Oh! (No) Chicago
Ah, yes, the rumor mill was in full swing for Bears fans. Photoshops were shopped, dreams were dreamt. Bears fans finally thought this was the year, the year they find their franchise QB. It started with young signal-callers such as Sam Darnold and Garnder Minshew. Then shifted to the new faces in the NFL Draft. Finally, Russell Wilson listed the Bears on a shortlist during the midst of his whole trade demand fiasco.
Credit to the Bears for at least trying to swing for Wilson. After all, they did offer three first-round picks and apparently two other starters. One could imagine, this offer may not have even netted a phone call in return from the Seahawks GM. Instead, Ryan Pace was sent down on his long road of rejects and failures.
Enter Andy Dalton
After being rejected, Ryan Pace swiftly turned his attention elsewhere. Specifically to Andy Dalton, the epitome of good, not great. All throughout his career, Dalton has been good. That’s about it; it’d be unwise to call him below average. After all, he did lead the Bengals to four straight playoff appearances.
However, calling him anything above average would be just as unfair, as he’s been named to the Pro Bowl thrice, once as a replacement. At this point, Dalton is what he is: mediocre. For the Bears to expect anything otherwise would simply be unjust. If they do, in fact, believe Dalton is the guy well, then one might as well add this to the long list of Pace’s failures.
The pressing issue with the Dalton signing is the commitment to Dalton as the week one starter. Ryan Pace confirmed in a recent interview where he called Dalton a complete QB and one of the more complete quarterbacks that we evaluated this year in free agency. He would later double down and state that they have gotten better with Andy. And for the icing on the cake, Pace verified that they do in face see Dalton as a starting quarterback.
While this all might just be a smokescreen to a grander plan, Pace may have just tipped his hand in the draft. With Dalton as QB1, it seems unlikely Pace will trade up for a highly touted draftee. And it seems even less likely they spend a later pick on a project or developmental QB.
Pace’s recent comments on having gotten better with the signing of Dalton sure are interesting. Sure, they may have upgraded at the QB position, but then again, it’s not that hard to when you employed a tandem of Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles for the duration of the season.
But in terms of the overall team, one could argue they are actually worse off. They have already released CBs Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine. It has been reported Safety Eddie Jackson is disgruntled. Rumors have swirled that DL Akiem Hicks has been granted permission to seek a trade. Special teams ace Cordarrelle Patterson seems unlikely to come back. And star WR Allen Robinson can’t be too happy with the organization. For one, they couldn’t agree to a long-term extension, and to make matters worse, they didn’t find a QB who can make up for it on the field.
Perhaps this is the hill Pace chooses to die on. Choosing for that hill to be Andy Dalton is undoubtedly odd. Pace better hope he knows what he is doing come time end of April. He should be prepared like his job depends on it because spoiler alert… it does.
Enter Matt Nagy
Three days ago, head coach Matt Nagy dropped a bomb by announcing his return as a play-caller, as Stacey Dales reported.
After a questionable offseason, to say the least, the Bears made a colossal mistake by allowing Nagy to resume his play-calling duties. Simply put, Nagy does not have what it takes to be a successful play-caller in the NFL. In 2019, his last entire season of play calling, Nagy’s unit finished with the fourth worse offense and as one of the worst rushing teams in the league, mustering a whopping 17.5 points per game and 3.7 rush yards per attempt. In comparison, the Bears’ (elite) defense allowed 3.9 yards per rush.
What’s more concerning is the blatant issues in their offense. Time and time again NFL analysts and former QBs rip Nagy to shreds for his game plans, or lack thereof. As evident below where Matt Miller weighs in.
#BaldysBreakdowns takes a stab at the Bears offense:
Check out this tweet and reply between two former NFL QBs:
Quite frankly, the Bears’ offense is a mess with Nagy, and other highly respected NFL minds seem to be in consensus as well. Nagy’s most prominent issues scheme-wise are really quite simple and can be seen very easily when reviewing film. The most significant problem is Nagy’s obsession with running versus terrible box counts. Even when they have the box count advantage, Nagy will often utilize motion and neutralize any advantage he had.
This is seen in the video below when WR Taylor Gabriel comes in motion and allows the linebacker to fill the gap and stop the rush. What’s unfortunate is the Bears OL is actually capable of run-blocking, which is again seen below. The hole for Tarik Cohen was there and would’ve stayed open had they not utilized a jet sweep motion.
Exit Bill Lazor
Move over, Bill. Your time went as fast as it came. After averaging less than 20 points per game in 2020, Nagy turned over play-calling duties to Bill Lazor in week 11. Following the switch, the Bears offense utilized a game plan catered to Trubisky’s strengths. The recipe called for a heavy dose of play-action and designed boot-legs. Which ultimately jump-started the offense, as they scored 25 points in five straight games, including 41 point barrage against the Jaguars. David Montgomery and the run game were also given a jolt; Montgomery put up three 100 yard games during that stretch.
However, it all came crashing down in week 17 and in the playoff game. With the stakes high against the Packers and the Saints during Wild Card weekend, the Bears abandoned what got them there in the first place. Perhaps Nagy had more influence in the game, fewer bootlegs were called, and the offense was reverted back to the RPO styles play, also known as a Matt Nagy special.
Here’s where it gets very questionable. With the signing of Dalton, it makes zero sense to strip play-calling duties from Lazor. Lazor is already familiar with Dalton, serving as the Bengals OC in 2017 and 2018. He was also the QB coach in 2016, a year that Dalton when on to make the Pro Bowl. In fact, Dalton had one of his most efficient years under Lazor, as seen below.
In a make or break year, you would think the organization would want to do everything they can to ensure the success of their team. Recent moves indeed suggest otherwise. Is this it? Is this how the Pace-Nagy era will finally end? With Dalton at the wheel and Nagy calling the shots, it would certainly be a fitting end for Ryan Pace.