Bears coach Matt Nagy revealed Friday that he is handing over play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor beginning with Monday night's home game against the Vikings.
With the offense continuing to sputter, Nagy has been asked the past few weeks about relinquishing the play-calling responsibilities. After the Bears were shut out through the first three quarters of last Sunday's loss to the Titans, the third-year coach acknowledged that he would "look at everything."
Seeking to jump-start an offense that entered Week 10 ranked 29th in the NFL in scoring and total yards, Nagy decided to give Lazor the chance to call plays.
"It's a decision that I made and we've been talking about it as a whole staff," Nagy said. "It's very important for me to make sure that I'm doing everything that I possibly can to make the best decision for the Chicago Bears. And I think right now that's where we're at."
Losers of three straight, the Bears are 2-4 since a 3-0 start. In those six games, they've mustered just nine offensive touchdowns, averaging 17.3 points without scoring more than 24 points in a contest. They've also rushed for an average of 54.5 yards over that span after running for an average of 138.0 yards in their first three games.
"When you're in this position that we're in right now you want to make sure that you're looking for solutions," Nagy said. "When you start thinking about the 'why" for me, if our team can be better because of this move—and I don't know that—but if we can, then darn it, that's what we need to do, and that's what I need to do. That's my job as a head coach.
"There's a lot of great head coaches out there in this league that don't call plays as well and have done it for a long time that I have respect for. That's just a part of this job that I signed up for, and I have to make these decisions, and it just really makes it a lot easier when you have people that you believe in, and at the same point in time, for me, I do feel like right now, this is the time."
Nagy felt the time was right to make the decision because of a "gut feeling."
"You get a feel and you understand, 'OK, this is where our offense is right now,' and we've been struggling and for different reasons," Nagy said. "I don't think it's one particular reason, but if there's something that can help spark us, or sometimes it's just a change-up. It's like bringing in a different style pitcher. You have one pitcher that throws one way, now you have another pitcher that throws another way. Sometimes change can be good in that regard. None of it was for a particular reason other than we've been struggling and I feel like it's the best thing for this team."
Lazor is in his first season with the Bears. He possesses 13 years of previous NFL coaching experience with six different teams, working primarily as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Lazor most recently spent three seasons with the Bengals, first as quarterbacks coach (2016) and then as offensive coordinator (2017-18). In 2017, he took over play-calling duties after Week 2 for an offense that featured receiver A.J. Green, who was voted to his seventh straight Pro Bowl after catching 75 passes for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns.
Lazor last called plays as Bengals offensive coordinator in 2017-18. He was promoted to that position from quarterbacks coach three games into the 2017 campaign in place of Ken Zampese, who was fired after Cincinnati became the first NFL team since the 1939 Eagles to open a season without scoring a touchdown in two home games. After Lazor took over, the Bengals produced at least 20 points in 10 of their final 14 games.
"I'm excited to let Bill take this over," Nagy said. "He has experience in this role. I think he's going to do a great job. It's something that we all just decided together like, 'Hey, let's go.' I think it shows the belief, too, that I have and that we have in the coaching staff."
Asked whether Lazor will call plays for the rest of the season, Nagy said: It's for this week and [I'm] excited to see how well we do and move forward. I hate to say anything is permanent, but [we will] just try to really focus on this week with the Vikings and keep it at that. Then we'll have the bye and go from there."
Having Lazor call plays will give Nagy more of an opportunity to focus on the big picture Monday night in all three phases.
"I do believe that one of my strengths as a head coach is in the leadership role," Nagy said. "This will give me an opportunity to really step back and see things from a different position, and then whether it's offense, defense, special teams, just have a little bit more input, whether it's throughout the week or whether it's on gameday. Situational football, timeout-usage; stuff like that where you can still do that when you're calling plays, but it's a little bit different. I'm just trying to look at the positives through all of this, and that's kind of where we're at."
Nagy conceded that relinquishing the play-calling duties for the first time since he was hired as Bears coach in 2018 was difficult.
"Is it hard to do? Absolutely," Nagy said. "I'd be lying to every one of you guys if I told you that this is easy. It's not easy. It's one of my favorite parts of coaching. I love calling plays. I love it. But guess what? If this is what's best for the team, then that's what I'm going to do. We need to do what's best for us, not what's best for Matt Nagy. That's where I'm at. I'm excited about it, looking forward to it."