Matt Nagy likes to talk a lot without saying anything.
When asked last week why he was optimistic, his answer centered on the fact that more players understand their roles, having been in his system for longer. As expected, that response was universally panned because fans see more immediate results elsewhere.
But there was a second part of his answer.
After rambling about experience he added “When you have that and you have a guy like Andy (Dalton) and these quarterbacks that come in and understand it, that’s where it gives me confidence.”
Ah, yes. The most important position in sports does, in fact, matter. The truth is there is reason to believe the team’s offense will be better largely because the personnel fits what we believe he wants to do.
Nobody is going to tell you that Dalton is the savior. (Fields may be in time.) But Dalton can do things that previous quarterbacks simply couldn’t; most notably, he can throw the ball down the field with accuracy.
Keep in mind, Dalton isn’t a great downfield passer, but he’s better than what’s been here, according to Pro-Football-Reference.
- Since 2018, Dalton has 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on passes 15 yards or more down the field, with a passer rating of 77.3.
- In the same span, Mitch Trubisky had 15 touchdowns and 20 interceptions with a rating of 63.2.
- Nick Foles had seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions with a rating of 56.
Sharp Football highlighted this as well, showing Dalton with a catchable pass rate of 79% on passes between 10-and-19 yards and 50% on passes 20 yards or more down the field, compared to Trubisky’s percentages of 71 and 36.
The ability to add a vertical element to the offense is why Nagy got the job in the first place.
From 2013 to 2016, Alex Smith had 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions with a rating of 83.9 on passes 15 or more yards down the field. When Nagy took over as the offensive coordinator — including calling plays later in the season — Smith took off with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions in 2017. After leaving Nagy, Smith resorted back to what he had been, three touchdowns and two interceptions with a rating of 77.7.
The other transformation that should help Nagy get the offense he wants is the added speed element. While other teams trying to run similar offenses emphasized speed, the Bears got slower, drafting Anthony Miller (4.46), Javon Wims (4.53) and Riley Ridley (4.61).
That started to change with the drafting of Darnell Mooney (4.37) in 2020. With Mooney and the additions of Marquise Goodwin (4.27) and Damiere Byrd (4.25), the Bears can finally threaten defenses. The three receivers drafted in 2018 and 2019 are officially no longer on the team.
While widely criticized, the offensive line played well late last year and should be better this year. Running back might be the deepest position on the team.
Now, there’s a matter of doing it.
It’s fair to criticize Nagy’s performance as the offensive savior. He was brought in to bring a modern offense that would compete with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. That hasn’t happened. Or even come close to happening.
It’s also fair to say he hasn’t really had the players to make that happen. Now he does. The Bears won’t be a top-ten unit this season. But they also shouldn’t be in the bottom ten.