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Bears Mailbag: Trade deadline action, fixing the offense and possible front office shake ups?

We’re under a week away from the trade deadline and despite the Chicago Bears coming into Week 8 with a (5-2) record, there’s plenty of areas for improvement. Will they make any? All of this and more in another packed mailbag.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears find themselves at (5-2) heading into a pivotal home game with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. Despite starting off with a hot record, it sure feels like this team has more issues than a normal playoff contender should. Yet, here they are in the mix for a playoff spot despite their struggles.

Even so, could it be time for general manager Ryan Pace to pull the trigger on a trade to help in the short-term? Can they even add enough players to help out such a struggling offense? We’ll answer all of those questions and more in this week’s mailbag.

Despite going (25-14) over the last two-plus years with Matt Nagy as the head coach, I think there’s still some core issues that riddle this franchise that go far beyond anyone that they’ve brought in over the last five or so years.

The issue is that we’ve continued to see the same problems over multiple decades. Much of that has been when Pace and Nagy weren’t even thoughts in this organization’s mind. While I haven’t exactly agreed with Pace’s approach lately, he has led this team to the most success they’ve seen in a while. He’s also been a big part of establishing a new culture and played quite the role in the team’s new facilities at Halas Hall.

The issue with even beginning to think about firing Pace is that he was granted a larger than normal grace period because of the complete rebuild the team went through after the Phil Emery era. They were supposed to be entering their window back in 2018, but he missed on his quarterback and here we are. Tight against the cap, no first round pick over the past two years and plenty of questions, namely on the offense.

My educated guess is that Pace and Nagy come back next year. They could screw around and accidentally end up .500 or better without actually playing well down the stretch. That gives the team a (28-20) record in a three year period, which won’t get anyone fired.

So, long story short, I think the reality of Pace and Nagy getting another year or two is astronomically more likely than a full on tear down in early January.

Don’t get me wrong, the Bears have plenty of issues on the offensive side of the ball. At this point though, I’d say Nagy’s play calling and overall offense is the bigger issue. It’s hard to see teams like the San Francisco 49ers plug in someone like Hroniss Grasu at center and succeed, then look at how bad the Bears offense and line has been.

Part of being a good play caller and overall offensive minded coach is that you put your team in the best position to success. Right now, it feels like Nagy is trying to fit square pegs into round holes with personnel instead of adjusting himself and working around his lack of personnel. They’ve scored 20 or less points in 14 of their 40 games since he’s taken over this offense. In today’s NFL, that is 100% unacceptable. Everything else within this offense—Including the coaches have changed— Yet we are still seeing the same poor results. It’s time to point the finger directly at Nagy as a play caller and make the change there.

NFL: Preseason-Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I would say the chances on that are slim-to-none at this point. I wasn’t overly impressed with Sam Mustipher‘s play, but let’s be honest... The Bears have enough issues on offense — including quarterback — without throwing in a brand new center and moving their primary center to a new position.

If they see a future with Mustipher, then maybe that’s something they look into this off-season, but my guess is they’ll want a more proven option before they think about moving Cody Whitehair away from the center spot. I hate to say it but I believe that they’ll continue to roll with what they’ve got for a while longer before looking into other options.

In recent weeks, Cole Kmet has looked much better overall, namely as a pass catcher. Yet every week we hear the same tired answer from Nagy. He claims that they need to get him on the field more, yet he’s the one who makes these calls...

It’s not secret that rookie tight ends usually struggle. Historically, it’s one of the toughest positions on the field for a rookie to translate into early success. Even so, Kmet has shown plenty of flashes the past two games, especially early in games. My guess would be that he’s still not trusting much as a blocker and probably doesn’t have a great grasp on the playbook (yet another common thread for almost every player in this offense over the past three years).

I’d expect his usage to continually grow, but until they stop using veteran Demetrius Harris so much, you probably won’t see Kmet break that (50%) mark in terms of snap counts on a weekly basis. Which, at least to me, is a shame and shows even more issues with this offensive coaching staff.

“All in” has always been a subjective term for me. The moves the Bears made this off-season told me that they were all in on their current core and believed they could get back to the playoffs. If they weren’t, why give veterans in Jimmy Graham and Robert Quinn the type of money they did?

With that being said, Pace’s version of all in usually is being more involved with spending during the off-season. In-season trading has never been much of a thing for him and with their lack of cap resources, I don’t think we’ll see any big moves.

Could we see a small trade for an interior offensive lineman for a cheap compensation? Possibly so, but I’m not expecting anything big and at this point, I think it’s justifiable considering how they’ve looked over and more importantly, how poor their salary cap outlook is over the next few seasons.

I figured I would throw this in, despite in being a similar question to the one above. I just wanted to somewhat single out the first part of the question because as of now, I haven’t heard a word on any plans for the Bears before the deadline.

That doesn’t mean something couldn’t come together at the last minute or they won’t make a smaller move, but I don’t expect to see anything too impactful this season in regards to the upcoming trade deadline.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

I think there’s a few things to dive into with this question.

  1. The compensation for Alex Mack or Julio Jones would be vastly different.
  2. I don’t believe the Bears could afford either one moving forward, which is probably a non-starter for them on any trade idea like this.

As much as I like Jones, I don’t think trading for an aging veteran with a big cap hit makes much sense, especially when you have a younger option in Allen Robinson that you can simply tag in 2021. As far as Mack goes, I just don’t think the Bears want to use their little cap flexibility to add someone like that. If anything, they’ll once again address the offensive line this off-season and hopefully for their sake, they’ll take multiple swings at the five positions to get things right in a hurry.

Bill Lazor had his moments with the Cincinnati Bengals, but for the most part that offense somewhat fell off a cliff when he took over the play calling duties. Hence his short stint in that role.

QB coach John DeFilippo he failed damn near everywhere he has been as a play caller. Whether that was his stint in Cleveland, Minnesota or Jacksonville, things didn’t go overly well and all lasted one year or less. I’d say his best stint might have been Jacksonville last year but he was let go after just one season, so that also says something.

All in all, I do believe Nagy should give up play calling. The issue with that being is that none of his hires really signaled to me that he would have any of them calling plays any time soon. There’s no real good options, at least going on track record, but at some point you’ve got to mix it up and try something else because this simply isn’t working.

As I said above, I don’t think Nagy’s job heading into 2021 is in any immediate danger. Could things change if they fall flat on their face and win a game or two the rest of the way out? Anything is possible, but ultimately I think Pace and Nagy get at least another year beyond this one.

I do think that if Nagy continues to call plays over time, we’ll see the offense continue to struggle. As I’ve said many times before, I like him as a head coach, but as an offensive coordinator and/or play caller, it’s not working. If Nagy loses his job in the future, his play calling is likely going to play a huge part in their record not being good and will likely be a primary reason why he was fired.

I also think it’s noting that Nagy sounded ready to give up the play calling if that is what is best for the team. The issue is that none of his offensive assistants seemed to like the idea or think they were there yet. Which tells me they either don’t want to do it or are maybe waiting for a better time. Maybe their Week 11 bye could make more sense?