Former Chiefs offensive coordinator (and playcaller for the last third of the season after head coach Andy Reid relinquished playcalling duties) Matt Nagy is the new head coach in Chicago. Nagy inherits a 5-11 Bears team that went 4-8 with rookie quarterback, #2 overall pick, and UNC alum Mitchell Trubisky as a starter. Nagy replaces defensive-minded head coach John Fox, who went 14-34 in his three years in charge at Soldier Field.
Trubisky’s development was hastened a bit after Mike Glennon’s poor performance early on caused him to become one of the highest-paid backups in the NFL. The Bears and Fox played it safe with Trubisky early on, and in his second and third games he famously defeated the Ravens and Panthers while attempting only 16 and 7 passes respectively in each game.
The Bears loosened the leash a little bit, but Trubisky broke the 300-yard mark only once (314 in a loss against Detroit) and averaged 27.5 pass attempts per game. For comparison, Eli Manning led the league with 38.1 attempts per game. He finished the season with equal touchdowns and interceptions (7 apiece) and a pair of rushing touchdowns.
The best case scenario here is a Sean McVay-type situation. McVay inherited former #1 overall pick Jared Goff after an underwhelming rookie campaign that ended in the canning of Jeff “8-8” Fisher. The Rams turned things around instantly, leading the league in scoring and winning the NFC West. The Bears finished 29th in scoring, by the way, ahead of only the Colts, Giants, and Browns.
Nagy was offensive coordinator in Kansas City for two years, before which he was the team’s quarterbacks coach. Nagy’s offense had Alex Smith looking like an MVP candidate five weeks into the season, and although the Chiefs fell off pretty spectacularly, Smith still finished with career-highs in yards (4,042), touchdowns (26), passer rating (104.7), and interception percentage (1%). Those last two numbers actually led the entire NFL!
In the six weeks Nagy had control of the playbook during games, the Chiefs scored 27.3 points per game—the Bears mustered just 16.5 points per game all season. Smith also led the league in deep passing yards (that is, yards gained on passes that traveled at least 20 yards downfield) with 1,344 per Pro Football Focus. Only 9.1% of Trubisky’s passes traveled that far, which was fifth lowest in the league per the above article.
Trubisky will also benefit from a training camp and preseason in which he is the prohibitive starter, and the Bears hold the 8th overall pick in the upcoming draft and could potentially add a weapon for him to use, as he was working with scraps by season’s end. It’s likely too bold to say that Nagy will engineer a McVay-type turnaround in Chicago, but it’s clear that Trubisky will be better off with him than Fox.