Matt Nagy has nothing left to lose as he closes out what will almost certainly be his final season as Bears coach.
That’s because he has already lost virtually everything.
The Bears’ inept offense, which only has looked viable in isolated stretches the last three seasons, has left them sitting at 4-9 with four games left. While the last month of the regular season will be a thrilling scramble for playoff spots for most teams — 26 of 32 were in the playoff field or within one game of it going into Sunday — there’s very little chance of excitement for the Bears.
So there’s minimal, if any, long-term significance in these four games for Nagy. But he must make the most of them for his own sake — he needs one more victory to ensure a winning record over his tenure — and for a television audience desperate to be entertained.
If he has anything left in his bag of tricks, and he’d surely be scraping the bottom of it by now, this would be a great time to break it out.
Somehow, the Bears have gotten more tiresome this season than when they went 8-8 last season and the season before.
The most “fun” they’ve been, as Nagy put it, was during one good quarter in a 45-30 loss to the Packers last week. Their nine losses have come by a staggering 127 points. The tantalizing potential of rookie quarterback Justin Fields is the only thing keeping anyone’s attention at this point.
But amid the dreariness and the looming likelihood of being fired, Nagy has an opportunity to make his remaining games compelling. They’re all winnable, starting Monday night against the Vikings. The Bears finish with the Seahawks, Giants and a rematch against the Vikings.
There’s no point, by the way, in the Bears checking out of these games in the interest of improving their draft position. Their 2022 first-round pick goes to the Giants as part of the trade for Fields.
Anyway, not only can Nagy show everyone a good time by igniting the offense, he gets another shot at showing he can be a creative and effective play-caller. That won’t have an impact on his standing with the Bears, but it would help his chances of getting even a coordinator job when he leaves. With offensive coordinator Bill Lazor sidelined by the coronavirus, it’s likely Nagy will resume calling plays.
That was supposedly a strength of his when the Bears pried him from the Chiefs in 2018, but that reputation has disintegrated. Under Nagy, the Bears have scored the eighth-fewest points in the NFL, managed the third-fewest yards per play, rushed for the sixth-fewest yards per carry, posted the seventh-worst passer rating and been fifth-worst on third downs.
Those numbers alone are damning enough to compel the Bears to fire him, but his odd handling of play-calling has been just as troubling. In addition to his ongoing allergy to running the ball and various confusing decisions, he gave the play-calling to Lazor last season, took it back in the offseason with no clear explanation, then knew he had to give it back to Lazor three games into this season.
Nothing Nagy does Monday or the rest of the season will negate or offset the failures that have accumulated, but he can at least reclaim a bit of respectability. And in doing so, he’d allow for a semi-happy ending to his run with the Bears. The joy of 2018 is irretrievably lost, but he has a chance to bring back a semblance of that excitement with the time he has left.