: “I don’t. I wish I did.”