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Bears painfully prolong Matt Nagy saga, leaving him in difficult position

It has been clear for at least a month that the Bears will fire Nagy. But having him finish this out is creating an uncomfortable situation for everyone involved.

Matt Nagy is 32-30 as head coach of the Bears.
Matt Nagy is 32-30 as head coach of the Bears.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Bears can do this the easy way or the hard way.

Actually, they found a third option: the most excruciating and unpleasant way imaginable.

That’s what chairman George McCaskey has chosen.

It could not be clearer that they’ll be firing coach Matt Nagy after this miserable season, which trudges on with a visit to the Seahawks on Sunday and for two more weeks after that. But they insist on putting him — and everyone else — through the needless ordeal of seeing this to the end as the lamest of lame ducks rather than relieve him of supervising what basically has become the 2022 pre-preseason.

Nagy seems to know very well that he’s the temporary caretaker of a future that he won’t be a part of. He essentially has fired himself a handful of times the last few weeks.

Heading into a 45-30 loss to the Packers that dropped him to 1-7 in the rivalry, he said, “We have not been good enough against this team in the 3½ years that I’ve been here.”

He showed the first sign of wearing down early in the loss to the Vikings on Monday night when he erupted at back judge Terrence Miles for a flag that negated his defense’s third-down stop. That seemed to lead to his players feeling like anything goes, and Nagy realized — too late, as always — that he was the one who opened the floodgates.

Before he could bottle it back up and implore everyone to “just be smart . . . myself included,” rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins sunk a drive with an unnecessary-roughness penalty for swinging at a defender after a play late in the third quarter.

The Bears ultimately stumbled to a 17-9 loss. It would’ve been 17-3 if not for Justin Fields’ desperate throw to Jesper Horsted for a touchdown as time expired.

Nagy called plays that night, resuming a role he has twice been compelled to abdicate because of poor results.

“Big picture: not enough points,” Nagy said, surely aware it was a self-incriminating comment by a coach who got the job because the Bears believed he’d be the NFL’s next brilliant offensive mind.

He was speaking specifically of the Vikings game when he said that, but it applies broadly to his tenure. At their best under Nagy, the Bears averaged 26.3 points in 2018, but it would’ve been only 22.4 if not for defensive touchdowns and turnovers that set the offense up in scoring range.

It has only plummeted since.

Nagy was frustrated Monday because his defense, despite being depleted by the coronavirus, obviously played well enough that the Bears should’ve won.

And that wasn’t a one-off. It has been the same conversation on repeat for Nagy.

Including the playoffs, the Bears have scored fewer than 20 points in 27 of his 64 games. He has lost seven games in which his defense held the opponent under 20 the last three seasons.

“It starts with me, and it ends with me,” Nagy said. “I accept complete responsibility for that, and I think that’s important to understand. You learn a lot through this process.”

That sounds like something you’d write in a resignation letter.

His fate has been sealed since mangling the Ravens game in Week 11, if not before that. Everyone can see it, even him.

He has been unable to defend his work because there is no defending it. And it has reached a stage where there’s no real purpose in continuing to ask him about it other than to beat him over the head with his failures. That’s pointless and annoying.

But the Bears seem content to let this continue.

They’ve never fired a coach in season, but normal teams do. If something is inevitable, there’s no sense in delaying it.

This isn’t even about the early window for interviewing currently employed candidates on other staffs because the Bears would need to be shockingly organized and prepared to take advantage of that. It’s not even clear who would be conducting those interviews if they’re firing general manager Ryan Pace, too.

The Bears would have to fire Nagy, fire Pace and announce a new chief decision-maker — either as GM or president — in one swoop for that to matter. Highly unlikely.

It’ll take them well into January to get their long-term plans together. In the meantime, though, they’d be merciful to Nagy by letting him go.