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Matt Nagy could learn firsthand the perils of losing to the Packers

Franchise history has shown over the last half-century that the fastest way to get fired as the Bears’ head coach is to get swept by the rival Packers.

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers
The Bears’ Matt Nagy coaches against the Packers last year.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Bears coach Matt Nagy knows the stakes Sunday night at Lambeau Field.

“We all know about the rivalry and what it means to our -organization and what it means in NFL history, this type of rivalry that we have in front of us,” Nagy said this week. “Now, when you look at where we are right now and losing these four games as we did heading into the bye, it gives us the opportunity to go against one of the best teams in the NFL with one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in this game. We know that, but that’s a challenge we have sitting in front of us.”

Nagy’s future might be at stake, too. History has proved over the last half-century that the fastest way to get fired as the Bears’ coach is to get swept by the rival Packers.

Since George Halas retired after the 1967 season, the Bears have had 10 coaches, not including Nagy. Seven were fired after being swept by the Packers in their final year.

No one has swept the Packers and been fired at the end of the season. Only two were canned after splitting the two-game series: Mike Ditka in 1992 and Abe Gibron in 1974.

Jack Pardee, who took Gibron’s place, swept the Packers in 1977 and left in the offseason of his own accord. Frustrated with the Bears’ training facilities, he became Washington’s coach.

The other seven coaches the Bears have fired since Halas’ retirement — Jim Dooley (fired in 1971), Neill Armstrong (1981), Dave Wannstedt (1998), Dick Jauron (2003), Lovie Smith (2012), Marc Trestman (2014) and John Fox (2017) — were swept by the Packers in their final year.

The Packers, of course, have been the better team most of those years. The Bears had three more regular-season wins than the Packers in the 1970s and 28 more in the 1980s. Coinciding with the arrival of Brett Favre, the Packers won 20 more regular-season games than the Bears in the 1990s, 14 more in the 2000s and 26 more between 2010-19.

Nagy’s problems have nothing to do with precedent. His Bears are .500 since the end of the 2018 season. Both the offense and quarterback — supposedly Nagy’s specialties — are getting worse by the week. The Bears haven’t won in almost six weeks.

On Sunday, Nagy can help himself — and general manager Ryan Pace — or become one of the many Bears coaches whose tenures have been shortened at the hands of their rivals. In December, he’ll have a chance to beat the Packers at home, too.

Nagy’s three closest predecessors couldn’t overcome their embarrassing losses to Green Bay.

In Trestman’s final year, the Packers outscored the Bears by 62 points. Fox lost to Packers starting quarterback Brett Hundley. And Smith lost his last six games against the Packers, including the NFC Championship Game.

Those losses were as memorable as they were significant. And they all reinforce what Bears coaches inherently know: To keep your job, you better beat your rival.

Lovie Smith (2012)

Sept. 13: Packers won 23-10 at Lambeau Field.

The Packers scored a touchdown on a fake field goal, but the game will be best remembered for Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throwing four interceptions, two to Tramon Williams. After the game, safety Charles Woodson told ESPN sideline reporter Rachel Nichols, whose network was broadcasting the Thursday night game, that it was the “same old Jay.”

“We don’t need luck,” he said. “We just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball.”

Dec. 16: Packers won 21-13 at Soldier Field.

Rodgers threw three touchdown passes — all to receiver James Jones — and the Packers clinched the NFC North title. The win was their sixth in a row against the Bears, who gained 67 yards in the second half.

“It’s not a rival,” Cutler said. “It’s a domination.”

Marc Trestman (2014)

Sept. 28: Packers won 38-17 at Soldier Field.

After famously telling fans of the 1-2 Packers to “r-e-l-a-x” during the week leading up to the Bears game, Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and posted a 151.2 passer rating. The Packers scored on their first six drives.

Nov. 9: Packers won 55-14 at Lambeau Field.

Trestman’s team had perhaps the most embarrassing performance in franchise history. After losing to the Patriots by four touchdowns, the Bears vowed to fix things during the bye week. They traveled to Green Bay in their first game after the break and promptly allowed Rodgers to tie an NFL record with six touchdown passes in the first half. The 42 points the Bears allowed by halftime were a franchise high. They lost five of their final seven games, and general manager Phil Emery and Trestman were fired.

John Fox (2017)

Sept. 28: Packers won 35-14 at Lambeau Field.

Mike Glennon made the last start of his Bears career. When a Cody Whitehair snap hit him in the knee and rolled to the Packers, Butterfinger sent the following Tweet mocking him: “Butter . . . knees?” That sparked a Twitter spat. The Bears’ account said to “Stick to candy,” and Butterfinger countered with “Stick to football . . . Oh wait.” It was the second-worst loss the Bears took that day.

Nov. 12: Packers won 23-16 at Soldier Field.

The low point of Fox’s Bears career — and that’s saying something — came when he challenged a second-quarter call that third-string running back Benny Cunningham stepped out of bounds before diving across the front right pylon. Fox thought it was a touchdown. Upon replay, though, Cunningham fumbled the ball onto the pylon, which gave the Packers the ball. Playing without an injured Rodgers, the Packers won by — you guessed it — a touchdown.