The Bears made an unpopular decision last January when they elected to keep head coach Matt Nagy on for at least another year. Chicago fans were hoping the team would move on after a frustrating couple of seasons that saw the team’s offense sputter.
Instead, the Bears decided to give Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace one more chance to right the ship. So far, the 2021 NFL season has brought more of the same.
The Bears have stumbled to a 3-5 record to begin the season and their offense is looking as dull as ever. Nagy, who came to the Bears after being an offensive coordinator for Andy Reid and the Chiefs, was supposed to fix that but couldn’t do so for Mitchell Trubisky. Things haven’t been better with Justin Fields.
Chicago’s struggles have further disgruntled Bears fans to the point that they have made petitions encouraging Bears ownership to fire Nagy. Will George McCaskey and Co. oblige?
A move may not be imminent, nor is it guaranteed to come in-season. However, in looking at what McCaskey has said about Nagy in the past, the Bears coach seems to be on thin ice heading into the second half of the 2021 NFL season.
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What Bears ownership has said about Matt Nagy
There were rumblings about Matt Nagy’s job security as recently as last offseason. However, Bears chairman George McCaskey decided to keep both Nagy and GM Ryan Pace after the Bears were able to make it to the postseason despite their sputtering offense.
“At this time, we believe the right answer for us is continuity,” McCaskey said back in January, per The Athletic.
However, the Bears elected not to extend Nagy beyond 2022, the current end date of his contract. In essence, this became a prove-it year for the coach. And McCaskey had a primary goal in mind for the season.
“As far as what we need to see, we need to see progress,” McCaskey said, per SI.com. “It’s not a certain number of wins.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the 2021 season. We just had an unprecedented (pandemic) event during the 2020 season, so we don’t know what injuries are going to occur, what other challenges are going to arise, but we’ve got to see progress.”
The easiest way for the Bears to make progress? In McCaskey’s opinion, it had to do with the most important position on the field.
“It’s pretty clear we need better production from the quarterback position to be successful,” McCaskey said.
That’s part of why the Bears went out and drafted Justin Fields while signing veteran Andy Dalton. That was supposed to bolster the quarterback room and give Nagy the tools needed to field a more competitive team.
So, Nagy had two primary objectives. Improve the quarterback play and lead the team to more success after back-to-back 8-8 seasons. The pressure was on to accomplish those goals, as his return came only with a lukewarm vote of confidence.
“We’re not satisfied with where we are now but we think both Ryan and Matt are the people best able to lead us to success,” McCaskey said.
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Matt Nagy contract extension
NFL teams usually like to get ahead of contract extensions when they can, especially with their coaching staff. However, the Bears haven’t offered Nagy an extension beyond the final year of his contract in 2022, as team president Ted Phillips detailed when the Bears announced Nagy would be returning for 2021.
“Contracts have not been part of our discussions,” Phillips said. “It’s not a concern with anyone. When we show improvements, contacts will take care of themselves.”
The Bears are essentially using the 2021 NFL season as a time to see if Nagy can help the Bears to level up. If he can, they still have him under contract for 2022 and can extend him during the 2022 offseason. If he can’t, then they’ll just have to eat the one year remaining on his contract — which may or may not be guaranteed.
The fact that the Bears aren’t offering Nagy another contract is a bad sign for his future. It’s a true “prove-it” year for him, so if he is going to keep his job, he’ll have to improve down the stretch of the season.
The value of Nagy’s current contract is unknown. He was hired during the 2018 NFL offseason and only three of the seven coaches hired that offseason, including Nagy, are still head coaches. Colts coach Frank Reich, who is making $4.5 million in 2021, is one of them. Titans coach Mike Vrabel, who is making $3 million in 2021, is the other.
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Matt Nagy’s record: Playoff wins and losses
Nagy is in his fourth season with the Bears and actually has yet to post a losing record. He won the AP Coach of the Year award in 2018, his first season as head coach, and appeared to have a bright future.
However, since that time, Nagy has hovered around .500 and has failed to take the team to the next level. Most discouraging of all, his offenses have routinely ranked in the bottom-10 league-wide despite his reputation as a solid offensive mind.
Here’s a look at his regular-season performance so far and how the Bears’ offense has performed under Nagy.
|Year||Games||Wins||Losses||Yards per game||Scoring offense|
* Nagy has coached in seven games. He missed the Bears’ Week 8 loss to the 49ers after testing positive for COVID-19.
The team’s struggling offense with first-round quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Justin Fields could prove damning for Nagy. So too could the team’s inability to win in the postseason.
Nagy has taken the Bears to the playoffs twice. He has yet to win a playoff game, though it could be argued that Cody Parkey’s famous double-doink field goal robbed him of a victory in his first postseason game in 2018. Still, the Bears have averaged just 12 points per game in the postseason, so that’s not an encouraging sign for Nagy.
|2018||Eagles||Wild Card||L, 16-15|
|2020||Saints||Wild Card||L, 21-9|
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Will the Bears fire Matt Nagy?
It’s too early to say definitively whether Nagy will be fire; no reports have indicated that he’s in imminent danger of losing his job. That said, if things continue to trend in this direction, it’s tough to imagine him sticking around in Chicago.
The Bears have the NFL’s worst offense and their quarterback play has not improved. Fields’ best game of the season came against the 49ers, a game that Nagy wasn’t even at after he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to miss it. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of his management of Fields.
Barring a big improvement from Fields down the stretch of the season, the Bears seem likely to part with Nagy.
As McCaskey said, the whole goal of this season was to show progress and get better production out of the quarterback position. At the midpoint of the season, the Bears are on pace for a losing season. Meanwhile, Fields ranks dead-last in QBR among qualified players this season with a mark of 23.1. That’s significantly worse than the 61.3 Trubisky posted in 2020 and the 32.4 mark he posted as a rookie in 2018.
You can’t rule anything out in the NFL, but it’s certainly going to be tough for Nagy to survive the season. His seat is burning hot — maybe more so than any other NFL coach.