When the nation tunes in Sunday night (7:20 p.m., NBC) to the Bears-Rams matchup at Soldier Field, no doubt they’ll get the notion instead of a football game they're about to watch a chess match, or a battle of wizards like Harry Potter against Voldemort.
Or maybe it's just two super computers doing battle against each other.
Bears coach Matt Nagy and Rams coach Sean McVay are being depicted this way in national media: Two young offensive minds taking the NFL by storm.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Nagy said about McVay. “He really is a great motivator. He’s a teacher. And then he’s creative in what he does, yet he’s simple. Guys can play fast. I just think he’s a really good coach.”
The Rams are second on offense, fourth at both rushing and passing, and tied for second in scoring with the Saints behind the Chiefs. Running back Todd Gurley (1,175 yardsd) leads the NFL in rushing and Quarterback Jared Goff is fifth in passer rating (109.9).
It’s a well-balanced, scoring machine with the latest football genius serving as the brains.
Nagy has followed McVay since the two were in the NFC East as assistants earlier this decade, McVay with Washington and Nagy in Philadelphia.
“The nice thing with both of us is I feel like we’ve been tutored and mentored by really good people and coaches that were in the game for a while,” Nagy said. “I have a ton of respect for Sean. The other thing that I think from others that have either coached with him or know him well or better than me is I think he does a great job connecting and he’s a really good teacher.
“So that’s a big part of this deal right here is you’ve got to be able to reach your guys and he does that. Now schematically, in a game, you see it. The numbers speak for themselves. He has a quarterback, he’s got players. He said it yesterday: Players are what make the plays but he also does a great job of manipulating everything and making it work.”
It’s an efficient and high-powered Rams offense, but not overly complicated.
"Well you know what personnel you're getting,” Nagy said. “It's that Sean does a great job of matching things up, is (trying) to keep it simple.
“So he does multiple things for multiple formations. And when you do that, any time things come in sets of three its hard, and he does that in a lot of his formations."
Nagy uses numerous formations and plays out of them, as well, but admits he just hasn’t had the time to get the offense into a higher gear like the Rams are in after just 12 games, and only 10 games with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears rank 20th in yards gained.
“I’m not where I was football relationship wise with Mitch right now because I haven’t had the time with him that I was in Year 5 with Alex Smith in Kansas City). It takes time,” Nagy said. “When you get to that point, that’s when the well-oiled machine starts rolling.
“That’s what our ultimate goal is, to get there, but there’s some choppiness on the way.”
What Nagy does have working on his side in this battle of strategic brains is an old wizard, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Or as Khalil Mack called him a few weeks ago, an “evil genius.”
Then again, the Rams don't exactly have a dearth of ingenuity when it comes to the defensive headsets, considering Wade Phillips is their defensive coordiantor.
Last week’s Bears second-half problems against the run haven’t shaken Nagy's confidence in Fangio.
“I think that he’s kind of shown what he could do not only in this year but in years past,” Nagy said. “He’s seen so many different offenses, he’s a compete student of the game from a coach’s perspective. He’s really smart, he understands, he’s seen. His library is huge, much bigger than mine.
“He’s seen it all and I think that’s a huge advantage when you have that, it’s a good thing.”
A few weeks ago Fangio chuckled and made a joke about the high-scoring Chiefs-Rams game being a sign of things to come all over the NFL. He’s seen too many landmark games and joked that he thought that’s what they called the Giants-Colts championship of 1958.
"I mean, I’ve never bought into, you know," Fangio said. "There were a couple of questions in here a couple weeks ago after the 54-51 game, is this the new way of the NFL? You guys heard my answers. That was just the talk of the week."
Still, realizes the statement his team could make by shutting down the Rams, much like the Cowboys did after shutting down the Saints.
“We’d like to make that statement every week,” Fangio said. “Knowing the assignment this week is tougher than usual, but that can happen any week in the league.
“We accept the challenge and know it will be hard, and know they will make some plays and hopefully we’ll make a few of ours and come out on top."
Nagy can use the help, in his battle with the super genius.