There was only one thing left to do. Matt Nagy had to fire himself as the Bears’ play-caller as his offense plummeted to the bottom of the NFL for the second consecutive year.
That’s exactly what Nagy did in a refreshingly honest and open press conference Friday afternoon, announcing that he’ll pass play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor starting Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
But Lazor will take over a broken offense that is:
- 29th in points per game (19.8)
- 31st in yards per play (4.8)
- 29th in passing yards per play (5.7)
- 30th in rushing yards per play (3.7)
- 32nd in rushing yards per game (82.3)
-31st in third down conversion rate (32.3 percent)
-30th in red zone touchdown rate (50 percent)
Can he really fix this?
That’s one question, and the answer depends on what your definition of “fix” is. But before I dive into it, I’ll pose another question:
Can this hurt?
“You get a feel and you understand, ‘OK, this is where our offense is at right now,’ and we’ve been struggling and for different reasons,” Nagy said. “I don’t think it’s one particular reason, but if there’s something that can help spark us, or sometimes it’s just a changeup. … Sometime change can be good in that regard, so again, none of it was for a particular reason other than we’ve just been struggling and I feel like it’s the best thing for this team.”
And doesn’t it feel like, for the first time in a long time, there’s a glimmer of hope with the Bears’ offense?
There’s very little downside to Nagy giving up play-calling, especially when there are no more personnel changes to be made on a team that already changed quarterbacks this season. Look at those numbers I rattled off above. It can't get much worse.
But this seismic change by Nagy might not work thanks to a statuesque quarterback playing behind an offensive line in shambles. It’ll be hard for anyone to call consistently effective plays for this collection of players.
But what if Lazor finds a way just to be okay on offense?
The hope is he can find a way around those glaring personnel issues in the playbook to at least allow the Bears a shot at having a competent, average offense.
Instead of the awful, unwatchable one we’ve seen for the last few weeks.
“I've been a part of this before, this situation at other teams and really have focused on the positive that has come from it,” Nagy said, referencing Andy Reid giving him playcalling duties while the Kansas City Chiefs were in a rut in 2017. “I'm excited to let Bill take this over and he has experience in this role, I think he's going to do a great job and it's something that for us it’s going to be something that we all just decided together like hey, let's go. So I think it's a lot of, I think it shows the belief too that I have and that we have in the coaching staff.
I broke down one specific play from the Bears’ loss to the Titans last week here that I would think Lazor would not call based on the personnel he has. Too often it felt like Nagy was trying to ram *his* complex offense into a roster that was incapable of operating it.
Whatever improvements the Bears offense makes – if they’re made at all – will most likely be incremental. Lazor doesn’t play offensive line. But he can call plays that, hopefully, minimize the issues the Bears have up front – especially in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
More than anything else, maybe Lazor can just make the Bears’ offense watchable again. Replacing searing incompetence with boring mediocrity would be an improvement. It might be enough to stop the Bears’ losing streak and get them into the playoffs with a top-five defense.
That would be a “fix.” It’d be nice to stop wondering how close the Bears are to the New York Jets in a bunch of statistics.
Maybe that’ll happen with Lazor calling plays. Maybe it won’t. But it’s worth a shot, especially when it’s about the last shot Nagy can take.
“I love calling plays,” Nagy said. “I love it. I love it. Is it permanent? No, it's not permanent. But guess what? If this is what's best for the team, then that's what I'm gonna do. We need to do what's best for us, not what's best for Matt Nagy. That's where I'm at. I'm excited about it, looking forward to it.”