The Chicago Bears haven’t confirmed whether head coach Matt Nagy will relinquish play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in Sunday’s Week 4 matchup against the Detroit Lions, but a review of where they rank in several offensive categories should make the decision a pretty easy one. It’s Lazor’s turn.
The Bears currently rank last—yes, last—in the NFL in yards per game (191.7), yards per play (3.3), passing yards per game (90.7), and goal-to-go efficiency (33.3%).
Nagy was peppered this week with questions about his role in the offense moving forward, and in typical Nagy fashion, he leaned on the theory of competitive advantage to keep Chicago’s plans close to the vest.
“I hope you all can understand from our perspective, from the Chicago Bears’ perspective—not just play calling but whether it’s the starter, non-starter, this guy’s hurt, that guy’s hurt, through the rules, all of that—there’s communication you have on the back end,” he said Wednesday from Halas Hall.
There’s some logic behind not tipping your hand to your opponent before a game. Why make the defense’s job easier? The Bears have gone all-in on this philosophy this week; we still don’t know who the starting quarterback will be—Justin Fields or Andy Dalton—either. Whoever starts the game will be responsible for ridding the sour taste of Week 3’s performance by the offense. Fields especially needs a bounce-back game after completing just six of 20 passes in his debut. According to Lazor, he’s rebounded nicely in practice this week.
“I loved how he practiced (Wednesday),” Lazor said. “To me, that was positive evidence that even though we had bad (against the Browns), he’s going to turn it to good by learning from it. I thought he came out and really had a great practice (Wednesday).”
Regardless of who starts Sunday, they’ll need help from the person manning the playsheet. The Bears have just four offensive touchdowns this year, tied for second-least in the league. Both Fields and Dalton have started games, and neither has been able to put the ball in the paint nearly enough.
Studying the Bears’ offense can be a slippery slope. A deep rabbit hole. A scary and dark journey. We still haven’t touched on the offensive line, which of course, needs to up its game to make any of the plays that are called work. Their nine-sacks surrendered to the Cleveland Browns have drawn harsh criticism around the league, but the analytics suggest there’s still hope for better days ahead.
Take right tackle Germain Ifedi, for example. His performance against the Browns was atrocious, but so far through three games, he has the ninth-best pressure rate allowed (3.7%) among right tackles, per Pro Football Focus. It certainly doesn’t seem like Idefi has been that effective, but he earned an 85.6 pass-blocking grade from PFF just one week earlier against the Cincinnati Bengals. If he can have a similar performance in Week 4, the offense will stand a fighter’s chance against the Lions.
The Bears’ success on offense begins with quality play-calling that is intentional and strategic. It’s lacked both qualities through the first three games with Nagy at the wheel. Lazor deserves his chance, but that call—like all others so far this year—has to be made by the head coach.