When the news first broke on Friday that Bears head coach Matt Nagy had decided to rest his starters for the dress rehearsal preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, disappointment was the first emotion that I felt.
It wasn’t anger. It wasn’t resentment. It wasn’t confusion, perplexity or mystification. For I realized what seemingly so few others in the Chicagoland area did: that whether his decision was right or wrong, Nagy was confident and decisive in exercising his choice.
The reason I felt disappointed was because I wanted to see the starters in extended action. Who wouldn’t, right? For a city that hasn’t seen its ball club make the postseason in the better part of a decade, we all hunger for change and we have it sitting at our doorstep.
I yearn to see what the new head coach can do with his recently added offensive pieces and how well second-year quarterback and potential cornerstone player Mitch Trubisky has progressed from his rookie season to his sophomore campaign.
But I can wait. We can wait. The regular season is weeks away, not months. And for as much as Bears fans and members of the Chicago sports media want to clamor about “needing more preparation” for the regular season, the majority of those detractors have no faith that the Bears will be playoff contenders this season regardless.
When asked by a reporter how he would respond to criticism about taking away game snaps from Trubisky, Nagy said, “For somebody to tell me right now that 25 or 30 [preseason] reps is going to go ahead and make him a better player Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, it’s not going to happen.”
Frankly, that’s a mic-drop moment in my book.
Let’s not forget that even though Saturday was the most meaningful of the Bears’ five preseason games this year, it still was a preseason game. And I wholeheartedly concur with Nagy that those “lost reps” won’t exactly stunt Trubisky’s growth and his preparation for the Bears’ Week 1 tilt against the Green Bay Packers.
I get it. We all want the Bears to beat their rivals to the north. In fact, I have only slightly less Packers hatred flowing through my blood than I do Bears love.
But one game will not make-or-break the season. As badly as I want to see the Bears compete for a playoff spot, I realize the odds are not in their favor. I’m expecting them to take their lumps in “real” action — not in a dress rehearsal. This team will learn to play and compete as the season progresses, and at some point — hopefully sooner than later — it’ll start to click and they’ll resemble a competitive football team.
But the most important thing is that they even show up to the starting gate at all. It’s vital that they get their best 11 offensive players and top 11 defenders onto the field for that opening night game and begin the race together. Every one of them starting on Page 1 and ready to experience the highs and lows as one cohesive team.
With the amount of league-wide injuries piling up in the preseason, how much fun for you, or advantageous for the Bears, would it be to have the offense trot out onto the field opening night without No. 10 behind center?
Critics will argue: Injuries are part of the game; they can happen whenever. True, but they don’t need to happen in the preseason for undue reason.
So, what Nagy’s decision really comes down to is whether or not the starters are adequately prepared to play in Week 1 of the regular season.
I live my life by one of many simple principles: I do not know more than those in the know. The Chicago sports media would do well to live by this principle as well, but alas, you might have an easier time trying to convince President Trump to apologize for anything.
One has every right to disagree with Nagy’s decision to rest his starters against the Chiefs. But these complaints sound more like those of little children who open a new toy on Christmas morning only to be told they can’t play with it until after they visit Grandma Jean’s house later in the day.
“I understand how people could say that,” Nagy reiterated in regards to lost game reps for Trubisky. “But for me, I need to do what’s best for our team for where we’re at.”
Nobody knows what’s best for the Bears better than Nagy does. And right or wrong, he made that decision with conviction and without outside pressure. For that, he has my respect and admiration.