As the Chicago Bears depart for their Thanksgiving Day meeting with the Lions in Detroit, what appears likely to mark the beginning of the final chapter of the Matt Nagy era continues to unfold.
Forget the ridiculous report Tuesday that Nagy was told it would be his final game as the team’s head coach, win or lose.
What owner of a multi-billion dollar business – brilliant, sufficient or incompetent – would tell his top manager ‘I’ve decided to fire you, but first you have to work a few more days and embarrass us all on national TV before I let you go?’
And what NFL head coach with an ego worthy of his status would say, ‘Oh, OK, sure?’
It’s likely Tuesday’s story was leaked by someone close enough to ownership to be believable. Someone who wants Nagy gone and feared the McCaskey family would not pull the trigger in season, as they have never done before. And the author who obviously knows nothing about football went with it.
All you have to do is witness the ensuing tumult and see it was mission accomplished.
Should the Bears lose to the Lions the axe is likely to now fall quickly on Nagy.
It seems unlikely he would be canned immediately after a win and an end to the five-game losing streak. But even if they win, does anyone doubt either the Cardinals or hated Packers will finish the job in the next two weeks?
Coaches are hired and fired in the NFL all the time, and there is a strong case to be made that Nagy’s time has come. But how did it get this ugly and why does it have to end with most of the professional football world laughing at the dysfunction of the Chicago Bears once again?
Whether he deserves to go or not, Nagy never should have had the deck stacked against him by the boss, and that’s exactly what’s happened here.
Eleven months ago at his disastrous season ending press conference, Bears chairman George McCaskey explained he felt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace were making progress and as long as it continued they would stay.
The two spent the offseason acquiring both the future and the present at quarterback, tinkering with the rest of the roster and developed a “plan” to both win now with the veteran QB they acquired to accomplish that purpose – read progress – and develop the future at QB with the chosen son they acquired at the same position – read progress – and move the organization forward.
On the Monday after an impressive Week 4 start and win with Justin Fields vs. the Lions, which followed a disastrous first NFL start for Fields at Cleveland necessitated by an injury to Andy Dalton, Nagy made clear Dalton was still the starter when healthy.
Just 48 hours later Nagy announced Fields had been elevated to the permanent starting role.
It seemed incomprehensible Nagy would suddenly throw it all out the window after the organization spent the entire offseason and preseason preparing to attempt another playoff run behind Dalton, with Fields being spoon fed along the way, and Nagy insisting they would stick with the plan that just two days earlier.
After seven weeks of digging I reported Wednesday morning that Nagy didn’t.
According to multiple well-placed sources, the order to name Fields the permanent starter came all the way from the top, and against his better judgment and wishes, Nagy had no choice but to comply with McCaskey’s direction and turn his offense over to the rookie.
After an impressive win in Las Vegas with Fields at quarterback but authored almost exclusively by the ground game and defense, the team has yet to win again. It has produced the worst offense in the NFL and lost in particularly disturbing fashion the past two weeks.
Let me emphasize again, this is in no way a defense for Nagy to keep his job or an excuse for all that has gone wrong, and Fields is the most innocent of all victims here. Fields is in no way totally responsible for the current state of the offense or the only reason the Bears have lost.
The rookie QB remains one of the most exciting young prospects in the game. Teams are supposed to struggle and lose with rookie quarterbacks, they almost always do, and there was absolutely no reason to believe the Bears would be any different.
But it is an indictment of Bears management and ownership, which brought Nagy back with the promise of a chance to show improvement and keep his job and then tied his hands behind his back, threw him under the bus and is now dragging him through the mud.
I know McCaskey well enough to know that was absolutely never his intention. He is in fact a good man. But he should have known better, and this chaos is the end result to his decision.
And it is the Bears organization that will suffer the most harm.
Assuming Nagy is fired, not yet a fait accompli and the latest reports are that McCaskey has addressed the team and coaches and insisted the initial report was false and no decisions have been made, but let’s not kid ourselves. What new top head-coaching candidates will look favorably upon coming to Chicago now and potentially walking into a similar trap?
How many quality assistant coaches will make the Bears a first choice either?
And what will the players, all now being asked to account for this mess, be left to think when their contracts expire and they are free to move on?
This is a mess of ownership’s making that never should have happened, and we’ve seen it too many times before.