On the long list of traits that have endeared Matt Nagy to the Bears and Chicago, his combination of candor and confidence is in the top half. The coach sees his team through critical eyes with a clarity and objectivity that fosters growth. Pairing that with a contagious self-assuredness fortifies his leadership.
So it was equally unsurprising and refreshing at the NFL combine last month when he said the following about the Bears offense, the unit he oversees on a micro and macro level:
"Anybody that looks at our team right now, they see a top defense in the league, and they see an average offense."
Nagy knows nothing is gained by sugarcoating his evaluation. In the next breath, though, he added: "I know we can get to where we're the top on the offensive side. We have the players and coaches to do that. But there's got to be some patience ... because it does not happen in one year."
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The details supporting Nagy's thinking were illuminated as the team let the first wave of free agency pass without a high-profile addition to the offense.
The Bears, it appears, are going to lean hard on a natural progression for quarterback Mitch Trubisky and his supporting cast in Year 2 of Nagy's scheme.
Of course, the personnel won't entirely carry over. The running game will have different dimensions and more versatility with free agents Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson, plus the running back they presumably will draft. Theoretically, that should only help.
But after the Bears made ripples in the free-agent waters instead of a splash, their big bet on Trubisky remains firm.
They believe in his development commanding the offense and diagnosing defenses. They're counting on him to be the main reason why the offense won't sputter through another season scoring fewer than 20 points in eight of 17 games.
Nagy and Ryan Pace could have bought Trubisky more help in free agency, and maybe they tried to some extent. They cleared $13 million in cap room for something, right?
Still, even acknowledging we might not have complete clarity on their free-agency strategy, Nagy and Pace's conviction about Trubisky is clear and understandable.
Better yet, it provides the measuring stick against which their performances as coach and general manager will be evaluated next season.
To be fair, the roster is not fully assembled. The second wave of free agency is underway. There's also the draft. Factor in the unpredictability of the trade market, where first-string running back Jordan Howard is in the display window, and the overall picture of this offense will evolve to some degree.
At this point, though, a transformative addition is unforeseen, aside from a drafted running back. That underscores their belief in Trubisky, whose growth last season energizes Nagy as he contemplates Year 2.
"If you take (video clips) of early on in the season of things he did inside the pocket, outside the pocket – where his eyes were – to what he did in those last couple games that he played, he really started making plays that are rare," Nagy said.
"You could see his trust in this offense. He made some throws that are special. You're only going to continue to see more of that as the trust between all of us grows."
In February, the coach acknowledged his error in giving Trubisky too many plays in some game plans last season. That's part of a familiarization process the Bears believe will pay dividends in 2019.
"We all smile when we talk about going into the offseason and ... Mitch spending more time with the receivers," Pace said last month. "It's not just the offensive system, it's the chemistry with the players. That was all new last year, so it's exciting to have that going forward."
When asked in February about the offense's inconsistency, Pace insisted on looking at that side of the ball through a positive lens.
After a dreadful 2017, the Bears overhauled the group of pass catchers and improved to 21st in total offense last season. Pace saw progress and creativity while acknowledging the need for additional speed and explosiveness.
The sorry 2017 output required a multifaceted, multiyear fix. This year, it's apparent Pace and Nagy are focused on fine-tuning the running back group.
In the opening hours of the negotiating window, they targeted Davis, a member of the Seahawks' backfield committee whose name was not on the NFL's free-agency marquee.
The Bears see such potential in him that he's expected to play a prominent role, maybe even the starting spot.
He's a tough, strong runner who breaks tackles. He's sound in pass protection, which makes him an every-down option. He has good hands as a receiver, which will allow him to be part of the passing game to the extent Nagy wants his running backs to be.
"I'm here to do it all," Davis said Thursday.
Of his 234 carries over four seasons, 112 came last year. The Bears appreciate his low mileage and offered the former fourth-round pick two-year, $6 million deal to secure the upside they see.
Patterson is most established as a kickoff returner and receiver, but his cameo as a running back with the Patriots last season requires consideration as part of the Bears' retooled backfield.
He had 45 carries – including three in the Patriots' Super Bowl run – and averaged 5.3 yards with his speed and elusiveness in space.
"I would never want to be a running back full time," Patterson said with a laugh Thursday. "For a guy like me that's been playing receiver his whole life, there's handoffs, and then you've got to read this and read that and trust that your blocks are going to be there. I just take my hat off to those running backs because it's hard to be a running back in this league."
Patterson won't have to be one full time, of course. Nagy will move him around, limited only by his imagination.
Beyond that, the backfield committee will continue to form over the next two months. It makes all the sense in the world for Nagy to hand-pick a back in the draft.
With those three additions and Tarik Cohen fitting Nagy's preference for versatility and speed, it's fair to expect the Bears to improve on last season's 4.14 yards-per-carry average, sixth-lowest in the league.
And that, as it turns out, is the Bears' plan for helping Trubisky.
They are trying to amplify his expected progression by balancing the offense with a running game that can get him in more favorable down-and-distances, one that can make defenses pay for all the seven-man fronts they showed last season.
Trubisky, then, will have to do his part. The pains of last season's inconsistency must produce growth.
As Nagy said, the defense is established as a championship-level group. If the Bears are to realize their high hopes for 2019, the offense must catch up however it takes, with their quarterback leading the ascent.