The Chicago Bears are Betting on Matt Nagy’s Scheme Over Roster

The Chicago Bears are betting that head coach Matt Nagy’s scheme can overcome the lack of talent on the roster. It’s a bold take. It’s also demonstrably false. Not just for Nagy and the Bears either. Some of the best in history learned the hard way you need the horses to win the race.

Matt Nagy Must Overcome Bears Severe Roster Deficiencies with Scheme

Those Who Do Not Learn From the Past

Why? It’s a question that keeps replaying no matter how many times the answer has been given. The question is basically one that has been asked with every move the Bears have made this off-season. We’ve received answers twice; at the season-ending press conference and a few days ago at the off-season presser between free agency and the NFL Draft.

That’s it, that’s all.

Neither time did this front office come off as transparent or fully willing to admit their own shortcomings; opting instead for false victories. For example, hitting on mid-round picks is terrific for filling out a roster. But you’re in trouble when you go 0-3 in the first round to start your tenure.

It’s easy to see why that wasn’t an acceptable cover for not figuring out the quarterback position or winning enough games. Because if you’re not winning, finding a franchise quarterback, or otherwise adding talent then what else is there? Financial savvy isn’t even a strength. The cap was such a mess it cost them Kyle Fuller and the organization benefits greatly off of fan loyalty.

Now, after the signing and continued public endorsement of Andy Dalton to be “QB1”, and the other roster moves the Bears made (or rather not made), they want you to believe that Nagy’s scheme can overcome what will be a worse roster than the one that went 8-8 last season.

Why It Can Work

They made the playoffs despite shoddy quarterback play (and with a lot of help). While they won’t be able to go 8-8 any more thanks to the NFL moving to a 17-game schedule, they will once again have a chance to benefit from an expanded field that will feature six wildcard teams instead of four.

You don’t have to have a side in the Nagy-Mitchell Trubisky blame game. The fact of the matter is it didn’t work and was likely doomed before they ever even worked together. And, as is all the hot talk right now, the coach-quarterback relationship is paramount to the team’s success.

To that end, having Dalton around is a positive. He’s had some good years and done some good things. Most important, though, the head coach trusts him to lead the team. Trubisky clearly never had that support; warranted or not.

Dalton steps in with the backing of management, a better resume than many to wear the uniform before him, and a very low bar to surpass.

But so did Nick Foles

Why It Will Fail

We’ve seen this movie before. Just last season, in fact. Ryan Pace sent a fourth-round (remember that’s one of his money rounds) pick to the Jaguars in exchange for Foles and his bloated deal. The results started positively enough but Foles was unable to overcome the weaknesses of the Bears roster as well as his own.

He finished 2020 completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 1852 yards, 10 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Not the worst, right? Well, his passes traveled just 5.4 yards in the air per attempt and he was sacked 18 times as the Bears went 2-5 with him.

Dalton comes in after a relief stint with the Cowboys following Dak Prescott’s season-ending injury. He threw for 2170 yards, 14 touchdowns, and eight interceptions on just under 65 percent completion going 4-6 in the process. Dalton’s passes did travel 6.3 yards in the air per attempt, but he was sacked 24 times behind a patchwork line in Dallas.

Sure, Dalton’s stats were technically better than Foles’. But Dallas’ offense also has more firepower than the Bears. Perhaps not much, but enough to offset what might have been just as weak of an offensive line last season.

How can Dalton, like Foles before him, be expected to overcome the Bears line, lesser weaponry, a depleted defense, and his own deficiencies?

The short answer: he probably can’t.

Wait a 2nd

The reports of the Bears doing such thorough study on the quarterbacks set to go in the second round or later is no coincidence. They will be selecting a passer in this draft. And while a trade-up is certainly still a possibility, the cost of doing so has skyrocketed in recent weeks. But there always seems to be one that slips, providing the opportunity to jump up at a lesser cost.

Chicago seems content to go that route or take one in the ensuing rounds. But they know a quarterback room of just Dalton and Foles is average at best. That’s if we are to believe the reports.

It makes sense as just further evidence the Bears feel Nagy’s scheme can transcend this roster. But for an “offensive guru” who had to relinquish play-calling duties (only to announce he’s re-taking them a few days ago) and didn’t develop the last “franchise passer”, this is a lot to ask.

The history of quarterbacks taken in the first round isn’t all that great. That of those taken in the second round or later shows a downright crapshoot.

There are twice as many Christian Hackenberg or Cardale Jones-types for every Russell Wilson (75th, 2012) or Dak Prescott (135th, 2016). The jury isn’t even settled on either of the latter two! Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett exciting anyone? Didn’t think so.

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Bears Placing Onus on Nagy’s Scheme Over Roster

This has been far from the off-season many fans envisioned or were sold. But next season will likely be one they expect. It’s hard to see a world where Dalton is much of an upgrade over Foles or Trubisky, who’s now in Buffalo, without major upgrades to several key positions. It’s also hard to see a second-round quarterback solving the Bears quarterback riddle.

The relationship between passer and coach supposedly is of the utmost importance. But Tom Brady and Bill Belichick won six championships with a frosty-at-best relationship.

We all see how the Patriots have responded after watching Brady win another Super Bowl with the Buccaneers while they toiled away with a stripped-down roster. Belichick, the best coach of this generation, recognized that his scheme is still only as good as the pieces put in it.

The Bears, it seems, are determined to learn this the hard way.

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