Notebooking: Bears still searching for identity, rhythm, solutions nearing end of Matt Nagy’s second season

Notebooking: Bears still searching for identity, rhythm, solutions nearing end of Matt Nagy’s second season

Shaking out the odds and ends from the notebook in the aftermath of the Bears’ 19-14…win… over the New York Giants.

The single biggest, overarching takeaway or impression from a game that kept the Bears within hailing distance of .500 was that this was a football team still without a clear handle on itself. Four of its five wins have been over teams with three or fewer victories; the fifth was over a team (Minnesota) that appears to have thought, “How did we lose to the BEARS?” and reeled off six wins in their last seven games.

The win over New York contained precious few positives beyond the big one – the ‘W’ – and was within a final Giants drive or two missed Giants field goals from going the other way. No phase – offense, defense, special teams – played a complete football game, although special teams covering a 61-yard Pat O’Donnell punt in the final minutes was a dagger.

The problem is that too often this season the coaches and players have literally said that they don’t have a clear answer for whatever the issue, or “we have to figure that out.” That’s a problem in itself.

Getting down to cases:

Unhappy QB = very good thing

Based on tone and other indicators, coach Matt Nagy was considerably happier with the win than his quarterback was, which frankly is a very good thing. Mitch Trubisky’s postgame demeanor and comments were blunt and forceful in declaring that the individual and collective performances were “not nearly good enough” and he did it in a way that pointed the thumb as harshly as any finger. It wasn’t just what he said; it was how he said it, which had the ring of a team leader, which a shaky Trubisky has not sounded like in recent weeks: 

“Happy we won, but it's not good enough,” a reserved Trubisky said. “Not nearly good enough from this offense, from myself. We can't have the turnovers. Got to be better on third down. Got to be better in the red zone. Enjoy the win, but quick turnaround this week obviously playing on Thursday, so we've just got to find ways to get better, improve and quit making mistakes, especially myself.”

Having the by-definition team leader declare, “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” is something the Bears have needed for quite some time. It doesn’t make Trubisky good but his forceful demanding more of himself and teammates is a very good thing. Best guess is that this Mitch Trubisky doesn’t give a damn what’s on any Halas Hall TV.


The Bears’ eyebrow-raising third quarters – more total points (84) than the first (24) and fourth (28) combined – suggest a few things. One would be that perhaps Matt Nagy, upon winning the coin toss, should defy the conventional wisdom of choosing to receive the second-half kickoff and take the ball to start the game.

Forget the rationales. Nagy would be making a statement to and with his offense, declaring that today the Bears are going to come out and impose their will before your defense has caught its breath.

Making a point(s)

After 11 weeks the Bears are scoring 17.1 points per game and allowing exactly the same. 188 points for, 188 points against. The former, however, is deeply concerning. The latter, very impressive.

And it is even more impressive for a defense that lost its beloved coordinator (Vic Fangio) and two of its true emotional and performance leaders (Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan). Chuck Pagano still ranks as the Bears’ most important offseason addition.

The final five games do pit the Bears against three top-10 scoring offenses (Kansas City, Dallas, Minnesota) plus top-15ers Detroit and Green Bay. And the defense hasn’t produced the huge number of defensive scores and sacks that it did last year. But it is worth noting that the defense already has more than done its job vs. the Lions (13 points), Packers (10) and Rams (17).

What was all THAT?

The botched (being polite) PAT in the second half, which included, in no particular order, Mitch Trubisky scoring on a two-yard keeper, disorganization that forced the Bears to burn a timeout getting ready for a two-point try, a 10-yard loss via pass-interference (albeit dubious) penalty on Allen Robinson that negated a successful Trubisky-to-Taylor Gabriel, a second flag on a confused illegal substitution, all capped off by Eddy Pineiro missing another kick, a 48-yard attempt. (No word from Pineiro if he thought the official placed the football on the hashmark that he didn’t like). 

At this point of the 2019 season and after 28 games under the Nagy coaching staff, the chaos reflects poorly on players and also coaches. Toward that point...

The question still stands…

This late in the 2019 season, Matt Nagy isn’t likely to delegate (am using that word “delegate” on purpose, because that’s what good, experienced chief executives do in all lines of work) the playcalling duties this season to offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. But it is difficult not to wonder if some of the chaos is due to an absence of big-picture oversight. Nagy is deeply involved with trees; it’s the forest that doesn’t always look managed.

Playcalling, like any task in professional football, requires extreme attention and concentration. Other details on offense and even defense and special teams are too often ragged, which Nagy could blame on his assistants. But a bumbling team needs the top guy ready to be involved everywhere, particularly one well-liked and trusted by all areas of his team.


Until the playoffs are officially closed to the Bears, and maybe not even then because it’s not fair to the players involved, the hope here is that the season doesn’t degenerate into a fourth preseason game or some mass audition of seeing what backups can do with play time. Here’s why:

No one outside of the team watches practice pretty much once training camp wraps up. So the public is not seeing every day if Riley Ridley isn’t on time where Trubisky needs him to be, or if Alex Bars isn’t being taken to the shed in pass-pro drills.

But more than a few poor or indifferent practice players (see: Dent, Richard; Iverson, Allen) have proved to be very, very good players when it counted. Not picking on anyone here, but unless Bars or Ridley, for example, are complete practice train wrecks or attitude problems, there’s a nagging question whether they wouldn’t play as well or better at right guard or wide receiver than the current starters.

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President Trump believes NFL season should start on time

President Trump believes NFL season should start on time

The sports world is one of many industries forced to a halt by the coronavirus outbreak. As uncertainty continues to loom over professional American sports leagues, the commissioners of a number of leagues had a conference call with President Trump on Saturday.

It’s worth noting that the NCAA was not included on this call. All leagues represented were fully professional.

Since the call concluded some info has come out about what was discussed. Trump appears optimistic about sports in the later summer and early fall.

Obviously, there are many currently unknown variables that go into that scenario becoming a possibility.

Adam Schefter and Adrian Wojnarowski have more info on what was discussed on the call. According to their reporting, NBA commissioner Adam Silver talked about the desire to restart once public health officials allow it.

Silver told those on the call the leagues were the first to shut down and that he and the NBA would love to lead the way in starting the economy once there was an "all clear" from public health officials, sources familiar with the call told ESPN.

The NBA and MLB are considering alternate plans for how to resume their seasons, although there is pessimism within the NBA about resuming this season. The NFL has more lead time before its season would begin. The first game of the NFL preseason is set for Aug. 6 and the regular season is currently scheduled to start in September.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bears' QB competition confirmed by Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Bears' QB competition confirmed by Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace

It's a Friday edition of SportsTalk Live. Host David Kaplan is joined by David Haugh, Patrick Finley, and KC Johnson.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy confirm that there will be an open competition for starting quarterback between Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky. The guys wonder how open it will actually be. Meanwhile, Nagy says he can sense Trubisky is a fierce competitor. The panel wonders if competition will elevate his play and make him better.

The Bulls have officially begun their search for the new executive to lead their basketball operations. Bulls Insider KC goes through the potential candidates. Haugh and Finley wonder how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect their search and ability to land a big name. And what about Jim Boylen's future? KC says it will ultimately be up to the new person in charge but reminds everyone how much Boylen is liked by the current front office.

Later, former NFL coach Dave Wannstedt joins Kap on the show from Florida. Wanny dissects the Bears quarterback competition and explains why the pressure will always be high on Mitch no matter what. They also talk about new tight end Jimmy Graham's impact on the offense and pass rusher Robert Quinn's impact on the defense. And what's Wanny up to during quarantine? He tells Kap the shows he's binge-watching and gives his review of "Tiger King". 

0:00- There will be an open competition for the Bears starting quarterback job. Does either QB have an advantage? Will competition make Mitch a better quarterback? Also, how much better does Robert Quinn make the defense?

8:00- The Bulls have begun their search for the new head of their basketball operations. KC goes through some of the candidates. Plus, the panel discusses what this means for Jim Boylen's future, John Paxson's role in the search and his future role in the organization.

16:00- Dave Wannstedt joins Kap on the show. He talks about Mitch's chances to win the QB competition and his chances to keep the job throughout next season. Plus, they talk about Jimmy Graham's role in the offense, Robert Quinn's impact on the defense and Wanny gives his honest review of "Tiger King".

Sports Talk Live Podcast