It was the Bears’ 22nd time scoring fewer than 20 points in Nagy’s 53 games as head coach.
CLEVELAND — It has come to this for the Bears: A visit to the Browns, historically the NFL’s favorite punch line, left them bitterly disappointed and hopelessly jealous.
Three weeks into the season, following a 26-6 loss at FirstEnergy Stadium, it’s already time to start asking whether coach Matt Nagy has any solutions or if it’s going to be four more months of this slog.
Not that it hasn’t been asked repeatedly over the last three seasons, but confidence in Nagy plunged to a new low. It’s funny how rock bottom never really is the bottom for the Bears.
Rather than use all the advantages of rookie quarterback Justin Fields’ mobility and the Browns having minimal film on him to study, Nagy steered the offense into its worst offensive performance of his time with the Bears.
They produced 47 net yards — lowest by the Bears since 1981 — and managed two fields goals on 10 possessions. Including the playoffs, it was the 22nd time they scored fewer than 20 points in Nagy’s 53 games.
Fields will endure inevitable rookie struggles, but he’s not the problem. The Bears wouldn’t have looked much, if any, better had Andy Dalton played instead.
It’s reasonable, after one start by Fields and five months of Nagy working with him, to suspect that Nagy doesn’t understand how to make the most of this prized asset.
The same concern exists with general manager Ryan Pace, who was savvy enough to swing big and trade for Fields but saddled him with an offensive line reminiscent of a Lego set where some of the parts are missing.
To be fair, no one could have seen trouble coming when the Bears went into a season without anyone who had experience at left tackle and Germain Ifedi playing right tackle. Just like their secondary problems are shocking in light of Jaylon Johnson being their only sure thing at cornerback.
The idea of playing Ifedi at right tackle, where he wrecked one drive by committing a false start on third-and-one and another by giving up a sack with little resistance, is not innovative. The Seahawks tried that and were so disillusioned with a player they had taken in the first round that they ushered him into free agency, where he sat unsigned for weeks before the Bears scooped him up.
The collective group in charge of protecting Fields let him get sacked nine times (4.5 by Myles Garrett).
Nobody doubts Fields. Everybody doubts Nagy and Pace.
With a shaky offensive line and great pass rushers on the other side, the most sensible thing Nagy could’ve done was roll him out to get some good looks downfield. There wasn’t much of that until almost halftime.
All of these frustrations and failures lead to the essential big-picture question: In a season that began with chairman George McCaskey saying vaguely that he wanted to see progress, what exactly is the standard here?
Is there one, or will the Bears just keep shrugging helplessly every time they face a good team and hope they pile up enough wins against Lions-level opponents to keep their final record from being too lopsided?
There aren’t enough of those teams on the schedule. There never are. The Packers and Buccaneers loom next month, and there are more heavyweights to follow. If the Bears stay on this course, there are embarrassments to come.