Hub Arkush: Grading Bears head coach Matt Nagy

  • Bears head coach Matt Nagy walks on the sideline in the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.

    Bears head coach Matt Nagy walks on the sideline in the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. Associated Press

Updated 1/17/2021 6:00 PM
Second in a series

There is a very strange dynamic when it comes to evaluating the Bears' front office and the coaching staff.

It seems whenever someone evaluates Ryan Pace all they are able to focus on is the Mitch Trubisky trade-up and draft choice with little complete or accurate study of everything else he's done in six seasons on the job.


When it comes to head coach Matt Nagy, almost no one looks at his overall body of work. They all get stuck on the expectations he brought with him from Kansas City and his tutelage under Andy Reid of bringing the offense into the 20th century.

Unlike Pace's situation, though, which he is stuck with fairly or otherwise, Nagy carries the albatross of his offense around his neck because he has shown little interest in focusing on anything else and has resisted the obvious need to get more help with his offense and spend more of his own time on game management, clock management and being the head coach.

Positives: The Bears stayed as healthy as almost any team in the league and aced the constant changes and adjustments dictated by pandemic mitigation protocols.

They were desperate on offense going into the bye and Nagy, Bill Lazor, Dave Ragone and Juan Castillo did an excellent job of revamping the offense, scheme -- the run game in particular -- and their overall game plans, albeit against inferior defenses over the last six games.

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The staff as a whole did a nice job developing young players with big steps forward from David Montgomery, Sam Mustipher, Alex Bars, Bilal Nichols and Roquan Smith along with rookies Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, Jaylon Johnson and Kindle Vildor.

Special props to secondary coach Deshea Townsend for making Johnson a day one rookie starter and for having Vildor and Duke Shelley ready to go when Johnson and Buster Skrine went down. We should commend Castillo for turning the O-line around with former undrafted rookie free agents.

It took Nagy far too long to relinquish the play calling, but he became a much better head coach and game manager as soon as he did.

Nagy's players swear by him, want to play for him and even through the six game disaster he never lost their ears or came close to losing his locker room.

Negatives: Despite having four longtime quarterback coaches -- Nagy, Lazor, Ragone and John DiFilippo -- on the staff, the Bears cannot develop a quarterback.


After scoring just 11, 20, 23, 10, 23 and 17 points in consecutive games, Nagy waited at least three or four weeks too long to hand over play calling to Lazor and focus on the head coach job.

It should never have taken so long and only out of desperation due to injuries to figure out Mustipher and Bars were two of their five best offensive linemen after James Daniels went down.

The defense was No. 1 in the league on third down and in the red zone going into the bye, coming out they were among the league's worst in those two categories the last six weeks and coaches had no answers.

The staff did a poor job trying to force its schemes on players it didn't necessarily fit instead of designing the scheme to fit the talent from day one.

Defining moment: Between Week 4 and 13, the Bears went 2-7 and were exceptionally reluctant and slow to make changes, but Nagy never lost his locker room and still got his club to the playoffs.

Contract status: It is unclear whether Nagy's contract expires following the 2021 or 2022 season, but the bottom line is the '21 season will determine Nagy's future running the Bears regardless of what's left on the contract.

Hub's grade: B-. This is the exact same story as the front office, some good, and some bad but better than average for the NFC. This was a C+ job normally but a B- due to the challenges of the pandemic.

Hub's plan: Finding the right defensive coordinator to replace the retiring Chuck Pagano is critical. I would start by chasing Raheem Morris, Matt Patricia or looking at Vic Fangio disciple Jay Rodgers on the current staff.

Nagy shouldn't even consider going back to play calling because having a game-focused head coach on the sideline is critical, but I would strongly consider trying Ragone instead of Lazor.

Regardless of the quarterback, design the '21 offense around a ground-and-pound, outside zone-read run game and play-action passes, and build the defensive scheme around penetration and getting as much pressure on the quarterback as possible on every play.

• Twitter: @Hub_Arkush

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