The 2020 NFL preseason is still very much in doubt while the United States battles the COVID-19 outbreak, but if August's summer schedule moves forward as planned, the Bears will take a very different approach with their starters.
Matt Nagy admitted Friday that his decision not to play his starters during the 2019 preseason was a mistake that he won't repeat this year.
"As we talk, that's one of the things that I look back at from last year that I'm not happy about that I made a decision to do in the preseason," Nagy said on the Waddle & Silvy Show. "Number one, I think it's good for them to have it, but number two it sets the mentality. So that's not going to happen this year."
The Bears' preseason kicks off August 15 against the Browns, followed by a trip to Denver to face the Broncos and an all-important dress-rehearsal in Week 3 at home against the 49ers. Their preseason schedule concludes in Tennessee on September 3.
There's a much greater importance on preseason games this year than in the first two seasons that Nagy's been on the job. The Bears have a full-blown quarterback competition between Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky which could come down to how they perform during the summer scrimmages.
It's also important for Chicago to get off to a fast start in 2020. With this year's offseason program disrupted by the novel coronavirus, every rep will matter in order to prepare for the regular season. In reality, Nagy doesn't have much of a choice but to play the first-teamers.
Whether the Bears' starters play or not, Nagy's decision will be questioned. If a key player gets injured, Nagy will get crushed for taking an unnecessary preseason risk. But if Chicago's starters sit, and they suffer another embarrassing Week 1 loss as they did against the Packers in 2019, Nagy's August strategy will be blamed (much like it was last year).
"I really don't believe that," Nagy said last September when he was asked if not playing his starters in the preseason had a negative impact on the team after Week 1's loss. "I'm sticking with my gut. I really feel that. I really do. I know what our guys can do."
With a full offseason to reflect on that decision, he now knows it was a mistake. And it's a step in the right direction in 2020.