GREEN BAY, Wis. — As losses accumulate and the Bears drift further from being a contender, the thrill of coach Matt Nagy’s debut season fades into forgetfulness. The team has plunged since then, plodding along with one of the NFL’s worst offenses and minimal cause for optimism.
Their latest humiliation came in the most painful way possible: A thoroughly devastating and decisive 41-25 defeat by the Packers at Lambeau Field. It’s their fifth consecutive loss, and they’ll go into December sitting outside the playoff field for the second season in a row.
The Packers have been snuffing out Bears coaches for years now, and Nagy must wonder if he’s next after this one. He’ll certainly get the rest of the season, but the case is stacking up against him lasting beyond that. A game like this should make him very concerned about his job.
“No, I’m not,” he said.
A lot of people are, though.
When asked to defend where the Bears are right now, Nagy went back to a well-worn soliloquy about sticking together. He’s right to think that way, but it doesn’t change anything about how far the Bears have fallen.
“We understand where we’re at, and when you have games like this, you’ve gotta soul search,” he said. “You’ve gotta be able to stop the bleeding. There’s a couple directions you can go.
“But my job as a leader is to make sure that they understand that. Obviously the last five weeks have been extremely difficult. It’s not fun. We all want to win. But the one reason why I’m here is to fight and to lead, and that’s what I think is most important during these times. When you go through these times, how do you respond? I think that’s the test of true character.”
This felt like the most desperate game of Nagy’s time with the Bears as he tried to fight off the longest losing streak of his career and keep them above .500. The Bears actually would’ve overtaken the Cardinals for the seventh playoff spot with a win.
He went back to Mitch Trubisky, his original choice as starting quarterback this season, and the offensive came to life with a 57-yard run by David Montgomery on its first possession.
For a fleeting moment, the Bears were an exciting offense — the very thing the organization hired Nagy to create. They quickly spiraled into the same bad habits — no run game, mindless penalties, disastrous turnovers by Trubisky — and the game was out of reach late in the second quarter with the Packers ahead 27-3.
They ran it to 41-10 by the end of the third, and that was it. Anything the Bears did after that was of no consequence. They get no award for technically making it a two-score game putting up their third-highest point total of the season. By the way, the league average this season is 25 points per team per game.
“They got after us the entire game, from the first quarter to the very end,” Nagy said. “That’s basically where we’re at right now.”
The only good thing about Sunday was that it was the last time America had to sit through a Bears game on a national broadcast this season.
Nagy’s offense, with offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling plays for the second game, fell flat, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. It was a complete meltdown for the Bears as their defense, which had been the only thing keeping them afloat, withered against Aaron Rodgers. The Packers scored on their first three full possessions and added another touchdown when Trubisky fumbled at his own 11-yard line.
If Nagy doesn’t have the safety net of an elite defense, he’s got no shot.
Over the last two seasons, cumulatively, the Bears had the second-fewest points and total yardage in the NFL going into Sunday. They’ve averaged the third-fewest yards per carry and put up the sixth-worst passer rating. Only two teams have been worse on third downs.
Nagy has great leadership qualities, but how does any offensive guru keep his job with those numbers?
The number in Nagy’s favor has always been his record, which has gotten considerably dimmer since going 12-4 and winning the NFC North in 2018. The thumping by the Packers dropped him to 25-18.
That includes a 5-0 mark against the Lions team that can’t beat anybody, plus seven wins when his team scored fewer than 20 points. Marc Trestman would’ve won if he’d been supplied this defense.
There’s been a lot more Club Flub than Club Dub lately. It takes a minute to even remember the last time the Bears won a game. It was their most lopsided victory of the season, an error-riddled 23-16 escape against the Panthers 42 days ago.
This mess isn’t entirely Nagy’s fault as he works with a completely mismanaged roster from general manager Ryan Pace. He was holding his breath hoping this would be just a Nagy column.
He’s got his coach trying to rebuild an engine with spare parts from a bicycle.
There’s no offensive line and no quarterback. And, worst of all, no plan to fix it. Nick Foles is under contract for two more seasons, salary-cap concerns will prevent them from fully overhauling the o-line and they’ll be light on playmakers if wide receiver Allen Robinson walks in free agency.
Pace bears more of the blame than Nagy. He did exceptional work crafting one of the NFL’s best defenses, but totally undercut that with his poor judgment on offense. There’s no way the Bears can rationalize letting him try to rebuild the offense again, and firing Pace likely means the end for Nagy as well.
Pace has had it coming ever since he whiffed on Trubisky in the draft and allowed Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes to land elsewhere.
Remember when the Bears went 8-8 last season and the whole city was furious about it? That was their second-best record of Pace’s six-year span as general manager.
During his tenure, the Bears are 39-52 — worse than the Dolphins and Raiders; barely ahead of Washington and the Lions.
That kind of mess requires a deep cleaning, and it’ll be difficult for Nagy to avoid getting swept out.