Sunday figures to be the end for Bears coach Matt Nagy
For Bears fans frustrated by an offense that was almost as torturous as Nagy’s weekly explanations for it, the expected firing won’t come a moment too soon. The same could be said for the head coach, whose franchise has, for the last seven weeks, allowed him to fend for himself in the court of public opinion.
Mercifully, the Matt Nagy era should come to an end shortly after the Bears’ season finale Sunday at the Vikings.
For Bears fans frustrated by an offense that was almost as torturous as Nagy’s weekly explanations for it, the expected firing won’t come a moment too soon. The same could be said for Nagy, whose franchise has, for the last seven weeks, allowed him to fend for himself in the court of public opinion.
The Bears, as a matter of organizational principle, do not fire head coaches in the middle of a season, nor do they let any of Nagy’s bosses speak on the record during the season. That left Nagy to deny bogus reports of his own firing twice.
It felt unnecessarily cruel, especially for a man who, despite his on-field shortcomings, has handled himself with grace at almost every turn in the last four seasons.
Does Nagy deserve to be fired? Yes. Did he deserve to be forced to march alone while being flogged publicly for the last seven weeks? No.
Marc Trestman lost the respect of his players in less than a season and a half. John Fox was aloof during his three seasons. Nagy has been neither, keeping his players engaged enough to avoid soap-opera drama that plagued the end of the other two regimes.
Make no mistake: Nagy was a far better Bears coach than either man. Yet he likely will meet the same fate they did: coaching the season finale in Minneapolis, only to fly home and be fired.
Since George Halas coached his last game in 1967, only two Bears coaches have a better winning percentage than Nagy’s .531: Mike Ditka (.631) and Lovie Smith (.563). In fact, Nagy could go 0-17 next season and still finish with a better winning percentage than Dave Wannstedt had with the Bears.
He won’t get the chance, of course. The reasons go far beyond Cody Parkey’s ‘‘double-doinked’’ kick that would have given the 12-4 Bears a first-round playoff victory in January 2019. Nagy fixed the kicker position and has gone four games under .500 since.
Hired to develop second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky and retained to do the same for rookie first-round pick Justin Fields, Nagy was instead the architect of an offense that, in the last three seasons, has failed to finish above the bottom seven in the NFL. Trubisky made the Pro Bowl as an injury alternate in 2018 but never developed further.
The Bears’ running game wasn’t much better. After calling only seven running plays in a loss to the Saints in 2019, Nagy declared, ‘‘I’m not an idiot,’’ and said the Bears needed to run more. In 2020, he fired himself as play-caller in the middle of the season. This season, he did it again.
Nagy never could steer the Bears out of a skid. They lost four games in a row in 2019, six in a row in 2021 and five in a row this season.
He juggled coaches, too, going through two offensive coordinators and three defensive coordinators in four seasons. Only two members of Nagy’s first staff are in the same role four years later: special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor and receivers coach Mike Furrey.
Nagy struggled despite being given resources that would have rendered earlier coaches speechless. In 2019, the Bears reopened a renovated Halas Hall after a $100 million makeover. In 2018, eight days before Nagy’s regular-season debut, general manager Ryan Pace traded two first-round draft picks as part of a package to land outside linebacker Khalil Mack. The Bears then signed Mack to a six-year, $141 million contract that was the richest ever given to a defensive player.
All of that money — and all of that investment in quarterbacks — yielded one winning season and two playoff losses in four seasons. As Nagy prepares to take to the sideline for what likely will be the last time Sunday, he won’t have a chance to change, either.