Matt Nagy staying his course as Bears head coach and offensive playcaller

Matt Nagy staying his course as Bears head coach and offensive playcaller

The phrase “communication problem” can sometimes be about as bland/vapid/ insipid/foggy a diagnosis as there is. But in the case of the struggling Bears, it may be a serious common thread running through the difficulties that have produced a four-game losing streak from which no one appears to have a clear map out of. Either that, or they do have a map, and just can't seem to find true North.

The communication issue surfaced in the ill-fated missed field goal in the Chargers game. Kicker Eddy Pineiro said afterwards that he’d wanted the football positioned on a hash mark, but evidently that information was never communicated among special-teams staff and on to the head coach so his quarterback could take a knee in a preferred spot.

A smallish incident/example, obviously, but arguably symptomatic of a clogged, overloaded or just poorly functioning communication structure that in fact represents one of the things the Bears actually could fix with a minimum of overall disruption where it matters most: the players. That is, if they chose to change it. Which they aren’t.

Too much on Nagy?

As the offensive implosions continue, one point of focus centers on Nagy, himself. His structure has him as the offensive playcaller as well as the head coach, and occasional questions pertaining to his game management brush up against whether he needs to place playcalling in the hands of Mark Helfrich, his offensive coordinator.

Because he was so immersed in tactical matters of plays in the moment, was he aware that he’d called 56 pass plays vs. seven runs against New Orleans? Was he aware that Tarik Cohen had just one carry and three receptions in the playoff loss to Philadelphia? Or that he was directing his struggling quarterback to run 50 pass plays vs. 15 runs in a one-score, Week 1 loss to Green Bay?

Detroit coach Matt Patricia, formerly Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator with New England, is ceding the playcalling for the Lions’ struggling defense to coordinator and former Bears defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni. Lovie Smith left the defensive calls in the hands of his coordinators.

On the other hand, coaches Sean McVay (Rams), Kyle Shanahan (49ers) and Doug Pederson (Eagles) serve as playcallers for their offenses.

Then again, Marc Trestman handled playcalling for his offense when it was second in the NFL averaging nearly 28 points per game in 2013. The following year, the points per game dropped below 20 as the league clearly caught on to him, and his team disintegrated under and around him.

Nagy continues to evince zero indication that he is considering any change in his role, despite stating Wednesday, “I think when you're just staying put, you're not trying to find answers and you're okay with where you're at right now which no one is. We're not. I'm not.”

Yet Nagy knows from personal experience the possible impact a change could have.

Nagy's mentor and Kansas City head coach Andy Reid turned that portion of gameday management over to Nagy — then Reid’s offensive coordinator — in December 2017, at a point when the Chiefs had lost five of six games and failed to top 17 points in any of the three straight losses.

After Reid, who retained oversight, announced the change, the Chiefs scored no fewer than 26 points in winning five of the final six games of the season behind Nagy’s playcalling (a major resume boost for his head-coaching aspirations). The team then put up 21 points in the first half of a wild-card loss to Tennessee.

Reid in Philadelphia had previously involved offensive coordinators Brad Childress and Marty Mornhinweg as playcallers, and later had Doug Pederson, Reid’s first Kansas City offensive coordinator, script the first 15 plays of games.

Nagy isn’t going there.

“It's not just the players, it is coaching,” Nagy conceded. “But at the same time, for our own team and our own coaches and players, I'm just not going to get into the public side of [playcalling]. 

“That part of the question, to me, it falls into a rhythm. It's pretty natural, when you go three-and-out five straight times and you don't know your 'why' sometimes. That's the part to where you can say to yourselves, 'Is this something where there needs to be a change, whether it's play-calling, whether it's schematically, whether it's position, etc.'"

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Bears not among 8 teams in attendance at Colin Kaepernick's workout

Bears not among 8 teams in attendance at Colin Kaepernick's workout

So much for free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick throwing in front of 25 teams in a workout orchestrated by the NFL on Saturday in Atlanta.

Instead, he ran through a 40-minute session at Charles R. Drew High School in Riverdale, Georgia, and only eight teams were there: Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, and Tennessee Titans.

No Ryan Pace. No Bears.

The bizarre twists and turns in what was supposed to be a formal private workout for the one-time 49ers' star have been hard to keep up with. But one thing is certain: At this point in the regular season, it seems like an awfully distracting proposition to consider adding Kaepernick the Chicago's roster.

"I've been ready for three years,'' Kaepernick said, via ESPN. "I've been denied for three years. We all know why I came out here. [I] showed it today in front of everybody. We have nothing to hide. So we're waiting for the 32 owners, 32 teams, Roger Goodell, all of them stop running. Stop running from the truth. Stop running from the people.

"We're out here. We're ready to play. We're ready to go anywhere. My agent, Jeff Nalley, is ready to talk any team. I'll interview with any team at any time. I've been ready.''

The originally scheduled workout was derailed over Kaepernick's camp changing the language of the liability waiver players sign before participating in private workouts. They wanted the workout open to the media, too, something the league refused to allow.

"We are disappointed that Colin did not appear for his workout," the NFL said in its statement Saturday. "He informed us of that decision at 2:30 pm today along with the public. Today's session was designed to give Colin what he has consistently said he wants -- an opportunity to show his football readiness and desire to return to the NFL. Twenty-five (25) clubs were present for the workout, and all 32 clubs, their head coaches, general managers, and other personnel executives would have received video footage of the interview and workout."

The NFL said the rewritten liability waiver provided by Kaepernick's representatives was "insufficient" and that although the league had agreed to allow Kaepernick's representatives on the field for the workout, it would remain mostly private. 

The disagreement over the workout's particulars isn't overly surprising. It was an odd situation to begin with considering the NFL was controlling the "who" and the "how" of the event. You can't fault Kaepernick for wanting some say in it all, especially since he's been waiting three years for the opportunity.

And even though he didn't get the chance to showcase his skills in front of as many teams as advertised, Kaepernick still made a positive impression on the field.

Where this all leads is anyone's guess. But it doesn't appear it will end in Chicago. 

How Tua Tagovailoa's injury will impact Bears' quarterback situation

How Tua Tagovailoa's injury will impact Bears' quarterback situation

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a devastating season-ending hip injury late in the first half of  Saturday's game against Mississippi State, one that likely marks the end of his career as a member of the Crimson Tide. 

Next stop: NFL.

"Tua Tagovailoa sustained a right hip dislocation that was immediately reduced at the stadium," Alabama Team Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain said in a statement following the game. "He is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment. He is expected to make a full recovery but will miss the remainder of the season."

As Dr, Lyle pointed out, Tagovailoa is expected to make a full recovery. His timetable to return is unknown, but it's at least a positive sign that his team of doctors is optimistic about his future.

The harsh reality, however, is that Tagovailoa's injury is going to have a significant impact on his 2020 NFL draft stock, which before Saturday seemed like a top-five lock. After suffering ankle injuries in back-to-back seasons and now a disastrous hip injury, teams selecting in the top 10 will be extremely careful before hinging the future of their franchise on a player with major medical red flags.

And while the Bears were never in the mix to draft Tagovailoa, they will be in the quarterback market this offseason assuming Mitch Trubisky continues to struggle down the stretch. Tagovailoa's injury will make it more difficult for Chicago to land a veteran free agent who prior to Saturday may not have been on a team like the Dolphins' wish list.

That's all changed now.

If Miami had planned for Tagovailoa to be 'the guy' in 2020, their objective in free agency would've been to sign a veteran who can serve as an extra coach in the meeting room rather than a threat for reps on the field. But with Tagovailoa's health now a huge question mark, the Dolphins may not have a choice but to add a player like Cam Newton or Marcus Mariota who can come in and start not only in 2020, but for the foreseeable future as well.

The Bears aren't going to find their 2020 starting quarterback in the draft. If it isn't Trubisky, it has to be a veteran who has a resume of production that can take advantage of a championship window because of the talent on defense. But the price has to be right, and even adding just one team into the free-agent bidding war can have a massive impact on whether Ryan Pace is able to land his guy at his price.

Remember: It's not just the Dolphins whose draft and free agency plans will be impacted by Tagovailoa's injury. Quarterback prospects like Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts and Georgia's Jake Fromm could get pushed up the draft board because they have cleaner medicals or because teams realize they can't assume next year's prospect pool will offer them the answer they're looking for.

Tagovailoa's injury proves there's no such thing as a long-term strategy in a sport where one play can completely derail the best-laid plans. The club that may be eyeing Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in 2021 could choose to snag Oregon's Justin Herbert instead simply because he's healthy and available.

As a result, a run on quarterbacks might occur before the Bears are ever on the clock. That, combined with the free-agent market getting more expensive, could turn one hip injury into another season of Trubisky or bust in 2020.

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