Matt Nagy, Eric Bieniemy and a contrast in head coach readiness

Dec 6, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 6, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports /

At this point, it’s hard not to feel confused and even a little angry on Eric Bieniemy‘s behalf.

Bieniemy, of course, doesn’t need anything from me, or anyone outside of Arrowhead Stadium for that matter. He’s said and done everything right every year no matter how many times he’s been passed over for a head coaching opportunity. But watching just how inept Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy is at his job, how clearly in over his head he’s proven to be when given the chance to be a top dog, it still brings up the emotions all the same.

Bears fans have called for Nagy to be fired for a long time now, despite his mere three-plus seasons on the job, but the latest reasons came just this week when Nagy continued to bungle the single most important call he will ever make as a head coach—namely, who should be the teams’s quarterback.

Looking at the head coaching opportunities contrasted between Matt Nagy and Eric Bieniemy.

Despite having a first-round prospect in Justin Fields who just started in the win over the Detroit Lions in Week 4 and who could clearly build on his experiences, Nagy was ready to turn back to veteran stopgap Andy Dalton in the name of… mediocrity? Who knows. Anyway, the rhetoric from Nagy went like this starting last week, before the win over the Lions to bring the Bears back to 2-2:

Then earlier this week, Nagy doubled down on the order despite the middling results having Dalton under center.

Then on Wednesday, something had clearly changed.

Just like that, Nagy had flipped on a decision that he really should have flipped on weeks ago. Dalton is a fine quarterback to have in house to help mentor Fields, Together, they were the perfect pairing in terms of having a backup with experience who can be a real asset to a young prospect being groomed to be the face of the franchise. The Jets would kill for someone like that around Zach Wilson, or they should, but the Bears then decided to turn it into a quarterback controversy.

But look, this isn’t really about Fields vs. Dalton. It’s about a call that was clearly made for Nagy. the only way Nagy publicly reverses himself on this when nothing has changed whatsoever in the last few days is if someone from up on high in the Bears power structure has told him to play the kid. And it’s about the call being made for Nagy because somehow Nagy has a head coaching job yet still needs someone to help him make the right leadership calls.

How in the world did he get this job?

So far, Nagy hasn’t shown any ability to develop players. For being hailed as a brilliant offensive hire, he sure hasn’t shown anything in the way of innovation or even the ability to call plays that make the most of the players he has. Instead, he started with a 12-win season coasting on the defensive talent he inherited and then he’s gone .500 ever since.

Let’s be very clear on the issue here: Nagy isn’t useless or dumb. Nagy doesn’t need to leave the game of football. Those sorts of throwaway statements filled with general “he sucks” sentiments don’t help anyone. The problem here is that Nagy is good as part of a greater whole. He has a fine offensive mind and has clearly shown he can blossom when allowed to be a part of a chain of command, to work within a greater system in which he’s a part.

When tasked with the creation of such a system, however, it’s clear Nagy is in over his head.

The infuriating part of all of this isn’t about Nagy’s failures. Those worries are on Chicago’s shoulders. Instead, it’s the fact that Chiefs Kingdom has watched Bieniemy get passed over for his own head coaching gigs for three straight years now. More than a dozen interviews have come and gone. Some teams even interviewed him twice and then decided on a different direction both times (the New York Jets, who hired Adam Gase and then Robert Saleh).

By all accounts, Eric Bieniemy is ready to be an NFL head coach. He’s stated very clearly that he is ready and waiting. Andy Reid has said the same. Bieniemy’s players rave about him, and Chiefs fans have watched his charisma, his candor, his attitude and more up close for years. While it’s impossible to know if a guy will sink or swim for sure until he’s in the water, Bieniemy has, at the very least, exhibited everything a team could hope to see beforehand (and then some) for years now.

So why hasn’t Bieniemy gotten a job? Is Nagy partially to blame since he’s an Andy Reid disciple who is bungling things in the Windy City? Are we watching a racial disparity at work between the two—the white coach who was able to get and somehow keep a job despite clearly drowning week after week in the responsibilities of it all versus the black man who can’t even get someone to offer him a job? Maybe it’s both.

It’s really frustrating to see coaches like Nagy (or Urban Meyer, but that’s another story) earn these chances to remain in over their heads while crossing my fingers for Bieniemy’s sake hoping that it doesn’t turn into a fourth offseason of being rejected despite having the best resume of anyone who could be interested in a head coaching job this winter.

There’s a contrast here that’s bothersome, one that feels very unfair.

It’s possible that Bieniemy will end up the same as Nagy, a man who eventually finds out that being a head coach is more difficult than just taking the “next step” up the NFL ladder of leadership. But it’d be nice to see him treated the same as Nagy. Instead, he’s on a hamster wheel of progress, being forced to “prove” himself for yet another year while helping to lead a dynamic offense while his predecessor is allowed to remain a leader of men when he’s clearly lacking the skills.

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