So, What Exactly IS Matt Nagy’s Offense?

Image by Zachary Rosenbaum –

So, what exactly is Matt Nagy’s offense? In a word. Complicated. As a system. West Coast. Nagy as an alleged offensive mastermind, disappointing. We’re not here to debate the chicken and egg scenario of who was sabotaging the Bears offense more. We need to look ahead to how Justin Fields and Matt Nagy can be a match for each other. But first, what in the heck are they trying to match? 

What do we know about Matt Nagy?

-He can design up some excellent plays, many of which have a deep shot designed into them. 

-He’s a West Coast guy, descended from Andy Reid in Kansas City, who came from Mike Holmgren with the Packers in the 90’s, the latter of whom was the 49ers OC in the late 1980’s under Bill Walsh. You get the point.  

-He has from what I can tell a good hold on the locker room, and has solid leadership qualities. 

-There is just enough anecdotal and film evidence out there to say he is NOT a good play caller. So far. 


Here is what I want to know more of: How much leeway does Nagy give his assistants both during game planning and in headsets on game day? Is he total autocrat with ego in the way, or does he take input from the two former offensive coordinators on his staff? I’m not in those meetings or on those headsets, but I would love to know the chain of command, because dangit, it seems more like the former than the latter from on top of my soapbox. 😉

The Systems

Most plays and concepts are the same but how they are relayed and communicated differs, but there are three main types of systems. Air Coryell, Erhardt-Perkins, and the West Coast. 

Matt Nagy’s offense (West Coast) has taken on a lot of iterations, but at its base it is a very precise and meticulous form of offense that requires a ton of repetition and attention to detail. There is more ball control, and you won’t see it tilt to far on either end of the spectrum when it comes to run pass.  As well, shifts and motions, are a lot more common, which hopefully will get the defense to declare what they are doing. 

The other deal with the West Coast are the gigantic play calls as seen below: 

C:\Users\Home\Desktop\Walsh Layers.png

The West Coast likes to tell each player what they are doing, however you do what the call says, and you have to stick to it. In this case the goal is to get the X receiver to clear out, so the “E” can catch a drag in the flat. Hopefully, that drag sucks the linebackers to it, giving a clear window for the dig route where the number “2” is. 

What if though, you get a mismatch on someone, or the cornerback is cheating, or linebacker is slow? In theory, you could TAG a player, and make them the primary receiver. In Erhardt Perkins, and even Air Coryell, you can do this. However, as Bears Tight Ends Coach Clancy Barone mentioned last year in the Chicago Sun Times, that isn’t the case in the West Coast. 

“In the pass game, we can’t really predict where the ball is going to go,” Barone said,  “We don’t have ‘him’ routes where you just throw the ball to him. A lot of it depends on the coverages and the protection and things like that.”

I’m going to use the word “Tag” a bunch from here on out. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to simplicity is the Erhardt Perkins system named after these Patriots coaches from the 1970’s.  (Yes, Ehrhardt Perkins is still used by Bill Bellichick.) This system uses concepts, like “Levels”, or “Smash”, or “Hitch”. It’s much easier for high school and College to install and implement, and makes it easier on the skill players as well. Check out this “Levels” concept, which looks eerily similar to the Bill Walsh one above, except the dig is coming from the other side. That’s it. Let’s call this “Chicago” 

C:\Users\Home\Desktop\Cuse Y.png

Now, hold on. Bear with me. What if…. now hear me out…. We “tagged” the Z, and made them the first option, and the Y the third option with the “3” next to it, and called it “Chicago Z”? Yep. They literally just switched jobs. That’s it. You can put your brain back inside your skull now. 

C:\Users\Home\Desktop\Cuse Z.png

Just one more, I promise. 

Air Coryell was a big deal in the late 70’s and 80’s when everything was smash mouth, and the Chargers decided to chuck the ball everywhere. Some modern adherents of the Air Coryell are the 90’s Cowboys and the 2000’s Greatest Show on Turf Rams. The “Air Raid” is a relative of the “Air Coryell” offense and used primarily Started with Mike Leach at Texas Tech in the 2000’s, his former QB Kliff Kingsbury is trying to bring it to the NFL with the Cardinals. 

The point is, look at the top label. It says “Tags” and then there are 5 options, one for each player. So in theory, you can make each guy the primary receiver. In the picture below with the pink circles, the Y is the primary receiver, but the description shows which guys you can “tag” 

C:\Users\Home\Desktop\Mesh Tags.png
C:\Users\Home\Desktop\Air Raid Deep Cross.jpg

So How does this help Justin Fields? 

I will simply say my school does not use Matt Nagy’s offense (West Coast) in any form or fashion. When run like a well-oiled machine, it is tough to stop, but sometimes it takes years to master, and I’m not in the NFL. Not everyone is the 1980’s 49ers with Joe Montana, running everything tediously until it’s ingrained. Why is Andy Reid blowing up scoreboards in Kansas City then you ask? Well, he’s been running his system since the 90’s, and he has nuclear weapons at certain positions. It helps. 

Concepts and tags are easier for high school kids to learn, and assuredly college guys. I think. The whole thesis is that the West Coast is stringent, and doesn’t allow for movement or adaptation. Will Nagy stay with his beloved system and have 300 different plays that would be difficult to rep with limited practice time, or have a few concepts with dozens of tags? It might be a steeper learning curve for Fields, but next week we will look at Ohio State film and see what could crossover to Matt Nagy’s offense. 

You may also like...

%d bloggers like this: