Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy needs all the help he can get in the play-calling department.
Nagy is back to calling plays after a brief seven-game hiatus last season — a hiatus that saw Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor lead the offense to an average of 27.7 points a game compared to the 19.8 points per contest the team managed under Nagy’s direction.
The Bears ranked 20th in DVOA in Nagy’s first season with the team, per Football Outsiders, and they ranked 25th in both 2019 and 2020. Since his arrival in 2018, Nagy hasn’t put together a unit that has ranked above 21st in total offense — and with 14 points and 322 total yards Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams, the Bears and their head coach aren’t off to a good start so far.
After watching the Bears-Rams game, one analyst thinks Nagy might be borrowing a few plays from San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan — which might not be such a bad thing.
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Nagy Called Very Similar Play to Shanahan
Steven Ruiz of The Ringer noticed some stark similarities in the way Nagy used rookie quarterback Justin Fields compared to the way Shanahan has used his first-year QB, Trey Lance.
Fields scored his first NFL touchdown against the Rams on a 3-yard read option, and Ruiz noticed how much it resembled a TD run by Lance in the Niners’ third preseason contest.
“Fields scored on a zone read play that looked identical to the touchdown Lance scored in the 49ers’ final preseason game. It appears Matt Nagy has been studying 49ers tape, and he should continue to do so. There are far worse strategies than stealing from Kyle Shanahan’s playbook. … And while it might be a while before 49ers fans get to see Lance start a game, Bears fans shouldn’t have to wait much longer after Dalton failed to impress in the opener,” Ruiz wrote.
He has a point. Here’s the TD scored by Lance in the final preseason game Ruiz was referring to:
And here’s the play Nagy called that resulted in Fields scoring his first NFL touchdown:
They certainly look very similar.
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This is a Prove-It Year for Nagy as a Play-Caller
Nagy has been rolling with veteran Andy Dalton under center, but the Bears coach is entering his fourth season, and after two straight .500 seasons, many feel he’s on the hot seat.
If he doesn’t get a more vertical passing game and more points on the board this season than he has in recent years, Nagy’s days in the Windy City could be numbered.
“When we look through the scheme [evaluation meetings], where we’re at, it was for me just something that I feel good about,” Nagy said in April about resuming play-calling duties, via Patrick Finley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s a minor deal for us right now. We’re just going through all this stuff, this film, and seeing where we’re at. We have bigger things to worry about than that.”
It looks like Nagy has been looking at the film of other teams, as well — with favorable results. We’ll see if he keeps it up.