Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace, Bears fans are stuck and no one is winning

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Adam Hoge
·5 min read
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Bears vs Bears Twitter: It's ugly and no one is winning originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Bears are asking their fans to trust them.

The fans don’t.

This much has been established this offseason. And the truth is, I can’t blame either side.

As it stands in early April – before the NFL Draft -- the only major changes on offense are swapping out Mitchell Trubisky for Andy Dalton and Cordarrelle Patterson for Damien Williams. It’s not exactly enough to get one excited for a deep playoff run.

On the other hand, the Bears did make a strong, emphatic push to trade for Russell Wilson. They tried to upgrade the quarterback position, but the Seahawks got cold feet and didn’t make the deal. And none of the backup plans were ideal. Hence, Andy Dalton.

“That's how we see Andy Dalton, as a starting quarterback,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said Friday. “We're excited to have him … He's been a starter in the league for a long time and produced at a high level for a long time. That's all of us collectively in the building -- coaches and scouts -- coming to that conclusion as we went through the free agency process and, yeah, he's our starting quarterback as we head into the season.”

Quotes like these don’t exactly play well on Bears Twitter – an exhausting destination on the internet that I recommend avoiding at all costs – but I’m not exactly sure what Pace and head coach Matt Nagy can really say that would be better. They’re stuck. They don’t have a top draft pick and they don’t have much salary cap flexibility. Again -- hence, Andy Dalton.

Of course, the fans have valid reasons to be frustrated that the team is in its current situation. And the Bears have reasons to be frustrated that the salary cap is roughly $30 million lower than projected a year ago, especially when the league just announced unprecedented television deals.

Unfortunately, unless something significant changes in Seattle, it appears Pace and Nagy are going to have to continue to ask the fans to trust them that the offense – which has ranked 21st, 29th and 26th under Nagy – will make significant improvements with Dalton under center.

And with Nagy calling the plays.

“I'm going to be the one calling the plays this year,” Nagy confirmed Friday. “That's an exciting thing for me to get back to knowing where we're at and building what we want to do better. Getting that right with coaches and players that are going to be with us.”

It’s understandably a tough sell and, based on Friday’s reaction from the fans, no one seems to be buying into a Dalton-led offense called by Nagy. But no one should really be surprised that Nagy will call plays again. When he relinquished those duties three games into a six-game losing streak, he did so because he was frankly out of options. He hung on as long as he could and was hoping that a change in play-caller would provide a spark. Nothing really improved in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s first game calling plays, mainly because the offensive line was still a mess and running back David Montgomery missed the game with an injury. It wasn’t until the team went back to Trubisky and the offensive line took a significant step forward that the offense started to turn around. And you know Nagy was a big part of it either way, regardless of who was delivering the play into the quarterback’s helmet. Whatever blame or credit there is to pass around can be equally shared by everyone involved – front office, coaches and players.

“That's like a minor deal for us right now. We're just going through all this stuff, this film, and seeing where we're at,” Nagy said. “We have bigger things to worry about than (the play-calling).”

While the play-calling in 2020 was fairly questioned, it wasn’t the primary reason for the offensive failures. It’s just one of many things on the list – No. 1 of which is the quarterback position.

But that’s exactly why the fan base is frustrated. Andy Dalton can’t possibly the answer, right?

And yet, for as stuck as the Bears are, they can make a realistic case that Dalton was their best option when considering money, cap space and future commitment (of which there is none to Dalton). And it can even be argued that Dalton’s experience, decision-making and general operation of the system will be an upgrade over what the Bears had before, even if you don’t agree with it.

“Andy fits our style of offense. When you go through it with our scouts and coaches, he can handle the drop-back game, he can handle the RPOs, the play actions, the movements. And we just felt, as we went through those free-agent quarterbacks, he’s one of the more complete quarterbacks that we evaluated in free agency, and we’re excited to have him,” Pace said.

Of course, there’s still the NFL Draft. Big moves can still be made. Perhaps they will.

But until then, yes, the Bears are asking you to trust them that things will be different this year. And no, the fans are probably not going to believe it until they see it.

Which means we all must wait until September for answers. In the meantime, stay off Bears Twitter.

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