George McCaskey, Bears face tough call on Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy
The Bears are spinning their wheels after another 8-8 season. But McCaskey and Ted Phillips might not see this as the disaster that many fans do. They feel your pain, but not necessarily your anger.
It was business as usual at Halas Hall the day after the Bears’ season ended with a 21-9 loss to the Saints in a wild-card playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Coach Matt Nagy addressed the entire team, accentuating the team’s resilience through the coronavirus-ravaged season and imploring players to learn from the 8-8 season and playoff loss. Four players talked to the media via Zoom meetings. And general manager Ryan Pace and Nagy presumably moved on to preparing for the 2021 season.
Pace and Nagy are expected to meet with the media later this week — and likely in their current roles. Nothing that happens at Halas Hall would surprise anybody, but the housecleaning that seemed possible, if not apparent, only five weeks ago after back-to-back losses to the Packers and Lions did not ensue Monday.
And it probably won’t. If the Bears were going to make a coaching change, Monday was the day to do it. Previous coaches John Fox, Marc Trestman, Lovie Smith and Dave Wannstedt were fired the Monday after the last game of the season.
The week still has to play out. For what it’s worth, general manager Phil Emery was fired with Trestman the day after the 2014 season ended. But Jerry Angelo’s surprise firing as GM in 2012 came on the Tuesday after the 2011 season. Still, the Bears appear likely to head into the 2021 season with Pace and Nagy in place.
If that’s the case, it wouldn’t be a big surprise despite fan discontent.
After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, the Bears sure look like they’re spinning their wheels after Pace’s sixth season and Nagy’s third. But Bears chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips might not see this as the disaster that many fans do. They feel your pain, but not necessarily your anger.
Right or wrong, McCaskey and Phillips have much more ammunition to rationalize maintaining the status quo with Pace and Nagy than they did when Emery and Trestman were fired in ’14. The Bears have been in the playoffs two of the last three seasons. They won three of their last four regular-season games — albeit against losing teams. Their offense “established an identity” in the last six games of the season, scoring 30 or more points in four consecutive games — albeit against four of the worst defenses in the NFL.
And perhaps most of all in the eyes of McCaskey and Phillips, the Bears under Nagy did not implode during the worst of times in a difficult season. The culture they cherish — and that fans are probably tired of hearing about — arguably made the difference in reaching the postseason.
The Cardinals faded in the last two games of the season to open the door for the Bears to back in because, critics contend, Kliff Kingsbury isn’t the culture-builder Nagy is.
McCaskey and Phillips also value the working relationship Pace has with Nagy — a huge difference between the fractured GM/coach relationship that made firing Emery and Trestman necessary.
Cleaning house this time might be an easy call for frustrated Bears fans. They see a general manager who has had one winning season in six years and is 0-for-3 in evaluating quarterbacks, and they see a coach hired to develop an offense and a quarterback whose offense is 26th in yards and 22nd in points in his third season with a quarterback (Mitch Trubisky) who ranks 20th in the NFL in passer rating in his fourth season.
But it’s a tougher call for McCaskey and Phillips, who are more personally vested in the Bears than anyone and more prone to look for a reason not to make a change than wield the ax like a frustrated season-ticket holder. The Bears might need to get worse before they can get better.