LAKE FOREST — Obviously, winning isn’t going to be enough for coach Matt Nagy to convince Bears Nation he knows what he’s doing.
Listening to him field questions Monday morning on everyone’s favorite questions – play-calling and Justin Fields starting at quarterback – I almost felt sorry for him.
Immediately after the game Sunday, Nagy finally admitted, we think, that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor had called the plays. But first he told us this.
“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – we go through everything together,” Nagy said. “Ultimately it goes through me – everything we do, regardless of everything else, who’s calling this, who’s calling that, it goes through me.
“That part I appreciate because we do it together. Then there’s collaboration to how we do it.
“I thought our coaches did a great job today.”
I suspect he has his reasons for so stubbornly refusing to admit it just works better with Lazor, but it’s impossible to understands whom it benefits.
Consider what Fields told us about the change.
“He does good. You know, Bill, he’s up in the box, so his voice is always calm. That’s the one thing I like,” Fields said. “Coach [Nagy], it’s hard for him to be calm if he has focus on the defense, focus on special teams.”
Nagy’s response Monday was, “I think when we go through these type of scenarios and you talk through with the quarterbacks, we’re always meeting together.
“[John DeFilippo], the quarterbacks coach, Bill Lazor offensive coordinator, myself always talking through the game plan, and then it’s just the logistics and procedure of how it goes. And when you’re open the entire week and you talk about the plays that we all like, we do it together, and that’s ... ah, it’s pretty simple. And the quarterbacks are awesome – they’re great with it and they get it.”
Who Nagy was talking to with that answer that seems to have little or nothing to do with the questions is a mystery.
The issue of his starting quarterback, however, is different.
Nagy ultimately will be judged by how many games he wins and loses, not how quickly he develops Fields.
While we wish he’d stop already with repeating his “plan,” no one can argue it is not solid leadership to have a clear set of guidelines for his quarterbacks and every other player and coach on the team to know what to expect and what their roles are.
Balanced as precariously on the bubble as he is and with a defense far, far closer to leaving its prime than entering it, Nagy needs to win every game he can now.
Here’s just one of a number of stats that explains why at least for now Dalton probably gives him a better chance than Fields.
Behind Dalton, the offense is 9 of 16 on third down; with Fields, it’s 4 of 29, including 2 of 19 in his two starts and 1 of 8 vs. the Lions.
Being the general on the field is the one asset that is as or more important in your quarterback than physical gifts when it comes to winning games, and there’s just no argument Dalton still has a noticeable lead there.
It seems as likely today as it did a month ago that somewhere around midseason is when the Bears will be out of any kind of contention, and they might as well give the ball to Fields and let him learn on the job.
He absolutely has a chance to be great.
But learning on the job and winning are most often mutually exclusive.
Consider these statistics: 25-of-52 passing, 48.1%, 347 yards, 6.7 yards per attempt, zero TDs, two interceptions, 12 sacks for 116 yards lost and a 53.9 rating.
I realize that many of you are going to blame it all on Nagy and hold Fields harmless, but those are the rookie’s numbers, not the coach’s. They are stats you have to win in spite of, not because of.
I have no dog in this race and am fine if Fields becomes the starter tomorrow, but Nagy has a whole litter, and most of them are no longer puppies, and he could be out of work when the season ends if he does.
That may happen anyway, but it’s a near certainty that Fields’ career won’t be damaged by waiting four or five more weeks to start or noticeably improved by starting today.
It would just help, and mean so much more, if it was Nagy explaining all this instead of me.