Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace know that ‘right now, you’ve gotta win’

One storm passed. Another one might await. But Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy are experiencing a specific sensation on the eve of a season that will define their careers with the franchise.

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Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy are entering their fourth season together.

Nam Huh, AP Photos

One storm passed. Another one might be coming.

But on the eve of training camp Tuesday, Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy were experiencing a specific sensation as they head toward a 2021 season that will define their careers with the team. They’ve talked with each other about it over the last week.

“Matt said this the other day, and I thought it was a good point: There’s a calmness right now that we just feel,” Pace said as players streamed into Halas Hall to check into camp. “I think it’s because of our communication, communication with ownership, with [president/CEO Ted Phillips], throughout our staff. We’ve been together long enough. There’s a calmness, along with an excitement, going into the season.”

It was chairman George McCaskey, of course, who gave both men another season. That seemed unlikely in early December, when the Bears lost their sixth straight game to fall to 5-7. They went 3-1 the rest of the way and backed into the playoffs, where they were blown out by the Saints.

Even as McCaskey decided to leave the power structure of Phillips, Pace and Nagy intact, he acknowledged in January that the decision “might not be the easiest or most popular.” Frustrated Bears fans nodded in agreement.

Asked Tuesday what he needed to do to justify the faith of his bosses, Nagy was straightforward.

“Like a lot of teams, owners and head coaches in this league and general managers, [the goal] is, right now, you’ve got to win,” he said. “That’s keeping it really simple.

“We want to do it the right way. We’re extremely motivated in a good way in the fact that these are challenges. We look forward to these. We know we have support from [team ownership], and that’s No. 1. We have support from them. Now it’s just a matter of putting it all together with the players and coaches.”

Nagy, who’s entering the fourth year of a five-year contract, likely would earn an extension — and continue to be paired with Pace — if the Bears indeed put it all together this year. If the Bears struggle, or if there’s a glitch in the development of rookie quarterback Justin Fields, the Bears could fire Nagy and Pace at the end of the season.

Pace said Fields won’t be rushed into action because of any pressure surrounding Pace and Nagy’s job status.

“No, not at all,” he said. “What’s best for this organization, always.”

Walking the line between winning now and prioritizing the future seemed difficult for Pace this offseason. He insists it wasn’t. Trading first-round picks this year and next to draft Fields, a star QB at Ohio State, was seen around the league as a no-brainer, not an act of desperation. And Pace pointed to his most recent trade — shipping receiver Anthony Miller and a seventh-round pick to the Texans for a fifth-rounder in 2022 — as proof he’s building for beyond this season.

“I’m always thinking about the long-term health of this team and this franchise,” he said. “And that’s my responsibility, to always think long-term. We have a lot of those discussions because sometimes it is natural to kind of hone in on this myopic vision. But for me, it’s easy to think long term as we make these plans. It all goes into our bigger plan to make this thing successful long term.”

First, it needs to be successful in the short term.

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