Bears’ Matt Nagy must put Justin Fields first — ahead of his offense

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Hoge: Nagy must put Fields first — ahead of his offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

CLEVELAND — With the Bears’ track record with quarterbacks, blowing it with Justin Fields is always on the table. 

But that’s not really going to happen, right? Right?

Bears fans just need to hope that Sunday’s 26-6 loss to the Cleveland Browns will be the worst game for the offense as long as Fields is the team’s starting quarterback. It has to be.

47 yards. One net passing yard. One. 

“You almost can’t make it up. It was that bad,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said.

It was even worse than that though when you consider the game plan. Nagy gave his rookie quarterback almost no chance to have success behind an offensive line that everyone knew would struggle against Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. 

When the dust settled, the Browns had a franchise-record nine sacks. 

“It kind of came to us easily after the second possession and we kind of figured out what they were going to do and how we were going to adjust to that,” Garrett said after the game.

Damning. Like everyone else, the Browns must have expected the Bears to try to get Fields on the move with boots, play-action and moving pockets. But they barely did any of that. So the Browns only had to adjust to what was easier to them, as Garrett said. 

The Bears, meanwhile, made no adjustments, other than sprinkling in a little no huddle in the second half. Fields was a sitting duck, which is saying something considering his 4.4 speed and ability to move around. 

“Without getting into too much scheme, we know what we wanted to do and what we were gonna try to do. They did too,” Nagy said.

To his credit, Nagy put almost all of the blame on himself, but we’re getting to the point where the words hardly matter. It’s his fourth year in Chicago and the offense just got out-gained 418-47 to the Cleveland Browns. 

What’s particularly jarring — and even stunning — is that Sunday’s game was probably Nagy’s worst since he came to Chicago and it happened with Justin Fields — his hand-picked quarterback — on the field. No one expected it to be perfect, but one net passing yard — one! — in an NFL game is completely unacceptable. 

It’s enough that Bears ownership must be asking questions about whether or not Fields is in the best situation to be developed properly. No one in the organization is more important than Fields right now and it’s a miracle he came out of Sunday’s loss with only a “dinged up” throwing hand. It could have been much worse. 

Is this an overreaction to one game? Maybe, but it doesn’t feel that way when you consider the state of the Bears’ offense since the start of the 2019 season. It hasn’t been good and it shouldn’t get worse with Fields on the field, especially when it appeared that the rookie did very little wrong Sunday. Did he play well? No. Did he have much of a chance to play well? Also, no. 

Look, we know the Bears are capable of helping both their quarterback and unstable offense line schematically because we saw it late last season — when Bill Lazor was calling the plays. The offense was simpler. There was more play-action. They moved Mitch Trubisky out of the pocket and split the field in half for him. 

You know, like what Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski always does for Baker Mayfield. 

So where was any of that stuff for Justin Fields?

These are crucial times for Nagy. He has proven to be a capable head coach, but no NFL offensive coordinator would have lasted as long as he has with these results. And technically he didn’t, because he fired himself as the play caller last year before rehiring himself in the offseason. 

He’s unlikely to do that again — at least not this early in the season — but everyone at Halas Hall should be scrambling for answers to fix the offense. And if those answers involve getting away from a system that simply hasn’t worked the last three seasons, then so what? 

The only answer is doing what’s best for Justin Fields. Nagy must put him in position to succeed. 

There’s no way the Bears can possibly blow it with Fields. Unless they do. 

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