Just when you think the Chicago Bears’ 2021 season couldn’t possibly get any worse, it just did. Tuesday’s circus around coach Matt Nagy, and the report that he’ll coach the team’s Thanksgiving game against the Detroit Lions despite being notified of his termination, sunk this franchise to new lows. It’s gone from frustrating to embarrassing, and it isn’t over yet.
Nagy met with the media Tuesday afternoon and denied that he spoke with Bears ownership about his job status, but a report from the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs suggests Nagy did, in fact, meet with Bears brass shortly after that media session concluded. While we don’t know what was discussed, it couldn’t have been great. Nagy ended up canceling the day’s remaining team meetings, per Biggs. Not ideal, especially when considering the Bears have a game on Thursday.
The fact that Nagy is on shaky ground isn’t a surprise. The Bears have lost five straight games and at 3-7, there’s virtually no hope for a playoff berth. He’s been on the hot seat since the season kicked off, and the general expectation is that he’ll be fired at season’s end. Anything sooner than that would be a shock considering the Bears haven’t made an in-season coaching change in franchise history, one that spans more than 100 years. And that’s why the suggestion Nagy has already been informed of his fate is hard to believe.
What’s even more difficult to believe, however, is how the Bears are handling the entire situation. Take yesterday’s media sessions, for example. Rather than have Nagy as the first coach to address Chicago’s reporters, the Bears sent out special teams coordinator Chris Tabor as a sacrificial lamb. Even if Tabor was originally scheduled to be first, a competent public relations team would read the room; they’d understand what’s circulating on social media and across the digital space. Call an audible. Send Nagy out first. But much like this team has proven incapable of doing on the field, calling the right play just isn’t something the franchise does well.
Tabor did his best to dismiss the suggestion that Nagy’s been fired, which, to be honest, seems ludicrous. It’s so bizarre that you don’t want to believe an organization with as much history as the Bears would actually tell its head coach to stick around for an extra game—on Thanksgiving—just, because? Do the team a solid? Be a good guy? In the words of Cris Carter, “C’mon man!” First, it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the franchise to allow a terminated employee to make decisions that will impact the short- and long-term outlook for the franchise. Second, WHO DOES THAT!
And this is where it gets difficult for Chicago fans. It’s quite possible that the Bears are the team that does that. This is the same franchise that hired Marc Trestman over Bruce Arians. It’s the same franchise that OK’d a trade-up for Mitch Trubisky instead of sitting back and drafting Patrick Mahomes. It’s a team that once had its offensive coordinator, Aaron Kromer, say the Bears had buyer’s remorse after trading for Jay Cutler (who was the team’s starting quarterback at the time). It became a public relations disaster, much like we’re seeing unfold again at Halas Hall.
The proverbial buck has to stop with someone. Sometimes it’s the general manager, at other times it’s the head coach. But the Bears’ buck stops on a floor or two higher than that, namely chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips. They’re the consistent characters in this tale, one that spans coaches like Trestman, John Fox, and now Nagy. General managers like Jerry Angelo, Phil Emery, and Ryan Pace. Tenure after tenure, decision-maker after decision-maker, the Bears usually end up finding themselves in a mess that requires a house cleaning to remedy. Yet, the only jobs that never seem in question are the two most important in the franchise’s structure.
Let’s be honest: McCaskey isn’t going anywhere. But Phillips? A finance guy with no real football experience? Should he have any influence on who Chicago hires as a general manager or head coach? It’s certainly up for debate, and it could be the kind of critical change required for a brighter future.
It’s no secret that the Bears are going to fire Nagy. And with the firestorm created by Tuesday’s report, there’s a chance the century-long streak of not firing a coach in-season could come to an end. It almost has to at this point. Otherwise, the locker room will be lost (more than it probably already has been) and fans will continue to express their anti-Nagy feelings in public forums. If Chicago loses to the winless Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving day, there’s a good chance Nagy won’t make it to the weekend in Bears gear.
It’s a sad end to a story that once looked so promising. Nagy’s first year inspired so much hope. He brought Chicago an NFC North championship and a home playoff game. He looked like he was going to be another Mike Ditka or Lovie Smith; a guy who the fans could rally around and trust. He’s been an utter disaster since, and now it’s time to face the music.
Unfortunately for Nagy, he’s still employed by a team that, despite being a charter franchise, gets in its own way whenever it has to face or confront a difficult situation. Tuesday’s meltdown was a prime example of this, and with the future being as unclear as ever, it may not be the last time the Bears are the most embarrassing team in the league this season.