Nagy Leans On Veteran Coaches To Recreate Scheme

Matt Nagy saw that his offense had come too predictable by the end of 2019.

Chris Emma
June 23, 2020 - 11:19 am
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(670 The Score) By the end of the Bears' disappointing 2019 season, coach Matt Nagy knew why his offense had faltered. He was ready to act on it.

Nagy recognized his scheme had become far too predictable -- perhaps dating as far back as December 2018 -- and at the root of the collective struggle was a stagnant running game that also hurt the passing efforts. The Bears averaged 4.7 yards per play in 2019, which ranked second-to-last in the NFL. Nagy felt the change had to start with his coaching staff, which he began to reshuffle in the days after the season ended.

The Bears fired offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride Jr. They rebuilt the offensive staff with new voices in more focused roles. The goal for Nagy was to streamline the coordination of his offense and to lean on these veteran coaches.

"Matt is very open to what’s the best way to get this done and to listening," new Bears offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said.

While Nagy plans to continue as the Bears' play-caller, Lazor's primary task will be evaluating the offense each week and ensuring the scheme doesn't become predictable. He's a trusted ally for Nagy, with their relationship pre-dating Lazor's hiring in January. When Lazor was out of coaching last offseason, Nagy welcomed him into Halas Hall to visit.

After being fired by the Jaguars in early January, John DeFilippo was brought in as the Bears' new quarterbacks coach. He will bring a new voice for Mitchell Trubisky. Dave Ragone was shifted from quarterbacks coach to the newly created position of passing game coordinator. Juan Castillo was hired as the new offensive line coach. He was a disciple of veteran coach Andy Reid, who's Nagy's mentor.

While the Bears didn't formally name a running game coordinator, Castillo will be overseeing those efforts alongside new tight ends coach Clancy Barone.

"We’re going to be physical," Castillo said while pounding a table. "You find ways to be physical, whether you run it, whether you throw it. It doesn’t matter."

Barone joins the Bears with a strong track record of coaching playmaking tight ends. He has coached Pro Bowlers -- Alge Crumpler (Falcons), Antonio Gates (Chargers), Julius Thomas (Broncos) and Kyle Rudolph (Vikings) -- in each of his last four stints as tight ends coach. The majority of Barone's work over 32 years of coaching has been with the offensive line.

"I absolutely see the run game the same way through Juan's eyes," Barone said. "Juan and I talk on a daily basis about certain scheme things, technique things and things of that nature. I think that's going to help our guys, because I can speak the same language as Juan. And I know what he wants it to look like. I think that will help them out tremendously."

After Nagy completed the overhaul with the hirings of Lazor and DeFilippo on Jan. 16, the new offensive coaching staff went to work inside Halas Hall -- weeks before the coronavirus pandemic forced the team headquarters to be closed -- and began assessing the scheme. Those meetings have continued virtually through Zoom video conferences since March, and Nagy said they will carry on through these weeks leading into the scheduled start of training camp in late July. 

The Bears aren't sharing publicly how the scheme will be different, though the word "simplified" has been mentioned. Though this remains Nagy's offense, the process of refining it has been a collaborative effort.

"There's a lot of ideas being thrown out there," DeFilippo said. "You know if I throw an idea out there and coach Lazor or coach Nagy doesn't like it, no one's sticking their tail between their legs and taking their ball and going home. There's not a lot of sensitivity there. 

"When everyone knows their role, whether you're in the locker room or the coaches' offices and your roles are defined, I think it's really, really a lot easier to operate in any atmosphere."

Since Nagy launched the collaborative assessment of his offense, his assistant coaches have recognized his willingness to listen -- and to be humble.

Nagy opened the door and then opened the dialogue, and he's willing to hear from these new voices.

"We're in an environment where -- we’ve talked about this as staff -- where you need to be able to be open with each other," Lazor said. "We wanted to have an environment where people can speak."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.