Bears coach Matt Nagy (right, with Chiefs head coach Andy Reid in 2017) gave his players the bye week off for mental and physical rest. | Orlin Wagner/AP Photos
While his mentor is 19-3 after the bye, Nagy is 0-3 in three seasons with the Bears. “I do know from where I came from, he has a pretty good record,” Nagy said. “I tried to follow that early on in my career, and it did not work.”
Following Andy Reid’s coaching template has been problematic for Matt Nagy in four seasons with the Bears.
He couldn’t turn Mitch Trubisky into even Alex Smith, let alone Patrick Mahomes. By Reid’s fourth season, the Chiefs were well on their way toward becoming perennial playoff contenders. With Nagy’s hand-picked offensive igniters still growing — quarterback Justin Fields, running back David Montgomery and tight end Cole Kmet — the Bears (3-6) are 31st in the NFL in total yards, 32nd in yards per play and tied for 29th in scoring.
Whether it’s right or wrong, Sunday’s post-bye game against the Ravens at Soldier Field has put the spotlight on another area where Nagy has come up short of his mentor. Reid is a sparkling 19-3 (.863) in the game following the bye in 22 seasons with the Eagles (13-1) and Chiefs (6-2).
There are many factors involved in post-bye records — the time of the season, the quality of your team, the quality of your opponent, home or road, etc. But Reid’s record is so extraordinary, and well above his overall ledger (227-134-1, .628), that his post-bye success is seen as an indicator of good coaching — his efficient use of the bye week to re-set and prepare for the next opponent. Reid also is 6-1 in the playoff openers with a bye to prepare.
Nagy, though, is 0-3 after the bye in three seasons with the Bears. Even his first Bears team that finished 12-4 in 2018 lost to the Dolphins 31-28 in overtime at Hard Rock Stadium as 7 1/2-point favorites in Week 6. In 2019, the Bears lost to the Saints 36-25 at Soldier Field as four-point favorites. Last year they lost to the Packers 41-25 at Lambeau Field as 7 1/2-point underdogs in Week 12. The Bears, in fact, have lost their first two games after the bye in each of Nagy’s first three seasons — 0-6.
So capturing Reid’s magic touch has proven elusive.
“We’ve been a little different each bye week — whether it’s certain amount of days off for the coaches and the players,” Nagy said. “I do know from where I came from, he [Reid] has a pretty good record. I tried to follow that early on in my career, and it did not work.
“Not that you have to change. I think some of it too is based off where you’re at as a team. And this is the route we went this year. I think the guys feel better mentally. But there’s nothing specific [where] I think, ‘We have to do it this way all four years.'”
This year’s post-bye game will be a challenge, even at home. The Ravens (6-3) are six-point favorites and also coming off extra rest after losing to the Dolphins 22-10 on Thursday Night Football in Week 10.
Mid-season is considered good timing for the bye week. Nagy gave his players the full week off with an emphasis on physical and mental rest. Justin Fields went to Florida, where he worked out but did little else involving football (“I got to rest my body a little bit, so I feel good,” he said.).
The bye week also gave linebacker Khalil Mack, safety Eddie Jackson and defensive end Akiem Hicks an extra week of rest. Mack has missed the last two games with a sprained foot. Jackson has missed all but two snaps of the last two games with a hamstring injury. Hicks was limited to 35-of-72 snaps against the Steelers because of an ankle injury.
All three did not practice Wednesday, so the week off wasn’t like a magic balm. But it always helps. The Bears will know Sunday just how much.