Nagy Comfortable With Decision To Rest Starters

August 25, 2018 - 5:32 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- There was a loud roar heard through the bowels of Soldier Field on this summer Saturday that resembled a sound you could hear much later in the year.

Many of the 90 men on the Bears' preseason roster mobbed first-year coach Matt Nagy and cheered as they piled on with support. It didn't matter to anyone that their 27-20 win over the Chiefs counts for nothing in the standings. The Bears are following Nagy's lead with hopes of more moments like these.

That was certainly the case Friday morning as Nagy told the Bears ahead of their "dress rehearsal" game that they would rest key starters among a group of 35 to watch from the sidelines. There was no Mitchell Trubisky, no Jordan Howard, no Allen Robinson, no Eddie Goldman, no Kyle Fuller and few fan favorites on the field.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid presented an interesting contrast to his protege in Nagy by playing his starters well into the third quarter. The 40-year-old Nagy was hired by the Bears to buck convention with an innovative offense and new-age leadership style. His decision for this preseason game was considered surprising, but he had no problem backing it up.

"This was just for me more of just knowing the pulse of our team," Nagy said. "I know this team better than anybody right now and I feel strong about that. I know our players. I have individual meetings with our players. I don't just sit here and try to guess where they're at; I talk to our guys. 

"That doesn't mean our guys didn't want to play; our guys were ready to play. But I told them that I get 51 percent, so I get to make this decision and this is what we're doing."

Bears coach Matt Nagy cited his team’s work this preseason and prioritizing health ahead of the regular season in resting key players today against the Chiefs.

— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) August 25, 2018

The Bears and Ravens had what Nagy referred to as a benefit with five exhibitions this preseason thanks to the Hall of Fame Game in late July. The Bears reported to training camp in Bourbonnais a week earlier than 30 other teams and practiced against the Broncos in Colorado last week in what was a game-like simulation.

Circumstances surrounding this call are unique compared to the rest of the league, but Nagy made it clear this was a football decision and not the influence of the sports science staff. The Bears may not do it again in 2019 without the extra work under their belt. Nagy was comfortable with the practices leading into Saturday, and he announced it to the team Friday.

Patrick Mahomes, the second-year quarterback and first-year starter for the Chiefs who was drafted nine picks after the Bears selected Trubisky, played well into the third quarter against a second-team defense while his counterpart on the other sidelines wore a grey baseball hat and supported his teammates.

The decision by Nagy to rest key starters was more curious as it relates to Trubisky than a Trey Burton or a Danny Trevathan. One would presume that the 24-year-old Trubisky working his first season as a full-time starter would benefit from every rep that could be gained before the regular season.

"I hear it, but I don't believe it right now in regards to where we're at," Nagy said. "We're at almost 2,000 snaps right now in practice. Teams snaps in OTAs to now, we're at 2,000 snaps. And for somebody to tell me that 25 to 30 reps is going to go ahead and make him a better player Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, it's not going to happen. This offense does take time. It doesn't mean that, for him, he can't be successful.

"Let me make this clear: I understand how people can say that. I understand it. But for me, I need to do what's best for our team and where we're at. And I understand that sometimes that can affect fans. But trust me, the thing I'm trying to do the best thing for our fans, and that's having our team ready to go for Week 1."

It was nearly a year to the date that the Bears played their third preseason game in Tennessee and suffered a brutal blow with the torn ACL to receiver Cam Meredith. Fresh off a breakout season in 2016, Meredith was to be a key piece of the offense. He was then suddenly lost for the year, in an exhibition game. 

Preseason playing time can come at a major cost to a player, a team and their plans, with the only value to be gained for key starters being just the reps themselves. 

Sure enough, the Bears' backups took it to the Chiefs' starters. Chase Daniel was excellent on the afternoon, completing 15 of 18 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He showed tremendous comfort in an offense that he knows well and created the kind of continuity that benefited everybody else on the field. Kevin White, the 2015 first-round pick, hauled in a touchdown after burning veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick with a stutter step. Rookie receiver Javon Wims would've earned the game ball if not for Nagy, catching four passes for 114 yards and a touchdown from Daniel.

The backup Bears took advantage of their time on the field and put plenty of good reps on tape for the team's talent evaluators to watch next weekend when the roster is cut down to 53.

"The risk (versus) reward, it's too much," Daniel said of playing starters.. "It's too much. Honestly, it was a really good opportunity for the twos and threes. Guys that may be on the bubble of a team, guys that may need to make an impression today. And I feel like there was a number of guys that did that."

Added Nagy: "I want our guys to be ready to go, 100 percent health-wise for that Week 1 Packers game. And that's as simple as it gets."

Fifteen days remain until the Bears face the Packers at Lambeau Field. It's a night of great anticipation for this team, which has underwent many changes this offseason -- none greater than the hiring of Nagy.

 Nagy seemed to understand the criticism that will come if the Bears step out against the Packers and don't seem prepared, but he surely won't blame the time lost on this Saturday afternoon.
This may not be the most popular decision for fans in Chicago, but Nagy believe it will be best for the Bears when the games count. He hopes there are more postgame celebrations to come.

"I'm doing what's best for them because I'm going to have us in the right spot for Week 1," Nagy said of the fans. "So, they may not feel it today, but hopefully they feel it Week 1."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.