CHICAGO – The low light may have come to Matt Nagy’s tenure as coach for the Chicago Bears in week three of last season, against the Cleveland Browns.
Chicago took a solid victory over eventual Asian champions the Cincinnati Bengals. Rookie quarterback Justin Fields was making his first NFL start, but Nagy’s game plan disappointed him massively on Sunday in Cleveland. Fields was kicked out nine times while producing a 41.3 pass rating. From that day forward, the Bears attack was a penalty.
The position was emblematic of Nagy’s tenure, where any success the team had – be it in a given week or even a year – was followed by disappointment. Playoffs one season, the next disappointment. This is the factor that caused Nagy and General Motors Ryan Pace to lose their jobs.
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Coach Matt Ebervlos and offensive coordinator Luke Jetsie have vowed to commit an offense based on Fields’ strengths, which would be a departure from the way Nagy is managing things.
Breaking with the past can be a good thing for bears.
Expected maximum salary: 27 million dollars
The most important free agents: WR Allen Robinson, OT James Daniels, DT Akiem Hicks, QB Andy Dalton
Possible candidates for cutting: Midfielder Nick Foles, defensive line Eddie Goldman
If bears were truly moving from the past, cutting Foles should be part of that transition. Dead money isn’t pretty – over $7 million – but at least it saves $3 million and can turn the page on an expensive backup for backup. The Goldman cut would provide more than $6 million in savings, and it wasn’t necessarily the same player since its pre-pandemic days.
The big question: How will the new bears system maximize the field’s skill set? GM Ryan Poles will have his first crack at it as he needs to upgrade his offensive line. Those nine Cleveland sacks weren’t all in the charts and game guide. Left interference is a priority, as are skill positions, especially on the edges. Bears have many second devices in the wide receiver but need to detonate in the field. If the Poles could wave a magic wand and steal Free Agent Davante Adams away from Green Bay, the Bears would look a lot better on the attack.
However, it is not limited to the Poles. Getsy must decide how best to use the fields, along with linebackers David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. This is a strong trio of legs, so there will probably be more RPOs. He’s already mentioned that game play will be the cornerstone – all the more reason to get better on the outside.
Best scenario: The Bears sign Adams and strike in the final rounds of the draft (they don’t have a first-round pick) as they seek depth in their offensive line. If they could maintain a defensive tackle free of star Achim Hicks, without curtailing their desires to attack, all the better.
The worst-case scenario for an off-season team: The Poles don’t have the scouting eye that his reputation suggests. If the offensive line wasn’t noticeably better in 2022, GM didn’t do its job. And while the focus should be on offense, the bears’ defense needs some re-equipping as well. The Bears have five draft picks, so it only takes a few times for it to be a lost year.