Times change, coaches change, quarterbacks change, philosophies change, surroundings change. But the Chicago Bears?
Always the same. Decade after decade, the Bears are the Bears, or “Da Bears’’ to use Chicago lingo. Da Bears are all about having a defense that hits you in the nose and an offense that, well, let’s not talk about that. Just say this: Da Bears offense is like having a toy without batteries. No matter how cool the box looks, it doesn’t work.
Bears coach Matt Nagy hasn’t quite figured that out yet. He keeps trying to use his offensive genius to modernize things, as he was hired to do. Nothing Nagy does works, but Da Bears keep winning anyway. They beat Carolina 23-16 Sunday to move to 5-1 on the season and into first place in the NFC North.
“Would you rather lose pretty,’’ Bears quarterback Nick Foles asked, “or win ugly?”
Let me think about that one for a minute. It depends on your definition of pretty. Last week, the Bears defense kept hitting legendary pretty-boy quarterback Tom Brady until he couldn’t even remember what down it was anymore. That was as beautiful as a sunrise over Lake Michigan, maybe prettier because there was blood involved. On Sunday, Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, the most accurate passer in the NFL, was sacked on the second play of the game. He then panicked and threw an interception on the third play.
The Bears offense went just 7 yards for its first touchdown. It took three plays, a blown timeout, a wrong formation and a delay of game penalty. Let’s not talk about that.
The question is whether this can work in the modern era of the NFL, where teams are scoring points in outrageous, record-breaking numbers. Can Da Bears be a Super Bowl team in 2020-21?
I’m not saying these guys are as good as the 1985 Bears, whose defense scared quarterbacks to death and led the team to its only Super Bowl championship. But we have seen two scared quarterbacks in a row.
The disconnect is Nagy. He was so mad after the Bears’ first possession, the 7-yard touchdown drive, that he had to sit down for a minute and cool off. Relax, Matt. It was 7-0, and Bridgewater was already scared.
Nagy seems to think it has to be done his way, with gadget plays, the Andy Reid offense and an eye to the future. The Bears are fine winning in black and white.
“I’ll never question our guys on offense with regard to effort,’’ Nagy said. “We’ll fix it. When we do get this thing clicking, it’s going to be fun. I refuse to take away the excitement we have as a team now in that locker room.
“Hopefully, what happens in a perfect world, man, wouldn’t that be awesome to get this offense rolling? And then you get into the playoffs and things are clicking?’’
In his post-game press conference, Nagy kept telling reporters to stop asking him about the offense, his area of his expertise, which isn’t working for the first-place Bears. Let’s not talk about that.
He just hasn’t accepted his fate yet. That showed over the past week. Now that he has gone with experienced Foles over failed quarterback project Mitch Trubisky, things have changed.
Last week, Foles was seen on TV arguing with Nagy on the sideline. He wanted Nagy to let him stay in the no-huddle offense to keep the rhythm going. Nagy wanted to stop things so he’d have time to inject some of his genius.
Foles explained last week what that argument was all about: “If there’s things that I see, just letting me roll and letting me do my thing as a play-caller out there. Let me call a play. And that’s something where that trust just builds.’’
Nagy doesn’t trust Da Bears. He trusts himself.
“Offenses don’t get fixed overnight, and sometimes they don’t get fixed throughout the course of years,’’ Foles said. “You see that in the NFL. There have been teams that have been bad offensively for a very long time.’’
Welcome to Chicago, Nick. It sounds like you arrived 10 minutes ago.
The Bears have gone through coach after coach and are always Da Bears. Mike Ditka, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith, Dave Wannstedt. In the early 1970s, they had a guy named Abe Gibron, an enormous former nose tackle and one of the most beloved coaches in the city’s history, despite one simple fact: When he was the coach, the Bears couldn’t beat anyone.
That was OK, as long as they could beat everyone up. Gibron made his kickers run through contact drills. The Bears were getting beat up in practice.
Nagy was supposed to turn this pizza joint of a football team into a French bistro. He’s brought his recipe book, puts together his concoctions and then when they’re done, he pulls them out of the oven.
And they’re deep dish pizzas.
It’s driving Nagy crazy. At this point, Nagy and Foles just have to manage reality. On Sunday, for the second week in a row, Nagy called pass plays when the Bears were running out the clock. They had a late drive that lasted just 15 seconds. Luckily, when Bridgewater had another chance, the defense got an interception.
Nagy has to stop overthinking things and just accept one fact:
Chicago pizza is really good.