By Chris Emma—
(670 The Score) The Bears’ hiring of Matt Nagy could bode well for 23-year-old quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, whose future will be tied to the new 39-year-old head coach.
An offense that was often far too predictable under former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains gains a play-caller in Nagy who has earned great respect around the league.
One coach with familiarity of Nagy’s work praised the way his offenses diversify plays through formations, matchups and targets. He’s creative out of different formations so as not to tip his hand to what play is coming. His Chiefs offense was considered cutting edge with its variations. As a result, Nagy got a career year out of Alex Smith and spent the season developing rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes, whom the Chiefs selected eight slots after Trubisky.
When Nagy assumed play-calling duties from Andy Reid in early December, running back Kareem Hunt, receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce were utilized as complements to each other and the Chiefs averaged 28.6 points per game in a five-game stretch.
The Bears have the start of a young core around Trubisky with running back Jordan Howard, running back Tarik Cohen and tight end Adam Shaheen. While Howard is an accomplished players after two strong seasons, Cohen and Shaheen could be among those who benefit the most from Nagy’s system.
Here’s a three-down example of how Nagy utilized his talent in Kansas City — and what it could mean for his Bears.
First-and-10: There’s room to roam for Hunt on the right side. The Chiefs pull their guards to the right, which seals a hole for Hunt to gain seven yards and open it up for Nagy. A simple running play draws the Chargers’ defense cheating in, hoping to contain Hunt. From there, they play a single-high safety and pressure the box.
The Bears have quite the promising tandem in Howard and Cohen, though Loggains often struggled to get them in sync. Loggains once referred to Cohen as the Bears’ top playmaker but often failed to utilize him in diverse roles. With the help of Nagy, the rookie Hunt led the league with 1,327 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Howard will continue as the Bears’ feature back, while Cohen can be used similarly to Hill in a joker back-type role with Howard on the field.
Second-and-3: With the first-down marker in mind, the Chiefs line Hill wide to the left and motion Kelce from the right to the slot. It’s a simple screen pass to the tight end, looking to get a game-changing player into space along the sidelines. Credit to Casey Hayward, who make a terrific open-field tackle on Kelce after a yard and keeps the play from going a long way — or even to the sticks. But even with this play defended well, it sets the Chiefs up for their third-and-2 play.
While Kelce is one of the game’s top tight ends, the Bears’ Shaheen flashed potential during his rookie season that lends hope for what’s to come. A standout at Division-II Ashland University, Shaheen struggled with the learning curve after making a major jump. First, he must get healthy this offseason after missing the final three games, but he can benefit spending several months working with Trubisky and getting acclimated with Nagy’s system.
Third-and-2: Here’s where it all pays off for the Chiefs. They come out once again in a shotgun look, and the Chargers again match with the same single-high safety look they presented the first two downs. This time, Kelce is lined in the slot and Hill is out wide on Hayward. It’s the ideal setup for Nagy, who was building for this in fighting for the first-down marker.
Rather than playing for the next down, the Chiefs are going deep. Kelce runs a quick route that draws the nickel corner and safety in — this after Kelce was the first read one play earlier — which puts Hill on an island with Hayward. As one of the fastest players in football, Hill isn’t somebody you want one-on-one, but Nagy was working for this. From there, the tremendous talent of not only Hill but also Kelce opened the door for a 64-yard touchdown. The Chiefs would go on to win the game 30-13 and win the AFC West one week later.
The Bears’ leading receiver in 2017 was Kendall Wright, who had 59 catches. They don’t have a Hill on the roster, which is one task of general manager Ryan Pace during a critical offseason. Cohen can be utilized as a Hill-type player when Howard is on the field, but the Bears need a steady presence at receiver — for Trubisky, for Howard, for Cohen, for Shaheen and for Nagy.
Ultimately, Nagy will be tied to Trubisky, who flashed his talent and mixed results in his rookie season. Trubisky certainly has the arm and mobility to be successful, but his first season in the NFL also revealed plenty of correctable mistakes. Nagy likely won over Pace by presenting the right plan for developing Trubisky — something that the other three offensive-oriented candidates couldn’t top.
Little is known about Nagy and his head coaching qualities. How he will command the locker room, relate to his players and handle a top job 10 years after starting as an intern in the coaching business are all uncertain. This is a risky hire, though Pace is a bold man.
What is clear with Nagy is that he know how to work an offense. Let’s see what he can do with the Bears.
All footage courtesy of NFL Game Pass.