Goal line runs by a 332-pound defensive end and passes to a 312-pound offensive lineman?
Passes by a running back to a quarterback off a reverse?
Who knows what’s coming next from the creative mind of Bears head coach Matt Nagy?
Probably no one, but what we do know is that Nagy isn’t afraid to take a chance.
Among the 11 coaches who have succeeded George “Papa Bear” Halas since he retired in 1968, Nagy is the only one to compile a winning record in Year 1. So he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Not even his players know for sure what’s coming, according to the coach himself.
“They see it in practice … and I don’t know what they think,” Nagy said. “I don’t know if they think ‘This coach is crazy,’ or if they think, ‘No, this is pretty good,’ or ‘Is he gonna call it?’ But then when they do get called, you can feel the excitement. And why not? If you have a ‘why’ behind why you do it, then it makes sense.”
As Nagy explains it, even the most diligent coaching staff doesn’t prepare for an alignment that contains six offensive linemen, four defensive linemen and a quarterback. That was the personnel package that aligned for Mitch Trubisky’s two-yard TD pass to 6-foot-7, 312-pound OT Bradley Sowell for the only touchdown in Sunday night’s 15-6 victory over the Rams. Trubisky’s throw came after he faked a handoff to the 332-pound Akiem Hicks, who scored on a one-yard run a week earlier.
“As a quality control coach, when you’re up in the booth and you’re trying to tell the D-coordinator (on the sideline) that those four (defensive linemen) numbers are coming in,” Nagy said, “I don’t know if they necessarily prepare for that.”
Whether the Rams prepared for it or not, they didn’t stop it. When it works, Nagy looks like a genius. But there will be times when the trickery fails – and the Bears’ coach is more than prepared to take the heat.
“They’re not all going to work,” Nagy admits. “There’s going to be some where I’m gonna be standing up here and you guys are gonna be saying ‘You’re an idiot.’ But that’s inevitable. I’ll accept that. They’re working right now and the guys like it, so keep going.”
The pass to Sowell, technically known as “Santa’s Sleigh,” worked, as did the handoff to Hicks, which is called “Freezer Left,” a week earlier. So did the Cohen pass (“Oompa-Loompa”) in the same game, which in the latest iteration went to rookie WR Anthony Miller instead of Chase Daniel, who was covered. But the confident rookie wideout had already declared himself the primary receiver in the huddle.
All of those plays contain the element of surprise, and they succeeded, which is more the point than cuteness. And, if a little misdirection and creativity keep everyone engaged, even better.
“I always tell you guys, ‘Any advantage you can get,’ ” Nagy said. “But you’ve got to be able to make sure it’s worthwhile and not foolish. There’s that balance there. The other part of it, too, is our guys love it. They have fun (while) they’re working. It’s a good thrill when you score. You see the excitement on the players, and they say stuff to you on the sideline. They’re excited.
“But maybe we’ll stay away from them for a few weeks and come back to it later.”
Sorry coach, no one’s buying that.