Hiring Mike Pettine Another Step in Matt Nagy’s Development as a Head Coach

| February 12th, 2021

Matt Nagy’s offense has had zero success against the Green Bay Packers. A lot of that blame falls upon the quarterback position, but not all of it. Nagy has known what he has at quarterback in each of the six meetings between the clubs and has not been able to compensate for Chicago’s historical deficiency. He’s tried the quick passing attack. He’s tried to force the run game. He’s tried the trick plays. Nothing.

They were mildly successful in 2018, splitting the games, and scoring in the 20s both meetings. 2019 was an abject disaster, totally 16 points in the two contests, and looking (somehow) even worse than that. The 2020 season brought no improvement, with a garbage-laden 25 in the first meeting and an impotent 16 in the regular season-defining finale.

The man running the defense in Green Bay for the entirety of Nagy’s tenure was Mike Pettine. And dominating Mitch Trubisky was apparently not enough for him to retain that role. This week, Pettine was hired by Nagy and new defensive coordinator Sean Desai as a senior defensive assistant, or something. It’s an amorphous position, without a definable role on game day, but one can assume Pettine is being brought into the organization for two distinct reasons.

First, he’ll be a veteran mind on which Desai can lean. Sometimes this kind of role can be a bit overstated but in this case, it seems appropriate. Desai has never called an NFL game. He’s never made halftime adjustments. He’s never been responsible for organizing the whole of defensive meetings during the week, or motivating the entire unit on game day. Having someone on your staff who HAS done all those things can not be considered anything other than useful.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, Pettine knows every flaw in Nagy’s approach. And it is this element that suggests another step in Nagy’s growth. The first resources Pettine will surely provide the Bears, and Nagy, are his scouting reports/game plans from their previous contests. What did Pettine view as Nagy’s (and subsequently Bill Lazor’s) play-calling tendencies? What did Pettine think the Bears offense was incapable of doing? What did Pettine view as the weaknesses of the good players on the offensive roster? For instance, how did they want to play someone like Allen Robinson? (Because whatever they did worked.)

And it doesn’t stop on the offensive side. Pettine can also lay out, in full detail, how the Packers have chosen to attack the Bears’ better half, their defense.

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ATM: New Coaches Could Help Bears Solve Pettine Riddle

| July 15th, 2020

It doesn’t seem to matter how bad the Green Bay Packer defense is, the Chicago Bears can’t score on them.

That was supposed to change with Matt Nagy taking over, but it hasn’t.

In four games against Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the Bears have averaged a pathetic 14 offensive points and 324 yards per game — the latter being a total that was inflated when the team fell behind big in the most recent match-up. Considering Pettine nearly lost his job at the end of last season as his team has allowed 22.7 points and 354 yards per game since he took over, the Bears inability to score is downright confusing.

Yes, we know the Bears generally haven’t been a good offensive team for most of any of our lives, including the last two years. But they’ve done much better against the rest of the division. Mike Zimmer has had two top-10 units since Nagy came to the Bears, but the Bears have scored 19.5 offensive points and averaged 312 yards per game, both slightly better than the Vikings have allowed on average. Same goes for their performances against Detroit. (Also consider that the Bears have gone nearly full games against both Detroit and Minnesota with Chase Daniel.)

Whether it’s Nagy, Trubisky or somebody else, the Bears just can’t seem to solve Pettine and the Packers. But they may have hired the answers this off-season.

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Three More Thoughts on Bears v. Packers, or No Podcast This Week

| September 7th, 2018

The podcast is not going to be a weekly occurrence this season. There will be around 8-10 episodes during the regular season, beginning next week with The Return of Adam Jahns. (I think Jahnsy and Ryan Pace are giggling on a seesaw in Niles right now.) In the meantime, some thoughts…

Thought #1

When Mike Pettine was working with Rex Ryan in New Jersey the team had a hellish time dealing with tight ends. (A lot of this was the result of over-blitzing to pressure the quarterback.) And while Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel have been recovering from/dealing with injuries this summer, Trey Burton and Mitch Trubisky have developed a rapport that’s going to drive defenses crazy. Pettine will empty the kitchen cabinets Sunday night and Trubisky will use his security blanket to move the chains. Big opener for Burton.

Thought #2

Brian Urlacher told Dan Patrick on Wednesday that under Lovie Smith the Bears once ran cover-2 against Aaron Rodgers on 46 of 47 plays in the second half. And won the game. (Sounds like a bit of a stretch but I’m not about to do the research.) Vic Fangio should be able to generate more than enough pass rush with his front. Why not go to some Cover-2 looks Sunday night and try to limit Rodgers’ ability to beat the defense over the top? These aren’t great pass catchers in Green Bay. If they have to make 10-12 plays to get into the end zone, against this Bears defense, they’ll make a mistake (or be forced into one) before they put seven on the board.

Thought #3

Cody Parkey had a so-so summer. While I’m told he’s been lights out in non-public practices, the team has some concern as to whether the Jupiter, Florida native (and I assume golfer because that’s what you do down there) is ready for the bright lights of Bears football. You can miss kicks in Miami. Nobody goes to those games. You miss kicks in Bears v. Packers, it gets noticed. Everyone in the organization will breathe a massive sigh of relief if Parkey posts a clean sheet Sunday night.

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Expect the Bears to Protect Their Biggest Offensive Asset – Mystery – in the Coming Weeks

| August 16th, 2018

When the Bears kick off their 2018 campaign in Green Bay on September 9th, Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine won’t have a clue what Matt Nagy intends to do with Jordan Howard. He won’t have a clue what Nagy intends to do with Tarik Cohen. He won’t a clue what Nagy truly intends to do with any of the newly-assembled Bears weapons on offense. Sure, Pettine and his staff can scavenge old tape of Andy Reid’s offenses but different personnel bring an entirely different set of skills and Reid never hired an outside-the-box offensive coordinator like Mark Helfrich.

No, Nagy’s Bears, at least on offense, will be a mystery in Week One. And that, to start this season, is their biggest strength.

That’s why over these next two preseason contests fans shouldn’t be surprised if very few of this team’s core offensive weapons – Howard, Cohen, Trey Burton, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel – are featured in any kind of prominent way. They’ll get snaps, I suppose, but those snaps will be more about getting them into the rhythm of an actual game and maybe taking a few hits so the first contact in Green Bay doesn’t jar their livers loose.

Contributors will still be out there. Anthony Miller and Adam Shaheen are young talents who’ll be expected to make an impact but not relied upon like highly-paid starters.

We’re less than a month from the start of the season and some folks have opined Kevin White won’t be on the roster in Green Bay. Others believe he’s going to be given every chance possible to play on game days. Either way, expect him to be out there for these practice games.

The depth wide receivers and backs are all jockeying for the placement at the bottom of the depth chart. Can a good performance in a practice game make a significant difference for an Ayers or Wims or Fowler or Knile Davis? Not likely. But when they are used in these games should let fans know how they’re valued by the organization.

But the guys who’ll be shouldering a bulk of the offensive responsibility will remain shrouded in mystery. It’s what makes the opener one of the most exciting Bears games in recent memory. It’s also what makes this offense impossible to game plan against early in the season.

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