Bernstein: I'm Worried Matt Nagy Is Thinking This

Nagy needs to be focused in the right places to fix the Bears' offensive woes.

Dan Bernstein
February 03, 2020 - 1:12 pm
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(670 The Score) It would be impossible for us to watch that thoroughly entertaining Super Bowl and not be thinking about the Bears and their own proximity to one -- or lack thereof.

There was the former placekicker and the kid from Arlington Heights, the running back that was once on Chicago's practice squad and most importantly the very team from which the Bears hired their current head coach.

We know the esteem to which Matt Nagy holds Andy Reid as a friend and mentor and that they share a common offensive philosophy. We also know one of them has a quarterback.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace recently re-endorsed Mitchell Trubisky as the prohibitive starter for 2020, noting the collection of "moments" that apparently allow him to see light at the end of this darkening developmental tunnel, flashes that must carry more evidentiary weight than Trubisky's larger body of work. Nagy's public comments diverged a bit, however, and to his credit he acknowledged that the priority now is for Trubisky to recognize and process what defenses are doing.

"I want him to be a master at understanding coverages," Nagy said in a tacit admission of just how much Trubisky still needs to improve.

But Nagy is an optimist by nature, upbeat and confident enough in what he does to see a reasonable chance at the Bears snapping back in 2020 to their 2018 form. And my concern is that the most significant conclusion he may draw from the participants Sunday is that he just has to get the tight end solved.

It's more causal than coincidental that Travis Kelce and George Kittle happen to be the two best in the NFL at that job at the moment despite playing different sub-variations of the position. The tight end has become critically important in modern offensive planning, the place to find a favorable matchup in personnel or scheme or to dictate one elsewhere on the field.

That's why the Bears signed Trey Burton, to be as close enough to that guy as possible. And he was good when he was healthy, which has ended up not being often enough. Burton's mysterious groin problem just before the playoffs in January 2019 left a noticeable hole in a Bears game plan clearly set to use him advantageously against the Eagles, something unachievable with Ben Braunecker. Burton had preseason surgery to repair a sports hernia and then never came back to even marginal effectiveness, let alone as the kind of threat once expected. Bears tight ends accounted for an embarrassing total of 46 catches and two touchdowns this past season, with not one of the six that they used reaching 100 receiving yards for the entire season.

It's possible that Nagy sees two great tight ends in two excellent offenses and is allowing himself to imagine that fix as the one that locks everything else in this passing attack back into position, the magic bullet solution that opens everything up for the Bears' stagnant running game and catalyzes the growth of his quarterback.

Last year at this time, it was all on the kicker for the Bears, so it's not much of a stretch to see them banking outsized hope -- at all correctly or not -- on something much more meaningful than that.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.