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Matt Nagy refutes firing — but the flare-ups are only starting

The kindling sat, drying, waiting to combust. Tuesday morning, ignition.

Matt Nagy will need two negative tests 24 hours apart to be able to return to Halas Hall and/or coach Sunday against the 49ers.
Bears coach Matt Nagy is in his fourth season.
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

For Bears fans, the team’s issues this year piled up like kindling, ready to go up with the slightest spark.

First, coach Matt Nagy refused to hold a quarterback competition. Once Andy Dalton’s knee injury forced him out, Nagy wouldn’t call rookie Justin Fields the full-time starter until it was the most obvious thing in the world. Nagy was the offensive play-caller, and then, after the disaster in Cleveland in Week 3, he wasn’t.

Then came the losing streak: to the rival Packers, to the Buccaneers by five touchdowns, to the 49ers at home. The Bears’ loss to the Steelers on “Monday Night Football” was sealed by their own taunting penalty. Their loss Sunday came against a Ravens quarterback making his first career start. Both of those last two defeats were decided in the game’s final seconds.

The kindling sat, drying, waiting to combust. On Tuesday morning, ignition: a report by Patch.com that Thanksgiving would mark Nagy’s last game as Bears coach. The Bears wouldn’t shoot the report down, on the record or otherwise. Nagy said he had been told no such thing — and that he hadn’t even met with his bosses this week — as he sat in a news conference, cruelly made to fight the wildfire alone.

Even if the Bears beat the Lions on Thursday, these flare-ups aren’t going away.

If Nagy has seven games left, or one, or anywhere in between, he should be prepared to deal with these fires as long as he has a seat at the podium.

They have popped up elsewhere:

† On Monday, Jordan Schultz, who hosts a basketball podcast with Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson, tweeted that a source told him an “overwhelming number of Bears’ players want Matt Nagy gone.” Robinson was furious Tuesday, saying he wasn’t Schultz’s source and that he was put “in a vulnerable situation” by his affiliation with Schultz and talked to him about the matter.

Robinson said he speaks for himself on social media.

“Anything that I wanted to get across has come from me, and it’ll always be that way,” he said. “It’ll never change. Anything I want to get accomplished, I want to say, I’m a grown-ass man. I can get stuff done myself.”

† On Tuesday morning, Neil Lesinski, principal of suburban Cary-Grove High School, sent a letter to parents apologizing for the school’s student section chanting “Fire Nagy!” during Saturday’s playoff game against Lake Forest. Nagy’s son, Brayden, is a junior on the Lake Forest team.

The chant isn’t unique — Bears fans did it Sunday and, amazingly, Bulls fans did it during their blowout loss to the Pacers on Monday — but at a high school game?

Nagy said he didn’t hear the chant — “I was there to be a dad; it was a pretty cool time,” he said — and praised Cary-Grove players who spoke to him afterward, saying they were polite when they asked him to pose for pictures.

† With Bears brass unwilling to talk, Nagy’s coordinators and three of his most respected players — Dalton, Robinson and safety Tashaun Gipson — were left to answer questions about his future. During a short week, they would have rather focused on the Lions.

“I know what losing feels like,” said Gipson, who had three coaches in his first four seasons as a member of the Browns. “I know what a losing locker room is like. This is not that. I know our record indicates that a lot of guys may be willing to check out, but that’s not the energy, that’s not the atmosphere, that I sense in here.”

Staying insulated is all but impossible in a time of social media. Nagy knows that. He often talks about the power of Twitter and Instagram in his players’ worlds.

“You’re going to see some things even though you’re not trying to,” Dalton said. “But maybe don’t click on things that you shouldn’t click on.”

If only it were that simple.