Will Bears Continue to Suffer “Death By Inches”?

| May 19th, 2020

Matt Nagy went on a media tour last week. But perhaps the biggest takeaway came yesterday.

Nagy and the Bears were featured by Albert Breer in the weekly Monday Morning Quarterback spot. The interview was as in-depth as any we’ve seen regarding the changes to the team’s coaching staff and touched on working through the virtual off-season program. The most telling comment from Nagy was more of an almost throwaway line. Breer wrote:

“And it motivates Nagy himself to do better for the players. So just as he asked his coaches, and his players to be on the details that slipped last year, he’s putting just as much pressure on himself to be all over those—whether it’s staying on the details of what’s happening in the offensive meeting rooms, so he can be a better play-caller, or setting the standard for everyone as the head coach.

“That can be in a meeting, if we say guys can’t have phones in a meeting, it means they don’t have phones in a meeting,” Nagy said. “It doesn’t mean in Week 8 they start bringing them in. It means they never have them in the meeting. If they show up 9:00 or 9:01, they’re walking in as I’m walking in—no, get there early. It’s just a lot of different things. For me, that’s what I’m going to focus on. Now, for me to do that, I have to have really, really great support from the rest of our coaches, and have that trickle down to players.

“That’s what I’m excited about, getting to see that happen.”

So much of what is said during the off-season is about what’s not said. When the Bears talk about Jimmy Graham’s ability to run, they don’t have to mention it’s something they didn’t have last year. When they say Robert Quinn will improve their defense because he gets to the quarterback, they don’t have to say Leonard Floyd didn’t do it well enough. When Matt Nagy says his team is going to be more detailed and disciplined, he doesn’t have to say they weren’t a year ago.

It’s fair to wonder if the team lost discipline when it lost Vic Fangio, who championed the notion of his teams not suffering a “death by inches.” Fangio detailed this thinking in his introductory presser at Denver, talking specifically about being 30 seconds late to meetings:

“That act in it of itself really has no impact on whether you’re going to win or lose that week. But if you let it slide, the next day there’s two or three guys late or it went from 30 seconds to two minutes. It causes an avalanche of problems. That’s ‘death by inches.’”

Death by inches was a focal point for John Elway in his decision to hire Fangio. It can be debated if the Bears missed Fangio’s ability to dial up defensive plays and design scheme, but it’s unquestionable that they missed having him around and keeping everybody — coaches included — on their toes. The devil is in the details and wherever you found him on his press tour, you can hear Nagy emphasize how the team is going to focus on details. It’s the one point he hammered home time after time at every stop.

The Bears know they’re not going to have great quarterback play in 2020 and they need to be as perfect as they can everywhere else to overcome that.

Recognizing that the team wasn’t as detailed as it needed to be is one thing, now we have to see if Nagy and his staff are capable of teaching the intricacies that can make all the difference.

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