As a Bears fan, I don’t really want to turn this website into As Halas Hall Turns, constantly tracking the latest confusing bit of postmodern performance art Matt Nagy is putting on when it comes to Justin Fields.
And yet, even in just four weeks, it’s taken so many twists and turns, each of them so wholly bewildering and hardly believable, that no one can look away. I would rather slog through this 7-9 win campaign in peace and out of the spotlight, but the volume of everything that is the Bears precludes that. So does a coach seemingly descending into madness with each passing week.
Before I go any further, it’s important to establish a baseline. So let’s do that:
Now, this would normally be the part where I point out that Andy Dalton cannot throw pissropes like this. Or that no Bears quarterback in history could (not entirely true, but none promised a decade or more of pissropes quite this way). But you’ve read all that. What is clear is that Fields brings a baseline and understanding of pissropes. So you would think that any discussion of going back to the non-pissrope-capable is a nonstarter. Pissropes are a possibility. They are hope. They are the way.
But not here. Just today, Matt Nagy told the assembled media that if Andy Dalton is healthy, he will start Sunday in Vegas. And whichever way you slice it or try to color it, it’s the ravings of a man who has lost the plot.
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Leading up to the Lions game, and it’s important to remember that this was for THE LIONS, Nagy wanted to keep it under wraps who was starting at QB. Even though we all knew Fields would start, Dalton wasn’t healthy, the appearance of subterfuge was that important to Nagy. While all NFL coaches like to play hide-and-seek with what is and what only might be in an attempt to deceive, it is not the end goal. It is merely a tool. But for Nagy, subterfuge is the destination. It’s not a shroud to cover the idea, but the whole idea. And it was to dupe THE LIONS. You don’t dupe the Lions. You pity the Lions. You should be confident enough in what you do that you can do everything short of sending the Lions your playbook.
So that’s all this might be, to keep the Raiders guessing over Sunday’s starter, as if even Jon Gruden would waste time “planning” for Andy Dalton instead of just laughing and pouring another drink. But being convinced you’re playing chess at a higher dimension than everyone else, simply because you think you’re being mysterious and no one can comprehend your genius, is a mark of someone who’s getting closer and closer to where the buses don’t run.
Or maybe Nagy genuinely thinks the Bears going back to Dalton is their best available route, which, obviously, is bonkers. As discussed previously, Nagy has a vision of his offense which nobody understands and he’s never been able to actually display on the field. The coach very well may be under the illusion that Dalton can run that offense only because he can see better than Fields. Seeing things that aren’t there is not the hallmark of someone in control.
It extends more, somehow. As he did last season, Nagy ceded play-calling yesterday to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, and just as it did last season (against horrible opposition as well, which it was last season too, admittedly), there was cohesion. There was a plan. Plays built off plays that came before, weaknesses were attacked and countered. Play-action came after establishing the run. Fields moved around a little. Any RPO was used for variety instead of as a base. It looked professional, if not spectacular.
Everyone’s happy and goes home with a relatively comfortable win, which doesn’t come often for the Bears, even if it created some injury concerns. Everyone should exhale, right? Bask for a minute? No, Matt Nagy needed you to know he was involved, all right?
We’ve all seen this guy, in various settings. The one running around the party he isn’t hosting telling you he picked the music. Or the one at work who didn’t write the successful pitch saying the bagels he bought for it sealed the deal. The guy at the bar you don’t know who won’t leave you alone, constantly telling you what a great place this is and how he was the first to start coming here regularly. You’ve run across this guy.
There’s obviously nothing wrong with being a coach who doesn’t call plays. There are plenty who don’t, and being the CEO is more than fine. Even Fields commented how much calmer it made things. Worry about the big picture, focus on clock management, chime in here and there, etc. There’s no problem with this.
But when you feel like you’re losing your grip, you can’t cede anything. The more that slips through your fingers, the more you desperately flail at grabbing at whatever is around you. The imposter syndrome grows and maybe even starts to take over. Nagy might even be at the point where he’s sure he’ll be found out if he doesn’t look like he’s in charge of everything, and he might be the only one who doesn’t know he already has been exposed.
In all likelihood, this latest batch of news is all noise. Fields will start Sunday, and he will continue to do so as long as he’s healthy, because the one thing Nagy has been able to hold onto is the respect of his players. I don’t know how either, but they’ve never quit on him, and that’s no small thing. Voluntarily going back to Dalton would remove the last pillar he has going for him.
But if you’ve lost track of reality, maybe you don’t realize how little you’re standing on until you’ve torn it all down.