Bears quarterback Justin Fields has completed two NFL seasons to this point, both with different coaching staffs.
He arrived at the tail end of Matt Nagy’s run as head coach, and he entered Year 2 with another entirely new playbook to learn when Matt Eberflus took over the job. Luke Getsy’s system as offensive coordinator is a different one than Bill Lazor’s was in the same role.
Ultimately, the Chicago Bears failed to make the playoffs both years, so life is meaningless, and death is inevitable. Though the record didn’t increase — they actually lost more games in 2022 than the year before — there seemed to be more excitement about Fields’ play. They weren’t winning a lot, but the quarterback was making some really nice plays without having much in the way of a supporting cast.
Let’s take a look at what Luke Getsy did to better work around Fields’ strengths, as well as where the offensive coordinator can improve in 2023.
Where Getsy got it right
On an offense that features Justin Fields, a Bears passing attack should ideally take advantage of his rare athleticism by selling the threat of the run.
In order to demonstrate “Fields-friendly” passing plays, I chose the following play types for these reasons:
- Motion: Where is the offensive player going to align next? How does this movement affect my responsibilities on the play? This offense is pretty fast, and stretching guys out with motion often creates space, which is where Fields thrives.
- Play action: The threat of the run game is a strong one with Chicago’s run-heavy approach, and play action sometimes sees Fields move out of the pocket.
- RPO: Not only is the threat of a handoff apparent, but the defense has to also account for Fields potentially taking off with the ball himself when he rides the mesh point, thus adding a wrinkle to the play.
- Designed rollout: Fields uses his legs to stretch the field horizontally. Someone with that athleticism is worth monitoring when he rolls out, opening up more opportunities in the passing game.
Here’s some of Getsy’s usage rates among the rest of the league in terms of applicable passing play types.
- Motion: 52% (8th)
- Play action: 21% (5th)
- RPO: 11% (15th)
- Designed rollout: 14% (1st)
Granted, the execution of those assignments will need to be improved upon in 2023. Here’s where they ranked in terms of positive performance in each of the aforementioned situations:
- Motion: 39% (30th)
- Play action: 45% (25th)
- RPO: 35% (28th)
- Designed rollout: 44% (18th)
I compared that to the Bears’ offensive tendencies in 2021, when Matt Nagy was the head coach and Bill Lazor was manning the helm at offensive coordinator. Since Fields dealt with sporadic injuries and didn’t start the year as the starting quarterback, I decided to look at Chicago’s offensive “Fields-friendly” passing type usage from Weeks 3 to 15 of that year.
- Motion: 34% (27th)
- Play action: 15% (25th)
- RPO: 6% (21th)
- Designed rollout: 7% (15th)
The previous regime saw plenty of success on designed rollouts — their positive play rating of 59% was 5th in the NFL — but their usage was in the middle of the pack. Instead, they opted heavily on short dropbacks, placing 11th with a 59% usage rate but just 30th with a 39% positive play rating. Short dropbacks are generally the go-to for most offenses, but it’s the extent to which Nagy and Lazor used this approach when it just wasn’t working was questionable.
You can choose to disagree with me, and that’s totally fine, but the way I see it is that the more a coaching staff utilizes play types or formations they’re less efficient in, the less adaptable they are.
While the last Bears coaching staff may have been more efficient in terms of offensive output, the new staff has a stronger understanding of what works and what doesn’t. That perhaps is a more helpful trait to have, especially considering such additions as DJ Moore, Darnell Wright and Nate Davis to their starting offense. Time will tell if that train of thought p
Where Getsy can improve
This current Bears offense is built heavily on speed. They have one of the fastest quarterbacks of the modern era, they have three running backs in their backfield who could be capable of starting, their wide receivers have very good speed, and the offensive line philosophy emphasizes movement ability.
That said, it’s no surprise Chicago excelled in no-huddle situations. With a positive percentage rate of 53%, they had the 11th-most efficient no-huddle offense in the NFL last year. When you consider how bad their offense was in general, that’s quite an outlier statistic.
However, their no-huddle rate of 4% was just 28th in the league. You’re obviously not going to run no-huddle into the ground, but the Bears realistically have a speed advantage over most defenses they’ll play. Maximizing that could help mask some of their other deficiencies, and a few more no-huddle calls could tire out opposing defenses down the stretch.
With the Bears utilizing a run-heavy offense comparative to the rest of the league, their pass rate percentages will naturally fall lower than the league average. That said, when looking at Getsy’s reactive playcalling in critical situations, a big discrepancy shows up in two areas in particular: a 1st-down incompletion and a 1st-down sack.
As the chart above shows, the Bears fell well below the NFL average in terms of how often they threw the ball on second down after incompletions or sacks. The general sentiment for 2nd-and-long runs is usually to make up some semblance of yardage, and with a strong Bears rushing attack, the idea doesn’t seem bad on paper. However, their passing success on 2nd-and-long was generally much better than their running success.
How the 2023 offense does in comparison to the 2022 group remains to be seen, and there’s a chance things may changes with some new faces around. However, with a lot of the same key pieces in places, it could benefit Getsy to make the following changes this year, at least based off these reports:
- More no-huddle in general
- More 2nd-down aggression
- Keep play action as a system staple
- Don’t be afraid to push the pace