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Hub Arkush: Play-calling is one subject Matt Nagy prefers not to discuss

Bears head coach Matt Nagy walks onto the field before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Philadelphia.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy walks onto the field before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Philadelphia.

LAKE FOREST – The 2017 Kansas City Chiefs won their first five games of the season averaging 32.8 points a game.

Over the next six games, the Chiefs offense inexplicably stuttered, averaging only 18 points a game as they dropped five of six, scoring only nine points in Week 10, and 10 in Week 11.

Already a three-time Coach of the Year, Andy Reid decided to cede his play-calling duties to his offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy, and in Nagy’s first outing, the Chiefs put up 31 points and more than 500 yards of offense.

With Nagy calling plays, the Chiefs went on to win their last four games and secured a wild-card spot while averaging 30 points a game.

Ten days later, Nagy left Kansas City to become the head coach of the Bears.

With his club currently struggling through a four-game losing streak, why wouldn’t Nagy try the same thing?

Monday, Nagy said “there were a lot of things breaking down in the first half versus the Eagles,” and I wondered, relative to his play-calling and the focus it takes, would it be advantageous for him to give it up – even temporarily – to be able to focus on all those things that were going wrong?

He responded, “I’ll start off by saying we look at a lot of different things: players, we look at us as coaches, we look at the plays that are being called. That’s always the No. 1 thing after every single game, win lose or draw, that I start off with.

“It doesn’t matter whether we score six touchdowns and we have a hell of a game, I’ll always check myself and see where am I at in regards to this scheme and whether it works or not; was it there? And also the rhythm.

“I’ve been a part of that. I’ve lived it. Where some of the best play-callers have been into a position where you try change.

“We’re always looking at all avenues. To answer your question: It’s not just the players, it is coaching.”

I don’t challenge the plays called by professionals because they know more about it than I do, but I couldn’t find an answer to my actual question in that response, so I tried to clarify: “Just to be clear, I’m not asking about your play-calling, I’m asking if not having to worry about that during the game would free you up to do other things that would benefit the ballclub.”

Nagy patiently replied, “That part of the question, to me, it falls into a rhythm. It’s pretty natural, when you go three and out five straight times, and you don’t know your ‘why’ sometimes, that’s the part to where you can say to yourselves, ‘Is this something where there needs to be a change? Whether it’s play-calling, whether it’s schematically, whether it’s position, etc.’

“But it can affect you at times if you’re not getting into rhythm. I think just like it affects the players. ... I don’t know if I’m answering exactly what you’re looking for.”

He wasn’t, so I tried one last time, “I’m actually asking if you would be best served rather than focusing on calling plays by watching offensive line play or watching your receivers ...”

Before I could finish, I was told, “No, I wouldn’t.”

After his first NFL game as a playcaller back in 2017, Nagy told Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, “That’s the best part about Coach Reid – there’s zero ego. He doesn’t care. If he thinks it’s going to work, let’s go.”

I can’t say for certain that Nagy handing off the play-calling duties would help fix what’s ailing the Bears, but it does seem highly unlikely he’d be the Bears head coach today if Reid hadn’t tried it with him.

I also have no idea whether or not the Nagy’s ego is an issue.

My gut is telling me he will get this fixed, but it is troubling how unwilling Nagy is to even consider something so obvious that’s worked for him in the past if for no other reason than to get a fresh perspective on where his club is at, and what his options are to get them where he wants them to go.

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