Matt Nagy enters the 2021 season with a 28-20 record and two playoff appearances in three years, but his job very much could – and certainly should – be on the line. While there is a lot of good that Nagy brings to the Bears, his inability to field even an adequate offense is puzzling. Because even when they don’t have good quarterbacks, good offensive minds typically find a way to move the ball. The Bears have been in the bottom 12 in yardage all three seasons and the bottom six in net yards per passing attempt the last two years.
Maybe it’s Mitch’s fault. Maybe they need better offensive line play. Maybe it’s both. (It probably is.) But the truth is this: the Bears need to score points.
If the Bears do replace him, and this unlikely with his hand-selected rookie QB, I’d look for an offensive mind to pair with that QB. I put priority on coaches who not only call plays, but have designed offenses. Here is a short list of coaches who could get the job:
10. Shane Steichen, Eagles Offensive Coordinator
The offensive coordinator for a team that had a rookie quarterback (Justin Herbert) throw 31 touchdown passes would typically be a hot commodity. But Anthony Lynn was such a bad head coach, nobody cared to look at his assistants. When Steichen replaced Ken Whisenhunt during the 2019 season, the improvement was immediate.
9. Nathaniel Hackett, Packers Offensive Coordinator
Forget what he has done with the Packers, Hackett had a top-five scoring offense with Blake Bortles. He was fired the next year because a scapegoat was needed after the Jaguars couldn’t repeat that success, but he quickly signed on with the Packers, learning a different offense under Matt LaFleur.
8. Josh McDaniels, Patriots Offensive Coordinator
A finalist for the job before Nagy was hired, McDaniels could be an interesting name again.
The Pats were rumored to be in pursuit of Justin Fields in the 2021 NFL Draft; some even suggesting they tried to trade up to the fourth pick. Fields is the perfect prospect for what McDaniels seems to want to do as far as using the quarterback in the running game and deploying a downfield passing game.
7. Brian Daboll, Bills Offensive Coordinator
A hot name last year who likely could’ve had the Texans job if he wanted it. He wisely passed and will be among the favorite for several jobs this year.
Daboll may be attractive to the Bears because of the downfield passing attack he deployed with Josh Allen. But it’s worth questioning how much of their success is due to Allen making stuff happen versus the coaching. Daboll didn’t have much success before the 2020 season and it’s fair to be skeptical at this point.
6. Darrell Bevell, Jaguars Offensive Coordinator
Bevell was considered for the Lions head job last year after giving them a spark as the interim head coach.
He has coached five top-10 offenses in his career and helped Matthew Stafford to a career season before an injury ended it prematurely. Quarterbacks all seem to like him. Brett Favre even came out of retirement for him. He brings a power running game and a vertical passing game, but there have been questions about if he can adjust.
If he can get a strong rookie season out of Trevor Lawrence, he’ll get some more interviews.
5. Joe Brady, Panthers Offensive Coordinator
If he’s able to revive Sam Darnold’s career, Brady is going to be a head coach in 2021.
Brady is unconventional to a point, but seems to want to run an offense similar to what Sean Payton runs in New Orleans. The Panthers were far from that in 2020, but they still performed better than their personnel. Several Panthers’ players had career years in 2021 as they finished with a middle-of-the-pack offense.
4. Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator
Honestly, Leftwich drove me crazy when I watched him in the playoffs last year, but who can argue with the success?He would theoretically bring Bruce Arians’ offense with him. That includes power running and deep passing, but he showed flexibility working some of the concepts Tom Brady was familiar with during the course of the 2020 season.
3. Kellen Moore, Cowboys Offensive Coordinator
If anybody deserves a gift card from Dak Prescott, it’s Kellen Moore.
When Moore became the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach, Prescott went from averaging 207.8 yards per game to 242.8. When he became the offensive coordinator, that jumped to 306.4 and was at 371.2 before Prescott was injured in 2020.
The result for Prescott was a huge new contract and for Moore, it’ll be a head coaching job in the near future. But even without Prescott and numerous injuries on the offensive line, the Cowboys had a decent offense. With 11 games started by a combination of Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert, the Cowboys were 17th in scoring and 14th in yardage. That’s kind of incredible.
2. Sean Payton, Saints Head Coach
It seems like a long shot and it won’t be cheap, but if the Saints struggle in 2021 and decide they want to mix it up before Payton enters what would be a lame duck 2022 season, it’s entirely possible they let him go, especially if he makes such a request. And, if that plays out, Chicago would be high on his list.
1. Ryan Day, Ohio State Head Coach
When he met with Chicago media, how many times did Day casually mention that he used to coach in the NFL?
He almost returned to the NFL in 2018 as Mike Vrabel’s first choice to be the offensive coordinator in Tennessee. Day used that to get a huge raise at Ohio State – but being a head coach for a quarterback he referred to as a generational talent may be too good to pass up.
Day has NFL connections. (He even coached with Sean Desai for a year at Temple.) He has a strong understanding of the direction the game is heading. He learned from Chip Kelly and Urban Meyer and he made it easy to sort of nudge Meyer out the door when controversy hit the Buckeyes.
There’s no strong connection to Ohio St. and no real reason why Day would stay there if offered a more attractive gig. Pairing him with his former quarterback could be a win for both sides.