Whatever happened to ‘collaboration’? Matt Nagy helped sink Bears, but he wasn’t alone
Nagy won’t make excuses and hasn’t taken so much as a subtle shot at GM Ryan Pace’s roster construction, but this disaster was absolutely a joint venture. That’s why the Bears can’t separate their fates at the end of the season.
Coach Matt Nagy is certainly to blame for the Bears’ plunge since 2018 and specifically for the sickening depths they’ve dropped to this season, but it’s not 100% his fault.
Nagy has been asked repeatedly in the last few months about what specifically has gone wrong or what has been missing amid the decline, and he has filibustered every time. The most recent inquiry came Monday — after the Bears fell to 4-10 because of another weak offensive performance — and Nagy said he would have time to sort all that out after the season.
Tons of time, really.
Nagy absolutely should’ve done better, and his firing will be more than justified. And once the Bears dismiss him, he almost certainly won’t be sticking around to give the media a debriefing on the debacle. Even if he did, he probably would take full responsibility.
But if he was willing to really get into it, he probably would remind everyone — as the Bears have said constantly — that this was a collaboration of errors. General manager Ryan Pace’s fingerprints are all over this disaster, too.
It starts with the quarterbacks, where Pace and Nagy have been wrong at almost every turn.
They both misjudged Mitch Trubisky’s ability, Pace by bypassing greater talents to draft him No. 2 overall and Nagy by mistakenly thinking the Bears had a franchise quarterback in place when he took the job.
Their next joint venture was almost as bad. After finally accepting that Trubisky wasn’t the guy, they teamed up to trade a fourth-round draft pick for Nick Foles and committed to a three-year contract for him.
It didn’t take long to see that Nagy and Foles had trouble getting on the same page.
‘‘I don’t know what that means by ‘not on the same page,’ ’’ Nagy said. ‘‘Nick’s been great this whole time.’’
Here’s a quick refresher for anyone else feeling similarly forgetful:
• Nagy got upset with Foles about multiple delay-of-game penalties last season, including one coming out of a timeout and another that prompted him to rip Foles in the postgame news conference for taking too long to read plays off his wristband.
• Foles told the ‘‘Monday Night Football’’ broadcast crew that Nagy didn’t realize some plays were doomed from the moment he called them. Nagy later benched Foles in favor of going back to Trubisky.
• In his lone media appearance this season, Foles in August basically begged the Colts to trade for him because coach Frank Reich ‘‘understands me as a player; he understands me as a person.’’
And that was Nagy’s and Pace’s solution to the biggest problem on the roster.
From there, they pivoted to Andy Dalton and Justin Fields. Nagy was given the task of grooming Fields in the best interest of the Bears’ future but knew he needed to win now to save his job and trusted Dalton. That played out badly — to no one’s surprise.
Nagy and Pace haven’t had many good answers for the other deficiencies that have sunk the Bears, either.
The offensive line has been an ongoing concern, some of the offensive skill players (such as Anthony Miller) have been (or were) problematic and the defense steadily has slid to the point where no one trusts it anymore.
Those failures are as much on Pace as anyone. That’s why chairman George McCaskey will have no credible explanation for separating the fates of Nagy and Pace. One of the reasons he gave for retaining them in January was ‘‘how well they collaborate.’’
As Nagy oddly, yet profoundly, described the offense’s futility in mid-November: ‘‘It’s no one’s fault other than everybody’s.’’ That applies broadly here. Nagy has done a dreadful job with his part of the project, but there’s much more to it.