Matt Nagy made a name for himself three years ago when Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid gave up play-calling duties midway through the 2017 season. Reid passed the reins of his iconic offense to Nagy in early December.
The Chiefs won their final four games to make the playoffs that season, and weeks later Nagy earned the head coaching position with the Chicago Bears.
Now, Nagy is following his mentor’s lead. The Bears' head coach – who was brought to Chicago to implement and run Reid’s offense – is giving up play-calling duties. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will call plays Monday against the Minnesota Vikings, Nagy announced Friday afternoon.
“It’s very important to me to make sure I’m making the best decision for the Chicago Bears,” Nagy said.
Nagy previously said he wouldn't announce a change even if the Bears did change their play-caller. But after being asked about it repeatedly over the past two weeks, Nagy made the decision public Friday.
This will give him a chance to keep a closer eye on all three phases and focus on big-picture elements of the game, such as clock management and leadership. Play-calling always has been a part of Nagy’s identity as a coach. It’s not easy for him to give it up.
“I love calling plays,” Nagy said. “I love it. I love it. Is it permanent? No, it’s not permanent. But guess what, if this is best for the team, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
When it came down to it, if Reid could give up his beloved offense to Nagy, then Nagy felt he could do the same. The Bears, losers of three straight, are in a rut offensively. Something had to change.
At this late stage in the season, changing the play-caller was the only logical solution. A new quarterback isn’t going to walk through the door.
“[Reid] was able to show the trust in me at that point [in 2017] to give it to me to run the offense and call the plays,” Nagy said. “It was a little bit of a changeup. And sometimes when you're in this position that we're in right now, you want to make sure that you're looking for solutions.”
The 48-year-old Lazor is in his first year as offensive coordinator for the Bears. He previously called plays as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018, as well as with the Miami Dolphins in 2014 and 2015.
Lazor’s weekly session with the media came a few hours before Nagy’s announcement, and at the time Lazor declined to answer any questions about a potential change of play-calling duties.
“That role is only fun when you’re moving the ball and scoring points,” Lazor said.
Asked repeatedly about it Friday, Lazor said he wasn’t going to answer hypotheticals. A few hours later, the question no longer was hypothetical.
For the time being, nothing changes during the week, Nagy said. He’s preparing his team for Monday’s game the same way he prepares his players for every game. Monday night is when things will look different.
“I am a Type A personality, and there is a lot of that control part to me,” Nagy said. “That’s never going to change. That’s always me. But in that situation, what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, Bill knows and our coaches know that this is their opportunity, and this is Bill’s opportunity to do what he wants to do and call what he wants to call.
“Am I going to be on the headset and try to help him on the front end, ‘Hey Bill, you might have two downs here. It might be four-down territory here.’ I’m going to try to do that ahead of time so that he can know a situation.”
Nagy said he’ll be jumping on the headset with defensive coaches, too, which he has been doing already. When the offense comes off the field, rather than prepping the play calls for the next drive, Nagy will use that time to talk to the offensive players, get a feel for what they see out on the field.
Quarterback Nick Foles has said that whoever is calling plays doesn’t really affect him on game day.
“Whatever coach Nagy decides or what he does, he's the head coach,” Foles said Thursday. “He can do what he wants to do, and we're going to roll with it.”
There wasn’t any “harsh criticism” from the fellow offensive coaches, Nagy said. There were honest conversations, however. Nagy mentioned several times Friday that the offense is in a slump. Giving up play-calling duties is the ultimate admission of such.
Whether it's enough to fix a broken Bears offense is the real question. The Bears are near the bottom of the NFL in almost every offensive category.
“When I go home at night and I go to bed and fall asleep, I can feel good about this decision,” Nagy said. “There’s trust. We talk about belief. We talk about trust. I talk about that all the time with the players. Do you believe in yourself? Do you believe in your teammates? Do you believe in your coaches? Do you trust your coaches? Well, this is showing my trust and my belief in our coaches.”