This post is 99% satirical. The 1% is the very slim possibility that this joke can actually work. 1% also happens to be the amount of happiness I have for NFL football as of this post.

The Bears offense sucks.

If I were to write an article explaining the issues with my team this year, I can pretty much just say those four words and call it a piece. After all the fanfare and offseason hype surrounding an offense that was supposed to be in 202, it’s safe to say Matt Nagy has had to send Mitch Trubisky and the gang to remedial classes instead. “Cs get degrees”, they say, but at the rate this offense is going, they might be flunking.

I don’t claim to be a football genius, much less a film analyst or even a player/coach, and I fully expect to get roasted by more knowledgeable folks if this ever gets discovered. I’m just a fan who sometimes (read: always) has dumb ideas (just look at nearly all of my blog posts about football), but they say the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Rather than watch the same floundering offense, why not shake things up with something completely absurd and unfeasible but fun to think about? In other words, I have a proposal for the Bears offense that could catch the entire NFL world off guard, for better or worse.

The Triple Option

The triple option. It’s like kids or a fart: you love it when it’s yours, but hate it when it’s someone else’s. For a simpler analogy, it’s like candy corn: you love it or you hate it. It’s an offense that is either old-school football that levels the playing field or antiquated and gimmicky (and dangerous).

Now, the term “triple option” doesn’t refer to any specific formation; it just means the quarterback has three options: hand the ball to the fullback, pitch/hand it to a tailback, or keep it himself. For particular sets, I’m talking about the one used predominantly at the service academies (Navy, Army, Air Force) and at the Power 5 college football level at Georgia Tech under the now-retired Paul Johnson: the flexbone.

As a Navy football fan who also uses it regularly in NCAA Football, the flexbone is one of my favorite offenses for its diversity in play calls beyond the usual option magic. You can throw out of it or run a few trick plays or even get some of that sweet, sweet fullback action. Either way, the option is still the feature play in the flexbone known as the inside veer (plus other plays including the midline, counter option, and passing, all of which are a story for another time).

A while back, I posted a gif on /r/CHIBears of one of Navy’s play call signs featuring the Bears logo, where I received the following comment from /u/breathe_scartissue:

If Nagy had any brains, he’d take a tip from Ken Niumatalolo and starting running the option/run-and-gun that Navy runs.

We actually got really good personnel for an option offense. Mitch is the mobile and quick QB, Cohen could be an elite slot back taking tosses to the outside, Mike Davis could be the pounding fullback up the middle, and Monty could literally line up at any position you want in the backfield.

[…]

Just theoretically, we have really good personnel for an option offense, and I think incorporating some aspects once in a while could provide a creative trick play. Maybe have Patterson serve as a slot back too which would be scary with his speed.

After watching the offensive debacle against the Saints, this comment came to mind and is why I decided to write this post. Like I said above, this is mostly meant as a joke, so concerns about practicing, spending money on the right players, and appropriate linemen (which the Bears no longer seem to have even for a regular NFL offense, apparently) will be thrown out the window. Rather, I’ll mostly be focusing on how the current skill players on the roster can probably work in a flexbone offense.

Obviously, an NFL team can’t run such a system full-time or they’ll be exposed pretty quickly like other non-pro-style offenses like the Wildcat. NFL defenders are too fast and smart to be beaten easily by an option offense (guys like J.J. Watt, Khalil Mack, and Aaron Donald won’t even break a sweat shutting it down). Sure, you can probably throw an NFL defense for a loop by breaking it out every once in a while, but it’s going to be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to shape an NFL-caliber roster for it and thrive. I’m not fully ruling out the possibility since the NFL’s evolution has taken us down some interesting paths before, but it’s certainly not viable as of now.

That said, from a theoretical standpoint, the personnel that the Bears have right now probably wouldn’t make for too bad of an option team (outside of the O-line; let’s just assume these guys have suddenly gone through some crazy workouts to become more mobile and fit for the option). This doesn’t mean the offense is a perfect fit for the flexbone, but from a stupid fan point of view, it might be doable to some degree (for a moment, of course).

Quarterback

In any offense, the quarterback is the feature piece and the leader. However, his responsibilities and required talents vary by system; while there are plenty of exceptions in any of these, general archetypes include Air Raid QBs having huge arm strength and West Coast passers emphasizing throwing accuracy.

In the triple option, the QB has to excel at reading defenses and decision making, both of which are traits that Trubisky – to be honest – doesn’t really have mastered (to put it nicely). There have been times when the Bears would run an RPO or any other play only for Trubisky to make an incorrect read or some related error.

However, from an athletic standpoint, he has promise. In 2018, he was one of the more versatile quarterbacks in the NFL as he had the fifth-most rushing yards by a QB (421), fifth-longest run (39 yards), and the fifth-best average rushing yards per game (30.1), and 6.2 yards per carry to go with his three rushing TDs. That hasn’t been the case in 2019 as it appears Nagy has forced him to be more of a pocket passer, a decision that has obviously not been working out. In fairness, he suffered a shoulder injury on a scramble when he slid against the Vikings, but Trubisky has always thrived when he uses his legs, whether to set up a pass or a straight-up rushing play.

Speaking of injuries, that’s perhaps one of the biggest concerns when it comes to being an option QB. With how much it relies on running, your QB will obviously get demolished left and right, and Trubisky already having two shoulder injuries in his pro career isn’t promising. Rookie contract or not, you can’t risk having your QB get knocked all over the place no matter his durability. Regardless, we’re throwing logic out the window by even suggesting this idea in the first place so let’s keep going.

Long story short: Difficulty in reading the defense aside, Mitch is not a pocket passer. He is a running-type QB who does well in running situations. By letting him use his feet to establish the pass, he will be fine (this is not even a joke statement to play along with this post. Play action, use it).

Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray are not runners.

Running backs

Slotback

You can’t have a good triple option attack without good slotbacks. In the triple option, the slotback can be sent in motion to the other side, which might be a good marriage of ideas since Nagy frequently utilizes pre-snap motion of his own.

Although Nagy’s (lack of) running attack has been abysmal in 2019, Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery still make for a good tandem in terms of talent. Both are among the most versatile players on the team who can line up in a number of positions, so let’s put them to good use, shall we? Imagine Montgomery as the A-back and Cohen as the Z-back.

Considering Nagy’s odd rushing strategies including jet sweeps to receivers, you can probably also shuffle in some normal WRs into the slotback role like Anthony Miller and Cordarrelle Patterson. With Patterson’s speed, he can do well once Trubisky pitches the ball.

B-back

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know I love my fullbacks. Although a rare breed in today’s NFL, there’s just something satisfying about a power back blasting through the line for short bursts. Thankfully, the triple option makes use of one, usually called the B-back. Unlike an ordinary fullback, however, the B-back has been described as being like a tailback in a fullback’s body: power runner, but with a lot of burst and can shake off tacklers. Blocking isn’t really a B-back’s priority either, and depending on the coach, catching may be on the list of responsibilities.

The Bears no longer have a fullback after not re-signing Michael Burton following the 2018 season. On the practice squad, there is Ryan Nall who I feel fits the bill pretty nicely. During the preseason, he brought back shades of Brad Muster for Bears fans, which pleases me since I even called him going to the Bears in my 2018 mock draft (though he was ultimately a UDFA). He has solid explosiveness and can probably break a tackle or two, but let’s just commit to whoever is currently on the active roster for convenience.

Mike Davis has been unimpressive for the Bears so far (to put it kindly) and you could say his 5’9″ and 217 pounds is undersized, but if he can pack a bit of a punch in his running, even if it’s only for a few yards, that’s all that matters. For other possibilities, Patterson might be also a good option here; to go with his insane speed, he is impressively built at 6’2″ and 238 lbs.

This post is already one big meme, but for even more memes, I’ll suggest this name as a B-back: Nick Kwiatkoski. A current depth linebacker, he’s pretty poor in pass coverage as he isn’t fast enough to cover or catch up to receivers in the slants, but he’s a physical run-stopper. With a Polish name that screams Chicago and a play style like that, imagine #44 in the backfield (wouldn’t be his first NFL dance on offense either, having scored a two-point conversion before). Other crazy considerations: Bradley Sowell?

We actually got really good personnel for an option offense. Mitch is the mobile and quick QB, Cohen could be an elite slot back taking tosses to the outside, Mike Davis could be the pounding fullback up the middle, and Monty could literally line up at any position you want in the backfield.

Wide receivers

The Bears have a talented set of WRs, with Allen Robinson basically being the entire offense. Being a run-heavy offense, you might think receivers won’t be doing much outside of blocking; you wouldn’t be too incorrect, but receivers do have a place in this system.

Paul Johnson once said about receivers, “I think what the offense does is it gives you a chance for a lot of one on one coverage, and allows you to create a lot of big plays. You know, would you rather have 35 or 40 catches for 1,000 yards or 90 catches for 600 yards?”

So separation and one-on-one coverage, with some blocking roles. Robinson, being a big receiver and one of the best in the business, just has to keep being him. Can’t say the same about Anthony Miller and company with them having down years (thanks in part to Trubisky’s own struggles), but if they can win their battles in passing situations, it all comes down to Mitch.

The base flexbone doesn’t use tight ends, and with how underwhelming the Bears’ TE corps has been, we’ll just slide them into WR and SB roles, I guess? J.P. Holtz has seen occasional action at fullback, after all.


In all seriousness, I’m obviously not advocating for the Bears to run the triple option, but it would be prudent if Nagy takes a look at the service academies for inspiration, especially Niumatalolo and Navy.

Last year, the Midshipmen lagged along to their worst record in the Coach Ken era (3–10) with horrible passing stats; while the service academies typically don’t throw, Navy had always had at least an efficient passing attack. Navy’s 2018 QBs in particular struggled with accuracy, not even reaching 80 yards per game or 43% completion. To solve this, Navy hired Hawaii’s Billy Ray Stutzmann as an offensive assistant, who installed elements of the run-and-shoot offense as a complement to the option; both systems co-exist well since you can run plays out of the same formations and depend on QB reads. Heck, both offenses rely on the play action to set up pass plays (the flexbone in particular having it as an especially key facet), which I already mentioned Trubisky succeeds in.

That decision has been working out for Navy so far. Sitting at 5–1, the passing attack has more than doubled in yardage, while QB Malcolm Perry has become my biased pick for the Heisman.

I’m not saying Nagy needs to start hiring guys from Navy or adopt the run-and-shoot, but there has to be changes made to get this anemic offense going. And while it might seem weird to turn to a triple option-based non-Power 5 military school, it doesn’t hurt to think outside the box. After all, that’s how this former arena football QB got his coaching start.