1st-and-10: Will no-shows send George McCaskey a message?
The “Fire Nagy” ire of Bears fans was replaced by apathy and resignation at Soldier Field on Sunday, an indifference that resonates more at Halas Hall, especially if it leads to the next step — empty seats.
Matt Nagy fatigue is one thing — that has been building since 2019. But “Fire Nagy” fatigue is fan disenchantment on another level.
The ire of Bears fans turning to apathy was obvious Sunday at Soldier Field, as half-hearted “Fire Nagy” chants never caught on and a feeling of resignation filled the air as the Bears lost to the Cardinals 33-22 to fall to 4-8.
In Dave Wannstedt’s second-to-last home game in 1998, someone hired a plane to fly a “Hey Wannstedt. Call Kevorkian” banner above Soldier Field. And that was at the end of a fourth consecutive playoff-less season and back-to-back records of 4-12. Nagy hasn’t even clinched his first losing season yet, and fans already have had enough of having enough. Yikes.
Be that as it may, fan indifference resonates more at Halas Hall than “Fire Nagy” chants, especially if it leads to the next step — empty seats. The Bears didn’t announce no-shows for the game Sunday, but there were plenty of them. And Bears fans who pay their hard-earned money for tickets have two more chances to express their unhappiness by not showing up — against the Vikings on Dec. 20 and the Giants on Jan. 2.
It’s an unscientific measurement, of course, but one worth watching. Because while a coaching change appears like a fait accompli at this point, Bears fans might want chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips to clean house and fire Nagy, general manager Ryan Pace and even themselves. Ten thousand no-shows send one message. A half-full Soldier Field sends another.
2. Reading the tea leaves at Halas Hall is like deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, but it seems less likely that the Bears will fire Pace — their refusal to divulge his contract status after last season still seems suspicious. And the Bears haven’t sunk to the level of dysfunction that seemed to force McCaskey’s hand when he fired GM Phil Emery after the 2014 season.
The timing also makes it more problematic for the Bears to fire Pace if they want take advantage of the NFL’s new rule that allows teams to interview head-coaching candidates in the last two weeks of the regular season. With less than three weeks before that window opens, the wheels already would have to be in place to hire a new GM. And the Bears just aren’t built to act that quickly — though stranger things have happened at Halas Hall.
3. Andy Dalton officially goes into the “miss” column for Pace after his four-interception performance against the Cardinals. Even given the degree of difficulty against a tough Arizona defense, less-than-optimum conditions and a couple of tough breaks, a veteran quarterback has to be better than that. Like Nick Foles last season, Dalton was worse with more practice in Nagy’s offense than he was in impromptu situations with no practice against the Ravens and Lions.
So Pace is 0-4-1 on quarterback evaluations so far — Mike Glennon (L), Mitch Trubisky (L), Foles (L), Justin Fields (Inc.) and Dalton (L).
4. Dalton’s first pass after a full week of practice was thrown behind wide receiver Jakeem Grant on a crossing route, deflected by Grant and intercepted by Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson.
It was in rainy conditions (Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray fumbled his first throw), and Dalton was throwing to a 5-7 receiver who is primarily a return specialist. Just another tough break for the Bears.
“That would have been a really, really tough catch,” wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “We always want to hold ourselves to a high standard. But I think when you’re moving with that speed, that would have been a heck of a catch. That was just unfortunate.”
That said, when Murray made a similarly errant throw in the second quarter, running back James Conner not only made a fabulous one-handed catch but turned it into a 23-yard touchdown when Xavier Crawford whiffed on the tackle. Some offenses got it, and some don’t.
5. Rookie offensive tackle Teven Jenkins was in for two special-teams plays against the Cardinals, but don’t expect to see him starting at left tackle if the Bears are eliminated from playoff contention. Not even line coach Juan Castillo thinks it would be a big benefit.
“He’s getting a lot of experience just in practice and watching Jason Peters, who’s probably going to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame guy,” Castillo said. “We have so many preseason games. We have so many OTAs. I don’t think it’s that important.”
6. Rookie right tackle Larry Borom is ranked 60th among NFL tackles by Pro Football Focus — with one sack allowed. But to the naked eye, Borom has been impressive for a rookie. Castillo said you can win a Super Bowl with Borom at right tackle — not based on how good he’ll be, but on how good he is now. He has played that well.
“Yes, because he’s big and athletic,” Castillo said. “So he can handle the bigger guys, and, all of a sudden, he can handle the speed guys because he’s athletic. I think right now he’s good enough for us to win.”
7. Red Flag Dept.: Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew’s 133.7 passer rating against the Jets on Sunday in place of Jalen Hurts is better than any Bears quarterback’s rating in the last three seasons. Minshew, who had thrown only two passes all season, completed his first 11 and was 20-for-25 for 242 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Minshew was a sixth-round pick by the Jaguars in 2019 and had a 91.2 passer rating as a rookie (21 touchdown passes, six interceptions) under coordinator John DeFilippo, who is the current Bears quarterbacks coach.
The Bears’ best quarterback rating this season is 93.2 against the Raiders. The league average is 91.3.
8. Bits & Pieces: The Bears gained 329 yards against the Cardinals but also gave back 99 yards in field position on interception returns for a net of 230 yards — 3.2 yards per play. . . . The Bears’ offense is eighth in the NFL in rushing but 30th in total offense — no other top-10 rushing team is lower than 19th in total offense. . . . The Bears have won four playoff games in the last 29 seasons. . . . Bears defensive line coach Chris Rumph’s son, Chargers linebacker Chris Rumph II, had his first NFL sack and three quarterback hits Sunday. “This guy really knows how to play the game,” coach Brandon Staley said. “We like coaching the guy.”
9. Josh McCown Ex-Bear of the Week: Washington kicker Brian Johnson — claimed off the Bears’ practice squad last Tuesday — kicked a 48-yard field goal with 37 seconds left to beat the Raiders 17-15.
Johnson, a rookie who was 8-for-8 on field goals with the Saints before being cut after missing two PATs in a 23-21 loss to the Titans in Week 10, is 9-for-9 on field goals this season.
10. Bear-ometer: 7-10 — at Packers (L); vs. Vikings (W); at Seahawks (L); vs. Giants (W); at Vikings (W).