On a losing streak, Bears coach Matt Nagy can’t afford one more
The McCaskeys have never fired a coach midseason, and don’t figure to do so this year. But if Matt Nagy wants to return next year, he needs to start stating his case Sunday.
Eight years ago next month, Phil Emery, then the Bears’ general manager, flew to Atlanta to interview offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell before the Seahawks’ playoff game against the Falcons.
Looking for coach Lovie Smith’s replacement, Emery then whittled his list of candidates from 13 to three: Marc Trestman, who eventually got the job; Bruce Arians, the reigning NFL Coach of the Year after filling in for the Colts during Chuck Pagano’s cancer treatments, and Bevell.
Bevell flew to Chicago for his finalist interview with chairman George McCaskey, team president Ted Phillips and Emery.
“Of all the interviews I did, it was the most thorough. It was the most intense,” Bevell said this week. “I mean, it was down to the minute of an itinerary. All the people were great that I was able to come into contact with; some of them have obviously changed since I was there. But it was a really thorough and well-done interview.”
On Sunday, Bevell could have an influence on whether McCaskey — and maybe Phillips, depending on whether the Bears decide to reassign him — dust off their interview itineraries. He’ll be on the opposite sideline at Soldier Field, making his debut as the Lions’ interim head coach after the team fired Matt Patricia last week.
The McCaskeys have never fired a coach midseason and don’t figure to do so this year. But if Matt Nagy wants to return next year, he needs to start making his case Sunday. His offense needs to finally show progress, and his defense must return to form if the Bears are to snap a five-game skid and make a playoff push over the final month.
General manager Ryan Pace’s situation is even more perilous. Three of the next five teams the Bears play — including the Lions — are so bad they’ve already fired their GMs during the season. What does it say if the Bears lose to them?
If McCaskey elects to make a change, he might examine the Bears’ corporate structure and whether Phillips, who has a business background, should be the person to whom the next GM reports.
The last time McCaskey spoke publicly, in September before the opener, he said he wanted to see improvement in 2020.
“Two years ago, we made a great run [but] fell short,” he said then. “Last year, we regressed. So we need to find out which team it is. Is it the team that took the NFL by storm two years ago, or is it the team that fell back last year?”
The Bears are the latter. They’ll take the field Sunday having not won a game in 49 days. Losing to the Lions — against whom Nagy is undefeated — would snuff even the faintest hope of rallying during the final month.
One sideline has nothing to lose Sunday. The other has everything to lose. That puts the Bears in a dangerous spot. The two other NFL teams that fired their coaches this season won their next game. The Texans — next week’s opponent — and Falcons are a combined 8-5 since naming interims to replace winless coaches.
Nagy is 29th in EdjSports.com’s head coach rankings, based on analytics and in-game strategy. He said the Bears won’t tense up Sunday, knowing what’s at stake.
“It stinks. It’s not fun,” he said. “We’re not searching, per se. Our guys are actually pulling together, and our guys are rallying around each other. . . . And I appreciate that from them. They know how much I respect them. They know how much I love them as people and players, and we have each other’s back. And I think that’s really, really important in times like this, to know that we’re here for one another.”