Mitch Trubisky was benched for a lot of reasons but primary among them was his inability to run Matt Nagy’s offense. He was unable to to read defenses, change protections, get into the right play.
Nick Foles can run Nagy’s offense. The problem is, as we’re now learning, Nagy’s offense doesn’t make any sense.
I like to think I’m pretty forthright with my readers around here. I don’t spend hours upon hours dissecting All-22 tape because I legitimately can’t think of anything more boring. I do, however, watch the Sunday Ticket “Short Cuts” presentation of every single game played in the NFL. These are quick, easily-digestible presentations that help cut through national media misrepresentations of players, teams…etc.
When I went through the Rams season, one thing was abundantly clear. There was 0.00% chance the Bears would have any success running into the middle of their defensive line. If the Bears were going to have success on offense they would need to spread the Rams out, get the ball to their speedsters in space, screen them to death. This isn’t necessarily the approach EVERY team should take with the Rams, but it was certainly the approach the Bears would need to take.
And they didn’t. They did…nothing. They attempted a bizarre, incoherent game plan. They ran directly at the best defensive player in the sport and then acted shocked, SHOCKED, when that approach failed.
What would Andy Reid be doing with Darnell Mooney? You can bet your life he’d be finding creative ways to get him the ball in space 3-5 times a game.
Why have the running backs been exiled from the passing game since Tarik Cohen’s injury?
Why is Cole Kmet – who does nothing but make plays when he’s allowed – struggling to usurp a useless Demetrius Harris on the depth chart?
Why does Jimmy Graham get pulled off the field in the red zone? This is now back-to-back weeks where Nagy is removing the team’s most intimidating red zone threat where they need him most!
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.
For the Bears, there is no more important issue looming than which man will be under center receive the shotgun snap when the Bears take the field against Detroit in Week One. Today I want to dig into the stats to see what we can learn about Foles vs. Trubisky, as well as what to expect from whoever wins that derby compared to other QBs around the NFL.
The table below shows basic efficiency statistics for Trubisky and Foles in the Reid offense (so Trubisky in 2018-19 in Chicago and Foles in 2016 in KC and 17-18 in Philadelphia), plus the other three notable recent Reid QBs (Smith 13-17, Mahomes 18-19, Wentz 16-19). I’ll note I included playoff stats for everybody because otherwise Foles’ sample size is just so small (less than 350 with just regular season, just over 500 with playoffs included). I also included the NFL average for 2018-19 as a frame of reference for what’s roughly normal around the league. I split up the data into short and long passes (targeted more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage) using Pro Football Reference’s game play finder.
That’s a lot of information to digest, so let’s look at short and deep passes separately.
There are two lessons to be learned from the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory.
(1)A great quarterback is the ultimate trump card.
(2) Sometimes it takes a while to find that guy.
Kansas City’s start with Andy Reid was similar to Chicago’s with Matt Nagy. Both exceeded expectations with a playoff appearance in the first year then disappointed the next year. Through two seasons, Andy Reid was 20-12 with Kansas City, the same mark Nagy has with the Bears.
What followed for Kansas City was a number of seasons in which they were quasi-contenders with records of 11-5 and 12-4, thanks largely to their top-10 defense.
While Reid was trying to get whatever he could out of the offense, their defense ranked fifth, second, third and seventh in points allowed his first four years. They were also top 10 in yardage two of those seasons and top 10 in takeaways three times. Even in 2017, when KC’s defense dropped to 15th in scoring and 28th in yards allowed, they were seventh in takeaways and eighth in takeaways in 2018 as their offense exploded.
While much of the focus is on fixing the Bears offense, the reality is their defense is still the key to winning in 2020 and they must buy more time for the offense to get right.
This week, each of DBB’s writers – myself, Andrew, Data and Emily – will be writing their own Super Bowl preview post. Then Friday we’ll culminate the week with a gambling guide, as no sporting contest played all year presents this many opportunities to lose money.
Legacies in the NFL are a tricky thing, for quarterbacks and coaches.
Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are two of the most prolifically-talented winners in the history of the NFL. But as each approach the twilight of their careers, their legacies are complicated by only appearing in one Super Bowl a piece.
Eli Manning is, by every conceivable metric, a quarterbacking mediocrity. But for two months, for two playoff runs, he was an immortal. And now, no Giant will ever wear his number again. One of the most storied franchises in the NFL is retiring the number of a quarterback who was .500 as a starter and pitched a career quarterback rating of 84.1.
One Super Bowl victory is pivotal for the great coaches and quarterbacks. It stamps their career as valid. The second Super Bowl stamps their greatness. Three or more are reserved for the legends of the game.
Tony Dungy finally got his Super Bowl title. Two years later, he retired from the game, never to return. Bill Parcells hunted a third title for decades. Mike Holmgren a second. They knew what they needed to achieve to be remembered as they wished.
Andy Reid is 207-128 as a head coach, a .618 winning percentage. That’s better than Parcells. That’s better than Holmgren. Hell, Joe Gibbs is only at .621 and I think Gibbs is one of the two or three best coaches in the history of the league. (Gibbs has three Super Bowls, with three different quarterbacks, and none of those quarterbacks were particularly good.)
Like I have previously done with wide receivers and running backs, today I’m going to look at tight ends who have been drafted for this offense to see if there’s a physical profile they typically follow. In order to increase the sample size, I looked at every tight end drafted for a Reid offense in Philadelphia (1999-2012, 2016-18 with Doug Pederson) or Kansas City (2013-present). This list included ten players. Then I combed through their Combine performance to see if any patterns emerged.
They are light. According to Mock Draftable, the average tight end at the Combine weighs in at around 255 pounds, but the average for the 10 TEs in this sample was just under 250 pounds. The heaviest tight end here was L.J. Smith, who weighed in at 258 pounds, in just the 67th percentile for all tight ends. Meanwhile, 3 of the 10 tight ends weighed in at 245 pounds or less, which falls in the bottom 15% for all tight ends.
They are fast. The average Combine 40 time for all TEs is 4.72 seconds, but for this sample it was 4.70. That is significantly skewed by Cornelius Ingram, who ran a 4.96. If you remove him from the sample, the average 40 time for the other 9 players is 4.67 seconds, with 7 of the 9 coming in under 4.70. Ingram ended up being a poor fit in Reid’s offense, as he lasted just one year in Philadelphia after being drafted in the 5th round.
They can jump. The average tight end at the Combine has a vertical jump of just under 33 inches, but the average in this sample is 34.3, with 8 of the 10 coming in at 33 inches or better.
This then gives us a rough profile of a tight end who would be targeted as a pass catcher in this offense. They should be under 260 pounds, run a sub 4.70 40, and have a 33″ or better vertical jump. These all make sense. The main purpose of a TE in this offense (at least for the U TE) is to be able to catch passes. They need to be athletic and able to challenge defenses down the field.
Now let’s look at which tight ends in the draft this year fit the profile. The table below shows all of the tight ends from the Combine, sorted by how many thresholds they hit. Misses are highlighted in red.
Chicago’s defense was awesome in 2018, leading the NFL in points allowed, turnovers forced, touchdowns scored, and passer rating against. They also finished third in yards and sacks and were generally the best defense in the NFL by a wide margin. Their play propelled the Bears to a 12-4 finish, NFC North title, and the franchise’s first playoff berth in eight years.
It’s hard to expect much improvement from that unit in 2019. In fact, they’re almost certainly not going to repeat that level of dominance. So when I write that I expect the Bears to improve in 2019 and be one of the top Super Bowl contenders, that must mean I expect it to happen because of the offense.
Unlike the defense, there is plenty of room for improvement on that side of the ball. Chicago had a pretty mediocre offense in 2018. They finished:
Outside of points per game – which was likely aided by all the turnovers and defensive touchdowns – the offense was pretty consistently below average in most important metrics. So why am I so confident the offense will improve next year, even though they probably won’t be making many significant personnel changes?
To put it simply: NFL history strongly suggests that significant improvement is coming.
Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have tried to build the 2018 Chicago Bears offense to be like those Nagy’s mentor Andy Reid had success with in the past. But they may have stumbled into something very different and entirely more fascinating. If Kevin White and Anthony Miller are both able to continue to play at the level they have in the early days of training camp, the Bears won’t have a choice but to put both on the field. That could change the entire offense.
While generally thought of as an offense that spreads the ball around, that hasn’t really been the case. In five years, Reid’s Chiefs have averaged:
19.6% of their targets to the top receiver
18% to the pass-catching tight end
16.9% to running backs
Those numbers mostly held up with Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. His Eagles averaged:
20.5% of their targets to the top receiver
18.6% to the pass-catching tight end
15% to running backs
Where it gets interesting, however, is when you look at the other positions. There you will find very little consistency.
There’s been a good deal of talk this offseason about how the Bears will model their offense after the Kansas City Chiefs, which makes sense given that new head coach Matt Nagy spent his last several years in Kansas City learning from Andy Reid.
But I think Chicago’s offense will end up looking more similar to what Philadelphia has run the last two years under Doug Pederson, another branch on the Reid coaching tree. Even though both offenses are similar, there are some subtle yet important differences that are worth looking at. So today I want to start by looking at personnel to see which one Chicago matches better, and then I’ll compare and contrast offensive styles.
Kansas City’s offense was built around three main producers: running back Kareem Hunt, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce. Those three combined for 4,069 of Kansas City’s 6,007 yards from scrimmage, meaning they were about 2/3 of the offense.
Quite frankly, the Bears just aren’t built to be that reliant on a small number of players. Outside of Jordan Howard and Allen Robinson, nobody has been a high-volume producer, and even Robinson has only hit 1,000 yards in a season once in his four years.