After the New Orleans Saints marched all over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on Sunday, the team and its head coach Matt Nagy were left with numerous questions with no apparent answers and no more bye weeks to indulge in self-reflection.
In his post-game press conference, Nagy seemed flummoxed and clueless by his team’s performance, which is not a good look for the reigning Coach of the Year coming off a 12-4 season. On the Under Center podcast, several former Chicago Bears players, including Olin Kreutz, Lance Briggs, and Matt Forte, broke down the Bears’ offensive woes so far this season.
One of their primary criticisms was Nagy’s failure to commit to the run game. The Bears set a franchise record for fewest rushing attempts in a game with seven total rushes against the Saints. Perhaps even more disturbing was which former Bears’ head coach Nagy reminds Forte of.
Matt Nagy is Reminiscent of Marc Trestman
Both Matt Forte and Olin Kreutz noted that the Saints used a very similar formula to beat the Bears that the Raiders used a few weeks prior. The Saints ran the ball at the Bears defense right up the middle, until the defense wore down due to being on the field for so much of the game.
New Orleans also stifled both the Bears’ running game and their passing attack, besting the team in all three phases of the game. Olin Kreutz was bothered by Nagy’s post-game comments, in which the coach suggested that he abandoned the run because the team was only gaining a yard or two on each rush early on. While that’s true, Kreutz noted that good offensive teams don’t do this.
“Good running teams, they get one yard, they run it again…You’re stubborn with it. Coach Nagy…he needs five, six, seven yards to keep going back to it,” Kreutz said.
When former Bears defensive standout Alex Brown said that he thought Nagy might be the first Bears coach he had seen come into Chicago who did not care about running the ball, Matt Forte and Lance Briggs jumped in immediately to correct him.
“He’s not the first,” Forte said before Briggs cut him off. “Marc Trestman,” Briggs noted, saying playing for Trestman as a defender was “a terrible experience.”
Forte said that Trestman was “all pass-happy” when he first arrived, and that “it took us eight weeks to get the run game going” before Trestman realized how important the running game is to the passing game. After Week 7, the Bears are running the ball less than they have all season, despite Nagy telling everyone who asks that the team needs to run the ball more.
Nagy Needs to Stick With the Running Game–Not Abandon it
Forte and Kreutz, two former Pro Bowl players and offensive standouts for the Bears, both agreed that rookie running back David Montgomery needs a lot more touches than he’s currently getting. Particularly after he fumbled for the first time in his young career. After mistakes like that, it’s crucial to go right back to your young star to build his confidence and to show him you still believe in him, Kreutz said. Nagy didn’t do that.
“You can’t just give up on it,” Forte said about the running game, noting that it’s simply not going to get better if you don’t keep at it.
While comparing the current Bears coach with Trestman isn’t accurate or fair–Trestman was 13-19 in his two seasons as the Bears head coach and Nagy is 15-8, including the Bears playoff loss last year–their mindsets regarding the run are too similar to not be troubling. Both are offensive-minded coaches, but Nagy’s team has always been fully behind him, while Trestman, who replaced the beloved Lovie Smith, never really had the confidence of his locker room.
Nagy also has 10 games left in the regular season to turn this thing around, or at least to figure out how to establish the run. If he fails to do that this season, however, the Trestman comparisons will only grow from here.