Three questions for the Bears’ coaching staff: How will Matt Nagy handle adversity?
Head coach: Matt Nagy
Offensive coordinator: Mark Helfrich
Quarterbacks coach: Dave Ragone
Running backs coach: Charles London
Wide receivers coach: Mike Furrey
Tight ends coach: Kevin Gilbride
Offensive line coach: Harry Hiestand
Defensive coordinator: Vic Fangio
Defensive line coach: Jay Rodgers
Outside linebackers coach: Brandon Staley
Linebackers coach: Glenn Pires
Defensive backs coach: Ed Donatell
Special teams coordinator: Chris Tabor
Strength and conditioning coach: Jason Loscalzo
1. How will Matt Nagy respond to adversity?
Nagy only called plays for five regular season games and then that ill-fated playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans last year with the Kansas City Chiefs, so we don’t have a full picture of how the first-year head coach will handle deteriorating or difficult situations. What we do know is that he’ll take accountability for them, at least based on his comments on the Chiefs’ collapse after being hired as the Bears’ coach. (https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/bears/matt-nagy-kansas-city-chiefs-playoffs-play-calling-andy-reid-ryan-pace)
That’s a good start. But not everything will go the way Nagy plans in training camp, preseason games and then the regular season. What happens when he throws an ill-advised challenge flag? Or when a poor play call puts Mitch Trubisky in a bad spot? Or when the defense gives up a critical scores that costs the Bears a win?
In the short-term, how Nagy handles an investable training camp kerfuffle between teammates will be an interesting storyline. The Bears didn’t have a significant injury occur during the offseason program, but Nagy’s personality would seem to lend itself to him handling a situation like that well.
He earned the respect of his players during OTAs and minicamps, but it’s hard for something to go seriously wrong in April, May and June. The stakes are higher in July and August, and then even moreso in the regular season. How Nagy handles the ebbs and flows of a season will go a long way toward determining his success as a coach.
2. Will coaching consistency lead to the Bears’ defense improving?
The Bears have staked the success of their defense in 2018 on two things: 1) Keeping largely the same group of players and 2) Keeping the entire coaching staff in place. The only additions to this group were Roquan Smith — who, to be fair, represented a significant investment — and then a few guys who may be more rotational pieces (Aaron Lynch, Joel Iyiegbuniwe, Bilal Nichols, Kylie Fitts).
So what the Bears are expecting is the players already in place on this defense will play better than they did in 2017. And the reason for that, then, is the consistency on the coaching staff.
“We got a set standard,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We know what we need to get better at. Vic put up a display of what we need to get better at, and we all know what it is. It’s all going out here and making it happen to make us get better. We were top 10, we want to be top 5, top 1. That’s our whole attitude, to get better each day, taking as much of the day as you can to get better, work with the guys that you’re with and have fun.”
3. Will the coaching structure around Mitch Trubisky lead to growth?
Nagy is a former quarterback. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone are both former quarterbacks, too. Nobody’s pretending like the Bears’ coaching staff wasn’t assembled with Trubisky in mind.
Those quarterback-centric coaching trios worked well in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, with both the Rams and Eagles going from under .500 in 2016 to winning their respective divisions in 2017. Expecting the Bears to do the same may be unfair given the strength of the NFC North, but then again — if the Rams, a seemingly-moribund franchise that hadn’t had a winning season since 2003, can do it, then why can’t the Bears?
For all the hype Pace generated by signing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton, and for all the positivity felt because of the consistency on defense, the No. 1 thing that’ll determine how good this team will be is the success (or lack thereof) of Trubisky. Pace, Nagy and Trubisky are tethered together and will collectively sink or swim as a group.
Pace’s work, for now, is done. It’s now on Nagy and the coaching staff he assembled to work with Trubisky and give him the best chance of succeeding in 2018.