It's been a tale of two seasons for the Bears under coach Matt Nagy. His first year on the job was nothing short of a miraculous turnaround that ended as the 2018 NFC North champions with a 12-4 record and a home playoff game. He was the NFL Coach of the Year and life was good, if not great, for Bears fans.
Then came 2019. Nagy's first-year success created Super Bowl expectations in Chicago, but at 7-8 and with one of the NFL's worst all-around offenses, it's safe to say regression is very, very real.
The most frustrating part of this year's Bears team has been the failure at quarterback. Mitch Trubisky's first season under Nagy wasn't perfect, but it was promising. He finished 2018 completing nearly 67% of his passes for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns. Trubisky looked like one of the NFL's bright young dual-threats too, running for 421 yards and three scores. And remember: he did all that in just 14 games.
Nagy's Level-202 offense was supposed to be great. It was supposed to be fun. It was supposed to be championship-worthy.
Instead, it's been a showcase of inaccurate passes, bad reads, poor pass protection and pass-catchers not catching passes. Trubisky is on pace to finish 2019 with a lower completion percentage, fewer passing yards, rushing yards and total touchdowns than he had a year ago. He hasn't passed the eyeball test, let alone any advanced analytic scoring.
So what's the deal? What went wrong?
If you've paid attention to Nagy at any point this year, it's pretty obvious: The Bears simply haven't been able to develop any rhythm on offense. It's a word he's used all season.
Here was Nagy's explanation after Week 1's loss to the Packers:
We just got to get in a better rhythm, whether that's personnel-wise, whether that's stacking completions, getting the run game going different ways. But we've got to go back to the drawing board. And I'm not — I'm in zero panic mode. I'm in a frustration mode because I just feel like I know we're better than that.
OK, fine. It's the opener, there are early-season jitters and rust that needs to be worked out. Surely by midseason, the Bears offense would be humming, right?
Check out Nagy's explanation of what went wrong after Week 9's loss to the Eagles:
We felt like we wanted to get that rhythm going and get those first downs - kind of like how we did it last week early on. But, boy, we just couldn’t get it going and it snowballed, it really did. It was one thing after the next and it’s, again, not what can happen. It can’t happen.
Fine. Maybe the Bears were in a deep funk. But Nagy is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year. He'd figure it out and lead Chicago on a playoff push in the second half of the season. He is, after all, an offensive guru.
Not so fast. Check out his comments after Week 16's loss to the Chiefs:
Well, it's about rhythm. You know, you want to get rhythm. So, when you're getting 1st downs and you're not having that sloppiness, then it can tend to put you in some certain situations where it can be difficult. It's just a detail thing. We've got to lock into every single play. You've got to be locked in on every play.
Rhythm. Or the lack of it. According to Nagy, that's what's plagued the Bears. It was their problem at the beginning of the season, continued until the middle of the season, and is still haunting the team as the year comes to a close.
Developing a rhythm on offense is like a dance. It requires two partners — the players and the coaches calling the plays — who are in sync with game situation and execution. Both have failed, miserably, and the result has been a sloppy display of amateur football.
Nagy and Trubisky have each taken their fair share of the blame for the failures of 2019. And if you take Nagy at his word, that blame is justified. The coach calling the plays and the quarterback entrusted to execute them have to be in sync in order to produce on offense. Nagy needs to know the 'what and why' for every play call, and Trubisky must apply the 'how' to make it work.
Instead, after most of the Bears' offensive possessions in 2019, fans have been left to wonder whether Chicago has the 'who' to win a Super Bowl.
There will be significant change in Chicago this offseason. There has to be. It won't be at head coach, and it shouldn't. Despite a disappointing 2019, Nagy's first two years on the job have been solid. Remember: It wasn't long ago that this team was a three-win club that lost its way to the No. 3 overall pick. Finishing what was supposed to be a Super Bowl season at or around .500 is a failure when isolated on its own, but it could be a lot worse. This team knows that all too well.
The same can't be said at quarterback, where Trubisky's job is anything but secure heading into 2020. He's done nothing to earn that right, and if Ryan Pace fails to add competition to the roster, we'll be headed for more arrhythmic offense next fall.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears.