Matt Nagy is just trying to get through what probably will be his final week as the Bears’ head coach. He would prefer that the attention stay on the meaningless season finale Sunday at the Vikings rather than rehash the various failures that have led him to the brink of being fired.
But it’s a good bet Nagy won’t hang around for a full debriefing after the Bears let him go, so he’ll endure a few more days of prying into the big-picture problems he has been unable to solve.
With an inconsequential blowout of the Giants already forgotten by Monday morning, the conversation shifted to why the supposed offensive guru the Bears thought they were hiring hasn’t been able to deliver on those expectations.
‘‘As the years go on, there’s a lot of things that happen for different reasons,’’ Nagy said, delivering one of his signature non-explanations. ‘‘Without taking time to really study and sit back, I think every year’s different, whether it’s by position, whether it’s by schematics and whether it’s by opponents that you play.’’
Hold up. You mean you don’t get to play the Lions every week? It was just another filibuster.
The closest Nagy came to honing in on what he believes to be the answer for the Bears going 22-26 in the last three seasons was when he pointed out — carefully and in his typically roundabout manner — the instability on defense after his first season and the decline in takeaways.
‘‘There’s one big stat that matters, in the end, no matter what team you’re talking about: What’s the turnover margin?’’ Nagy said. ‘‘Do you take the football away on defense and do you respect the football on offense?
‘‘Check out the turnover margins in the NFL right now, and I’ll bet you there’s some playoff teams in the top 10. That matters.’’
Nagy’s point is correct, but it’s not the main point. If he had the Bears cooking up 30 points per game and struggling because of their defense, he might be keeping his job.
Yes, the defense led the NFL with 36 takeaways in 2018, then plunged to the 22nd-to-27th range in that stat the next three seasons. This season, with rookie quarterback Justin Fields throwing 10 interceptions and losing five fumbles, the Bears have 16 takeaways and 27 turnovers for a minus-11 differential that ranks 28th. But it’s more relevant to Nagy’s fate that the Bears have scored 20 points or fewer in 31 of his 66 games, counting the playoffs.
The Bears have averaged 21.4 points the last four seasons, which ranks 24th in the NFL, but Nagy has a winning record at 34-30. The other five teams averaging between 20 and 22 have a combined winning percentage of .373. That’s how it goes when you don’t inherit a defense that was world-class at the start and still very good until this season.
Nagy also made sure to note the upheaval caused by having three defensive coordinators — Vic Fangio, Chuck Pagano and Sean Desai — in four seasons but said they all ‘‘in their own way have done a really good job of trying to put their specific blueprint [in place].’’
Nonetheless, in his four seasons, Nagy has a league-high 12 victories when his team scored 20 points or fewer. It’s hard to do. So while the defense has had issues, it’s not the real reason he’s on his way out. If anything, it has prolonged his stay.
Nagy’s comments were reminiscent of when he carried on about defensive lapses after the 41-25 loss last season to the Packers. Giving up 41 points was an absolute debacle, of course, but Nagy leaned a little too hard on that and underemphasized that his offense managed only 10 points before picking up a couple of touchdowns in garbage time.
Remember the ‘‘double-doink’’? Nagy was stunned when Cody Parkey’s kick bounced away. It’s easy to forget the offense didn’t score its first touchdown until six minutes into the fourth quarter and finished with only 15 points.
For Nagy, ultimately, it’s less about the defense’s struggles or even his win-loss record and more an issue of the Bears hiring him to develop a quarterback and ignite an offense. And ‘‘for different reasons,’’ as he put it, he has done neither.