Coach Matt Nagy walked into the news-conference room Wednesday at Halas Hall, sat down and began building his bunker.
The man who said Monday he was considering ceding play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor refused to say whether he decided to do just that. With the tempo of an over-caffeinated squirrel, Nagy needed two minutes and 37 seconds’ worth of word salad to not answer the question.
Asked why he was straightforward last year when he handed the reins to Lazor but wasn’t doing the same this time, he took another minute and nine seconds to say that things change from year to year and the Bears’ focus was, amazingly, about “clear communication on the ‘why.’ ”
On Wednesday, “clear communication on the why” looked like this: Nagy called Andy Dalton the first-string quarterback and Justin Fields the backup but then said the “starter will be sorted out once we have a clearer picture moving forward.” He offered no detail on their knee and wrist injuries, respectively.
He said he would similarly let the NFL-mandated injury report speak about issues with edge rusher Khalil Mack, the Bears’ highest-paid player; nose tackle and mystery man Eddie Goldman, who sat out all last season with coronavirus concerns and has now missed three games; and safety Tashaun Gipson, who missed the 26-6 disaster against the Browns.
“I hope y’all can understand from our perspective, from the Chicago Bears’ perspective, not just play-calling but whether it’s the starter, non-starter, this guy’s hurt, that guy’s hurt, through the [injury report] rules, all of that,’’ he said. “There’s communication you have on the back end, but then there’s also the ability for us to understand why we don’t get into some of the answers that you’re asking right now.”
The only explanation is that Nagy must believe the Bears need every edge they can have against the Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field. The 0-3 Lions. Whom Nagy has beaten five times in six tries. Whom Mitch Trubisky repeatedly carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Whose starting quarterback, Jared Goff, has a 59.7 career passer rating against the Bears.
This is how low the Bears’ season has sunk in only three weeks: Nagy is circling the wagons for a home game against the lowly Lions three days into October. He has to know the stakes — and fear the repercussions — of a loss Sunday. He spoke as though he did.
Beat the Lions, and the Bears are .500 and no worse than second place in their division. Lose, and questions about Nagy’s fitness to coach the offense — and to develop Fields — will be louder than ever on the heels of gaining 47 yards in 42 plays against the Browns.
Nagy is already the NFL favorite to be the first coach fired, according to BetOnline, at 1:2 odds. The McCaskeys have never fired a coach midseason and are undoubtedly consumed with the Arlington Heights stadium project announced Wednesday. Still, if Nagy loses Sunday, he at least has to worry about whether his Halas Hall key card will work the next day.
The pressure is mounting. Nagy — who prides himself as a play-caller but just posted one of the worst offensive games in franchise history — undoubtedly feels it.
He vowed Monday to fix the Bears. On Wednesday, he wouldn’t tell you specifically what, if anything, he changed this week.
The Lions await.
“Now we get an opportunity to do it against a division opponent — that we’ve been focusing on the last two days — at home,” Nagy said. “And these are big now. We’ve got to get these. And so when we do that — whatever it is — let’s go do it.”
Whatever it is, indeed.