Matt Nagy’s "(something)-the-f***-up" challenge to Mitch Trubisky, which was caught by ESPN’s cameras Monday night, revealed something important about the Bears:
This team's coach has an excellent feel for how to manage and motivate his quarterback during games. Consider this an example of the difference in Nagy the coach and Nagy the offensive mind.
Depending on your lip reading skills, Nagy told Trubisky to “man” or “step” the f*** up. Whatever it was, it was a sharp, pointed challenge from coach to quarterback. And it was notable given how different it was from the last time cameras caught a pointed conversation between coach and quarterback.
Last year, in the Bears’ Week 8 win over the New York Jets, a mic’d up Nagy told Trubisky: “I'm going to challenge you right now, these two quarters, for greatness. You got me? I want to see it come out of you right here. You take this thing over right now."
That message last year came after an uneven offensive first half, after which the 3-3 Bears had just a 7-3 lead on the lowly Jets. Trubisky responded by leading three scoring drives in the second half, which included an outstanding touchdown throw to Anthony Miller (on which now-Bears cornerback Buster Skrine was in coverage). That positive-toned challenge worked.
Fast-forward to Monday night, and Trubisky similarly responded well to the message, even if its tone was markedly different. Nagy’s provocation to Trubisky came during a timeout before a third-and-two at Washington’s 23-yard line midway through the second quarter, with the Bears leading 7-0. After it, Trubisky fired an in-stride strike to Miller, who dashed 15 yards to convert the first down.
Trubisky threw his first touchdown of 2019 two plays later.
“See, he made a good play,” Nagy laughed. “He made me look good.”
Jokes aside, the larger point here is this: Nagy has a strong relationship with Trubisky, and seems to have a good feel of when — and how — to challenge his quarterback. These certainly aren't the only examples of Nagy delivering a message to Trubisky during a game. They're just two caught by cameras and/or microphones.
But it’s not like Nagy does this all the time, too, as he explained last week when asked how much non-playcall communication he has with Trubisky when things aren’t going well during a game.
“I didn’t say a whole lot the last game because I let him have his space and do his thing,” Nagy said. “If I feel like there’s something where we’re not clicking on a play or he’s not seeing something, I’ll go over and talk. Or if I think he did really well, I’ll go over and tell him hey, nice job. Other than that, I let (quarterbacks coach Dave) Ragone sit there with him, Chase Daniel, Tyler (Bray), those guys. He’s got a lot of people in his ear and I want to make sure that I’m not making it too much.”
Again, this is more a commentary on Nagy the leader than Nagy the offensive mind. Trubisky still has a passer rating of 81.3, and one solid game against a bad opponent won’t answer all the lingering questions about this offense. How Nagy calls plays, and how Trubisky and the offense executes them, this weekend against the Minnesota Vikings will be an important measuring stick.
But Nagy knows how to push Trubisky’s buttons. It’s examples like this that earned him 2018’s coach of the year honors. When he needs to sharply challenge his players, whether it’s his quarterback or not, he does. When he needs to give them a more positive pep talk, he does.
And those leadership qualities matter, and will matter, as Nagy and the Bears move forward this season.
“That's what you want from your head coach,” Trubisky said. “You want passion, and it wasn't anything malicious. We were just on the same page and we were getting fired up and we were just communicating and he definitely got his point across and I love to see passion out of my head coach. When you get that and, it's really a non issue, it's not a big deal at all.
“It really didn't — I didn't even notice it at the time. We were just communicating and we ended up going down and scoring at the end of that drive, if I remember correctly, so no big deal at all and I love to see that out of coach Nags.”