(670 The Score) With a 25-14 record in his third season in Chicago, Matt Nagy's .641 winning percentage is the best of any Bears head coach since George Halas.
Despite Nagy's success in leading the Bears, his approval rating in Chicago keeps taking hits. That was apparent this past week after the Bears lost 24-10 to the Rams on Monday night in one of the ugliest losses of Nagy's tenure.
Nagy joined the Bears in January 2018 amid wonder of how he would lead a team for the first time and with the potential to bring an innovative new offense to Chicago. Now nearing the halfway mark of his third season, Nagy has proved to be an excellent team leader while his offense still lacks an identity.
Lately, conversation surrounding the 42-year-old Nagy isn't about wins and losses but rather the offensive production -- or the lack thereof. Some fans believe the Bears --who are 5-2 as they prepare to host the Saints on Sunday -- are winning despite Nagy.
For some, it can be hard to separate Nagy's role as head coach from that of the offensive play-caller. As coach, Nagy has admirably kept his team level through peaks and valleys. During the Bears' four-game losing streak in 2019, Nagy prevented a divide in the locker room. With the offense still struggling this season, there has been no finger pointing under Nagy's watch.
Nagy has built a culture since 2018 that's a key part of the Bears' success over these three seasons.
But Nagy the play-caller directs an offense that ranks 27th in scoring, 29th in yardage and 32nd in rushing. It's a broken offense with fundamental flaws -- a poor offensive line, inconsistent quarterback play, receivers struggling to separate and a play-caller failing to adjust.
Nagy is both a successful coach of a winning Bears team and the architect of one of the NFL's worst offenses. Calls for his firing are shortsighted. His seat as head coach shouldn't even be lukewarm. Without him, the Bears would be set back considerably as a franchise.
However, it's Nagy's task to fix the faltering offense and give the Bears a better chance for a playoff run this season -- even if that starts with firing himself as play-caller and letting offensive coordinator Bill Lazor take over those responsibilities.
Nagy needs to pound the table in general manager Ryan Pace's office and beg for reinforcements on offense -- a left guard, a capable No. 2 receiver, anything more that can help. He needs to be willing to let Lamar Miller become the Bears' second running back and create a tandem with David Montgomery.
Whatever can make the offense even marginally better, Nagy must do. He must take charge of this.
Otherwise, it will eventually define his tenure as Bears head coach.
Open field: What is Montgomery?
To his credit, Montgomery refuses to blame others for his limited production.
"I don't think I've been playing as good as I can play," Montgomery said. "And I think where I can really improve is is just trusting it, just stop trying to do stuff on my own and just trusting that the guys in front of me and the play call is going to be there and where path is going to be is going to hit.
"I've got a lot of work to do. So that's why I try to go back to the drawing board and try to fix what I can do as far as my running routes, my pass protection, my reads and my runs, just going back and re-evaluating myself and making sure I clean up me first."
The reality is that Montgomery hasn't been given much room to operate. As a rookie in 2019, Montgomery averaged 3.7 yards per carry and 55.6 rushing yards per game. Nagy and the Bears committed to be better around Montgomery for his second season.
In 2020, Montgomery is averaging 3.7 yards per carry and 50.4 rushing yards per game. That includes an average of 1.2 yards before contact. Montgomery isn't getting much of a chance to be effective.
Now 23 games into his NFL career, Montgomery is still a mystery. It's unclear what his NFL potential truly holds because the Bears aren't offering him opportunities to be successful.
1.) Let Akiem play
On Wednesday night, Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks took to Twitter to express his thoughts on the barrage of penalty flags thrown against him.
"This is the most I’ve been penalized in my career," Hicks said. "I’ll never complain, I’ll just adjust my game. But one thing I won’t do is not play hard. It’s part of why I fell in love with the game. The struggle, the hustle, the battle. I’m still in love."
Hicks is correct here. He has been penalized nine times this year, the most of any season since he entered the NFL in 2013. The four penalty flags called on Hicks in Monday surpassed the three in total he was called for in 2018. Three of the flags thrown on him have been for either unsportsmanlike conduct or roughing the passer.
The NFL has missed the mark with its attempts to clean up the game -- penalizing players like Hicks who play aggressively but with regard for the opponents. Hicks is a tenacious player but certainly not a dirty one.
2.) Center of attention
Bears center Cody Whitehair had played every snap in all but just one game prior to leaving Monday night with a calf injury. While Nagy and the team have remained mum on his status, it's expected Whitehair will miss the game Sunday.
If so, the Bears will turn to second-year center Sam Mustipher, a three-year starter at Notre Dame, to replace Whitehair on Sunday -- and perhaps for several games beyond that.
"He's a football player, man," Bears tackle Charles Leno Jr. said of Mustipher. "He's one of those guys that shows up every day, does his job to the best of his ability. There's a lot of fight in that guy."
3.) Some advice from Foles
Bears quarterback Nick Foles likened his relationship and with Nagy and the situation they encountered Monday to marriage.
After ESPN analyst Brian Griese attributed comments to Foles on the national broadcast that Foles felt were taken out of context, Foles went straight to Nagy's office and attempted to clarify the situation.
"If you keep something away from your wife, you don't ever talk about it, if you're married, you know it turns into something that it shouldn't be," Foles said. "So, that wisdom right there made me realize, 'Hey, I'm going to go talk to coach Nagy.'"
4.) #BearsWeather is back
The forecast for Sunday at Soldier Field calls for a high around 38 degrees and wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour.
"I’ll call it a normal Soldier (Field) night," Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said.
Quote to note
"There’s a lot of negativity and people feed off of that, and we love all of that stuff right now – negative, negative. That’s just not where we’re at or where I’m at. We try to focus on the positives. We feel strong about that. I feel strong about it."
-- Nagy on the state of the Bears
Injury report (Updated)
WR Allen Robinson (concussion) -- The Bears were forced to list Robinson as officially doubtful, a requirement with the concussion protocol for a player who did not practice during the week. However, he could play if cleared before inactives are ruled Sunday.
OLB Khalil Mack (ankle) -- Knowing how Mack operates, he should be out there against the Saints. But how effective will he be rushing on his injured ankle?
OL Cody Whitehair (calf) -- All indications are that Whitehair will miss the game Sunday and perhaps more due to this injury.
RB Cordarrelle Patterson (quad) -- Patterson isn't practicing, which could lead to the Bears elevating running back Lamar Miller from the practice squad.
S Eddie Jackson (knee) -- The Bears avoided catastrophe after Jackson went down with a scary-looking knee injury Monday. He returned later in that game and took a fumble to the end zone for a defensive touchdown. Jackson has been practicing in a limited fashion this week.
DB Sherrick McManis (hamstring) -- The special teams ace McManis is trending toward returning Sunday.
Prediction (5-2): Saints 27, Bears 20
Nagy reminded us the Bears are 5-2 and not 2-5. But they’re heading toward 5-3 against the Saints on Sunday, with no fixes for this offense in sight.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.