Matt Nagy: ‘Offensively, we aren’t doing good enough’
The Bears’ head coach will wait until the end of the season to assess what went wrong, but he is buoyed by his players’ fighting spirit in tough times: “From me to them, I appreciate that.”
Less than 24 hours after the Bears were officially eliminated from playoff contention with a 17-9 loss to the Vikings that dropped them to 4-10, coach Matt Nagy wasn’t ready to assess what went wrong this season.
“I’ll be able to do that at the end of the year and reflect back on things that you would do the same or differently,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘That’s your job as a head coach.
“Every year, I always do that. Offensively, we aren’t doing good enough, and I get that. But that’s the part that keeps you going. You learn from that stuff. You go through experiences and figure out why that happened and how you can improve and use that for yourself and your team.”
A spirited defensive effort with the entire starting secondary on the reserve/COVID-19 list and inexperienced or unproven backups replacing them was valiant but not enough. Two years ago, a similarly inspiring next-man-up performance against the Vikings — with defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and linebacker Roquan Smith out and quarterback Chase Daniel capably replacing an injured Mitch Trubisky in the first quarter — sparked a 16-6 victory at Soldier Field.
At that point, the Bears were 3-1 in the 2019 season and 15-5 in Nagy’s first 20 games. A week later, the Bears crapped out against the Raiders in London, and their fortunes have plummeted — they’re 17-25 since that big win against the Vikings, plus an uninspiring playoff loss to the Saints last season.
With a touch of irony, Nagy referred to the rematch with the Raiders this season — a 20-9 victory at Allegiant Stadium — as a rare highlight this season.
“I can’t say right now a specific game,” Nagy said when asked what he laments most about the Bears’ downturn this season. “I remember the highs. I think back to that Vegas game . . . when we played three phases of good football and what that felt like in that locker room.”
Through all the difficulties, Nagy has been loath to make excuses — usually rejecting any that have been offered to him. But he acknowledged Monday that the challenges of a second coronavirus season have complicated matters.
“I definitely didn’t think it would be more unique than last year, but it is,” Nagy said. “You kind of go into it thinking, ‘OK, you get the vaccination, and now you’re going to be good to go as a team, and there’s less distractions.’ And there’s been more that every team is dealing with.
“I thought last year was really different . . . going through COVID, with no fans in the stands . . . teaching and installing plays with people that you can only see their eyes because they’re wearing masks and hats — that’s difficult.
“So you come into this year, and it ends up having its own unique parts to it. But it’s different right now. And there are a lot of things that everyone is working through in life. So you’ve got to be able to juggle all of that, handle it the right way and keep fighting.”
Nagy, true to his resilient nature, will keep fighting through the last three games of the season. But at 4-10, there isn’t much left for him to accomplish. Even the most obvious benefit of playing out the string — young players such as quarterback Justin Fields and left tackle Teven Jenkins getting experience as a foundation for 2022 — isn’t likely to benefit him.
But Nagy isn’t about to dwell on the negative. He never has.
“In the end, when you’re losing like this, the one thing you want to continue to do is fight to win, but also see other guys fighting — and they are,” Nagy said. “From me to them, I appreciate that.”