Bears chairman George McCaskey stood in front of the team 2½ weeks ago and tried to stamp out a fire.
Despite its dubious origin — a false report that coach Matt Nagy already had been told of his firing — McCaskey felt obligated to tell players that what they had read on social media was false: Nagy wasn’t going to be fired the day after the game on Thanksgiving against the Lions.
It remains unclear, however, whether that guaranteed Nagy’s employment for the rest of the season. Perhaps the only place the fire might rekindle, strangely enough, is on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field.
The 4-8 Bears are 12½-point underdogs Sunday at the Packers. What happens if they lose by 30?
Given the McCaskeys’ emphasis on the Bears’ rivalry against the Packers, the fastest — and maybe only — way for Nagy to hasten his departure is for his team to get embarrassed on ‘‘Sunday Night Football.’’ If that happened, would McCaskey be moved to announce he’s firing his coach Monday? Would he be willing to entrust general manager Ryan Pace to search for a new one? If not, then what’s the point? Each question seemingly leads to three more.
History says Nagy’s job is safe through the end of the season, given that the Bears never have fired a coach in the middle of one. But a new NFL rule that allows teams to interview head-coaching candidates during the final two weeks of the regular season might provide at least some motivation for the Bears to break from tradition.
Otherwise, it’s hard to see the Bears firing Nagy the morning after the game Dec. 20 against the Vikings or after the game Dec. 26 against the Seahawks. By then, they would have only two games left in a lost season.
Questions about Nagy’s job status are nothing new; he has faced them all season with grace. On Friday, he wasn’t ready to put any added importance on the game against the Packers — ‘‘You can’t make it personal; I don’t,’’ he said — when he was asked whether he felt as though he was an underdog.
‘‘You know that, for me, I just believe in making sure that we all just focus on the moment right now,’’ he said. ‘‘If you worry about the future, what could happen or anything like that, it takes away.’’
The last three Bears coaches suffered their own indignities at Lambeau Field the season they were fired. None was greater than Marc Trestman’s 55-14 loss to the Packers on Nov. 9, 2014. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers tied an NFL record with six passing touchdowns in the first half, and six of the Bears’ 13 possessions totaled two yards or fewer.
Most damning was the fact the ‘‘Sunday Night Football’’ blowout came after a bye week — and, before that, a 51-23 loss to the Patriots that Trestman said prompted soul-searching. The loss at Lambeau sealed Trestman’s fate, but he wasn’t fired until after the season.
Neither was John Fox, who in Week 4 of his final season with the Bears in 2017 watched quarterback Mike Glennon commit three turnovers, including a snap that hit his knee and was recovered by the Packers. That prompted the Butterfinger — yes, the candy bar — Twitter account to troll the Bears by writing: ‘‘Butter . . . knees?’’ When a Bears employee, writing for the team’s account, told Butterfinger to ‘‘stick to candy,’’ it replied: ‘‘Stick to football . . . Oh wait.’’
Nor was Lovie Smith, who in Week 2 of his last season at the helm in 2012 watched the Bears give up a 27-yard touchdown on a fake field goal on fourth-and-26. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw four interceptions, two to Tramon Williams.
‘‘It’s the same old Jay,’’ Packers defensive back Charles Woodson told ESPN. ‘‘We just need to be in position. Jay will throw us the ball.’’
It was a fitting epitaph.
If the Packers somehow can trump Rodgers’ memorable ‘‘I own you’’ quote from their victory against the Bears in October, Nagy might have his Sunday, too.