In a recent interview on ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy, Louis Riddick, pal of Matt Nagy, indicated the team will be returning to the approach Nagy (and Andy Reid) had taken in Kansas City. That doesn’t mean what most fans think. While Nagy was hired in Chicago under the guise of being a quarterback whisperer who would finally modernize the team’s offense, the truth is somewhere in between. Yes, Nagy runs a modern offense with a modern passing game, but he got this gig by running the ball. That is exactly what he is going to try to return to.
Riddick worked with Nagy in Philadelphia and the ESPN analyst has maintained a close relationship with the Bears head coach. Riddick rarely indicates that what he’s saying comes from conversations with Nagy, but when he speaks confidently about the Bears approach, it’s a good bet that it comes with inside knowledge. He shared a number of nuggets in that radio spot last week, none more noteworthy then when he spoke about the Bears newfound commitment to running the ball.
“There’s going to be a marked difference in how that team is going to come off the ball running the football,” he said. Later in the interview, Riddick was more specific saying the Bears are going to be a “more physical running football team.”
That fits with what Nagy did with the Chiefs. In the five years Nagy was with Kansas City, they never ranked in the top half of the league in passing attempts. When Nagy took over play calling duties from Andy Reid in 2017, one of the big changes was feeding the ball to Kareem Hunt — the league’s leading rusher that year. After Nagy gave Hunt just nine carries in his first start – it should be noted they still scored 31 points as Alex Smith threw for four touchdowns — Hunt had 78 carries in the next three games before sitting out most of their Week 17 game.
What Riddick said shouldn’t be news to any reader of DBB. The different approach was noted in April after the draft and again in May, but it’s interesting to hear Riddick say it if only because of his confidence.
Kansas City was a top-10 rushing team four times in Nagy’s five years there and they were in the top five in yards per attempt all four of those years. Since he was primarily the quarterback coach in that time, Nagy shouldn’t be given much credit for the team’s success on the ground, but he at least had a front row seat to see how a team develops a successful ground attack. In his final season there, when he was the offensive coordinator, Kansas City was ninth in rushing yardage and first in yards per carry.
Perhaps Nagy’s biggest mistake in 2019 was thinking he had a franchise quarterback who can carry the offense. Entering 2020 he knows that isn’t the case. He knows it’s going to be the running game that has to carry the offense. Whether or not he can create a dynamic running game is yet to be seen, but there is no longer any questioning his intent. That’s where the focus of the Bears offense will be in 2020.