London Burning: Bears’ offensive identity has gone incognito
By Robert Zeglinski
Identity acts as the heart of every human endeavor. To be keenly self-aware, to understand one’s life purpose, is the greatest gift that a person can be bestowed. People spend so much time, energy, and fruitless effort attempting to figure out who they are and where the puzzle piece of their life fits in that, over the course of their existence, they never figure out how to actually live their life.They push themselves to a point of mental and physical exhaustion until they have nothing left to give. Until their dreams wash away in their never-ending pursuit of self-actualization. Their journey, in turn, becomes an eternal trial run of which has no satisfying payoff. They learn and they learn and they learn, but can never apply it anywhere because it doesn’t really define their essence. A construction of a self-imposed hamster wheel with no inclination to stop and take a break for water. Because of this, knowing who you are and where your final destination is, becomes half the battle of every success. There is no triumph, at least one without a tremendous deal of fortune involved, without an inherent grasp of a sense of belonging.
Identity is such a powerful tool, it catalyzes through comprehension of the most complex object imaginable: the human mind. There’s nothing as nearly acutely personal, and there never can be.
After a lethargic 24-21 loss to the Raiders in England, the hot button conversation for the Bears became their offensive identity, or lack thereof. One of the worst offenses in football—currently ranked securely in the bottom tier of the NFL among juggernauts such as the win-less Dolphins—Matt Nagy’s bunch is a group that does nothing consistently well. When asked to pick up the slack for a fatigued defense, the Bears’ offense fell flat, exposing a fatal flaw.
Even worse in this circumstance, the Bears don’t seem to have any answers as to why. And when you don’t have answers, reasonable solutions are cloaked in the darkness of confusion.
A visibly frustrated Matt Nagy could offer only exasperation after another example of his offense’s listlessness.
“Offensively, the numbers show—and we all know, we all understand it—we’re not playing where we need to be at,” Nagy said. “We need to be more productive.
A “need to be more productive” would be the understatement of this era of Bears football. It’s disturbingly similar to the often macabre Marc Trestman era that continually echoed sentiments of quality practices week after week after week, with nothing to show for it once the lights came on.
To be fair to Nagy and his coaching staff, flashes. There is a burgeoning offense under layers of mud and general muck … somewhere.
Most of those instances of quality arrive in seemingly low percentage lobs to physical freaks like Allen Robinson. The epitome of a possession receiver through and through, the 25-year-old Robinson is enjoying an ongoing career revival. His 377 receiving yards in five games has him sitting 15th in the league. It’s because a player of Robinson’s caliber turns low percentage throws into efficient, reliable plays. He’s also the ideal juxtaposition to show off the root issues of Chicago’s attack. Since Robinson is the only play-maker the Bears are capable of regularly feeding the ball to, everyone else’s failure to do anything with the ball in their hands, or to even get possession of the ball, is magnified that much more.
Robinson’s 377 yards is honorable production from a legitimate No. 1 target and primary facet of an offense. But there’s a caveat: it’s not only almost three times more than Chicago’s next best pass catcher (Tarik Cohen, 128 yards), it’s just barely marginally less than the Bears’ combined team rushing yards (403), which is spread across seven ball-carriers. When one player in one offensive shade almost matches the entire output of seven others, your problems run deep. This gaping wound will require dozens of stitches.
Heave the ball up to an athletic basketball player effectively disguised as a receiver and pray might feel like a sustainable strategy. Hell, Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson, and a whole host of other players built entire Hall of Fame level careers on this skill-set. When it’s the only reliable aspect of an offense, the heaves become actual Hail Mary’s, the penance in this case an absolution of lethargic, uninspired football.
The laundry list of faulty wiring the Bears have to take care of on offense aside from Robinson’s predisposition toward taking matters into his own hands is boundless. There’s no master electrician to fix any of these misaligned wires either. Issues that date back to last season take more than a bye week’s time to remedy, a few expensive visits.
Chicago can’t block well; they’re currently 25th in adjusted rushing line yards and 25th in adjusted sack rate. They can’t run the ball; the next time David Montgomery has a breakout game worthy of the pre-draft hype he received in the spring will be the first time. Not to be outdone in general incompetence, their best weapons outside of Robinson are non-factors; Tarik Cohen hasn’t had 100 yards from scrimmage since the outset of last December. Meanwhile, with every dropped pass and miscalculated route and social media grievance, former second-round pick Anthony Miller increasingly resembles more of an also-ran, overconfident bust than a worthwhile core player.
All of this conjecture is to say that the Bears technically do possess an offensive identity: They’re inept to the point of inspiring no fear in opposing defenses. They’re disorganized in not even possessing the page, let alone being present on it together as a united front. And they’re cripplingly inefficient to the escalation of self-inflicting wound after self-inflicting wound. The Bears are a team striving, and failing, to have a modern high-flying offense. A team that should be built around a dominant defense and a ground-and-pound rushing game, but with the ground or pound nowhere to be seen
Never one to admittedly dwell on the negatives, Nagy somehow appreciates tough days for an offense that can’t even generate three yards and a cloud of dust.
“It’s all right every now and then to have a little kick in the ass, and I’m OK with that,” Nagy said. “They deserve that. We deserve that … “We have high-character guys who will figure this thing out.”
A noble idea from Nagy: the Bears and their offense needed a wake-up call. Now everything will be smooth sailing! What Nagy neglects to mention is that a kick in the ass’s effectiveness diminishes when it happens every week. And when you don’t know who you are, or are much less incapable of opening up to your mistakes, that motivating kick in the ass serves more like a passive, forgettable tap.
Robert is a writer and editor. Follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski