Bears need to fire Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace after Lions game, regardless of outcome
It’s time for the Bears to move on — and not because a coaching change will spark them to a winning streak. It doesn’t matter for the playoffs. It matters for dignity and standards.
There’s no more wait-and-see with coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. The Bears already have wasted enough time waiting, and there has been nothing to see.
They are overdue to fire them, and their failure to act decisively on something that was obviously necessary at least a year ago has produced another empty season of neither succeeding in the present nor building toward something compelling. Time keeps slipping away from the Bears, as it has for three decades.
Chairman George McCaskey needs to fire Nagy and Pace immediately after the game Thursday against the Lions, regardless of how the Bears do in a meaningless matchup against an 0-9-1 opponent.
The only reason to wait that long rather than do it now — after an embarrassing 16-13 loss Sunday to the Ravens rife with evidence of their missteps — is because it would cause a challenging disruption for the players on a short week. But Thursday night is the time to clean house with a 3-7 team that somehow keeps finding a new rock bottom.
The case against Pace has been so clear-cut for so long that there’s no need to spend much time laying it out. The thumbnail sketch is that the Bears have the eighth-worst record in his seven seasons at 45-61, he set the franchise back years with his misevaluation of Mitch Trubisky and he mismanaged the roster repeatedly.
He also hired Nagy. It would be a Houdini-level escape if Pace can talk McCaskey into firing Nagy but not him.
Back to Nagy. He talked for only 12 minutes Monday on a morning when there were hours of questions that demanded answers. Maybe he was being merciful by keeping it short because, as maddening as the on-field slop has been, his explanations exacerbate everything.
His convoluted excuse for sending out the kicking team after a touchdown had given the Bears a late 13-9 lead just inflames an already-raging fire. It was obvious he needed to go for two, which he did after burning a timeout when he realized the error.
It was reminiscent of when he clearly didn’t think to spot Eddy Pineiro’s game-winning field-goal try against the Chargers in 2019 on the right hash mark — his preference — and deflected that criticism by saying Pineiro should’ve made the kick anyway.
Or the numerous times when he unwisely kept throwing at the end of games despite having a lead, which cost him dearly when the Lions won last season at Soldier Field. Almost any other franchise would’ve fired him after that game.
There was a moment Monday that offered a peek into how Nagy views this ongoing disaster. Near the end of a rambling non-answer about how he planned to steer the Bears out of their five-game losing streak, he pointed out that they were so close to getting out of this rut if not for their late defensive collapses against the Steelers and Ravens.
Then, Nagy said, they’d be 5-5, and ‘‘that’s a big difference right now,’’ given the state of the NFC playoff race. That’s true, but it’s also irrelevant. Whichever team sneaks into the final playoff spot still will be mediocre, just like the Bears were as an 8-8 playoff team last season.
Only at Halas Hall would someone dare to hold up a 5-5 record as an accomplishment. But it’s hard to blame Nagy for thinking that way when 16-16 in the last two seasons, including 3-11 against playoff teams, was good enough to keep him employed.
He is 31-27 in four seasons, boosted by going 12-4 in his debut. Even then, in the best of times, his offense wasn’t good.
Defensive scores and takeaways that set up short fields boosted the Bears’ scoring average from 22.4 to 26.3 in 2018. They won three games in which they scored 16 or fewer points. Everyone remembers ‘‘the double-doink’’ as the season-ender, but don’t forget that the Bears scored only 15 points that night.
Nagy got this job by convincing the Bears he was an offensive mastermind and professor of quarterbacking. The team has scored the ninth-fewest points in the NFL, averaged the third-fewest yards per play and posted the eighth-lowest collective passer rating. He couldn’t fix Trubisky, collaborated on a huge mistake with Nick Foles and sure doesn’t seem compatible with Justin Fields.
When asked how he would defend his work this season, when the Bears are barely ahead of the Lions at 16.3 points per game, Nagy couldn’t.
‘‘The only thing that we can do is keep playing and keep coaching and keep doing everything we can to win,’’ he said. ‘‘That’s it.’’
That’s not a defense; it’s what you say when you know there is no defense.
The Bears have an unwritten principle of not firing a coach during the season, and the reason to break from that isn’t the wild hope that a coaching change will spark the team to a winning streak.
It doesn’t matter for the playoffs. It matters for dignity and standards. You can’t accept this level of incompetence and expect to be taken seriously.