BTW, Robert Quinn has 11 sacks this season! Theres still 6 games to go. What a turnaround year. #Bears
— Tony Daly (@Tony_Daly) November 26, 2021
There are only two possible outcomes for this game.
Outcome #1. The Bears win and nobody cares. (Maybe some young players flash and that will be exciting, but honestly, who cares?)
Outcome #2. The Bears lose and it becomes impossible for Matt Nagy to coach the team for the remainder of 2021. (Honestly, I’m not sure Nagy or Pace will still be employed Friday if this is the result Thursday. When I floated the scenario to someone in the building they responded with the simple, “Buckle up.”)
Chicago Bears 20, Detroit Lions 16
I always like the Chicago Bears.
But I’m not even sure what it is I’m liking this week. If Justin Fields doesn’t play, there is nothing to be gained on Thursday. But it’s Thanksgiving. And it’s football. And we’ll all be watching…I think.
Robert Quinn, the team’s MVP in 2021, and Khalil Mack, the team’s best player, are returning in 2022. Roquan Smith is the best ILB in the sport, Jaylon Johnson is a top corner, and the Bears have shown a propensity for finding talent at the interior DL positions. They need corners, but they’ll have off-season assets to acquire them.
While many malign the offensive line, the group is having a decent 2021, especially as a mauling/run-blocking unit. If Teven Jenkins solidifies the left tackle spot, the pass protection should be dramatically improved as well. If you believe Fields will only get better – and I do – the Bears need to concentrate their efforts on adding weapons, weapons, weapon on the outside. Again, the assets are there to do so.
(And for you schedule junkies, the Bears have two road games in the Meadowlands next season, against certainly still-bad Giants and Jets teams.)
But it will all come down to the coaching hire. Terrific quarterback play can cover for bad coaching (Aaron Rodgers won Mike McCarthy a Super Bowl) on the offensive side of the ball, but the Bears currently suffer from a lack of leadership. There is no commitment to the game day plan because there doesn’t seem to be anything resembling a game day plan. They don’t need to hire an offensive mind, or a defensive mind. There are plenty of coaches out there that can call plays. Find the guy who stands in the front of the room and inspires his players to perform at their best.
They find that guy, they win ten games in 2022.
Every year, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I gorge on Christmas movies, usually updating my viewing experiences on the Twitter feed. This year, I decided to tier the films, with a little note added when explanation was required, and with a little football flair. This is a solid guide to season for you and your family. In each category, the films are listed in no particular order.
The Prospects (Thanksgiving)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Home for the Holidays
Mouse on the Mayflower
The Elite QBs
These are the top shelf Christmas movies, and I’ll be watching most of them at least twice over the next month.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
Scrooge (Albert Finney)
A Very Murray Christmas
Miracle on 34th Street (original)
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas
The Night Before
The Year Without Santa Claus (1974)
The Santa Clause
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
UPDATE 11/21/21. There is no reason to recap Sunday’s train wreck loss to the undermanned Baltimore Ravens. This is over for Matt Nagy. Time to make it official. Waiting no longer makes sense.
This piece originally ran after the Tampa game.
Nate Tice, son of the the legendary Mike Tice and one of the better young NFL analysts got me through Monday with a Twitter thread.
damnit Justin stop holding onto the ball too long pic.twitter.com/jghpZ2RHGo
— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) October 25, 2021
Not having any desire to sit through Sunday’s debacle again, it was nice to see Tice confirm what I had believed in real time: that Justin Fields had zero chance to succeed in Tampa. This was Cleveland redux and the entirety of the blame falls onto the shoulders of the head coach. The game plan made no sense. The offense, now in fourth season, makes no sense. And we are now at that moment in the development of this young quarterback where the most important question has been answered. Matt Nagy is not now, and will never be, the right man to maximize the ability of Fields.
A source close to ownership texted me Monday morning that Halas Hall was “fed up” with the head coach. They should be. But being fed up is not enough. George McCaskey should fire Matt Nagy. Today, next week, on the bye, whenever. But Nagy shouldn’t make it to the end of the season. If only for the symbolism alone, a message to the fans that this simply isn’t good enough.
There are three possible outcomes for the Chicago Bears over the next six days. (I’m ruling out ties, which I may come to regret by the end of next week.) Each outcome brings with it a very specific emotional trajectory for the remainder of the 2021 season.
Outcome #1 – The Sweep
Emotional Outcome: JUICE!
If the Bears win their next two games, they move to 5-6 and put a significant amount of juice into the remainder of the regular season. The six seed in the NFC is a 5-4, quarterback-less Saints team. The seven seed just made Cam Newton their starter.
The juice would start at Soldier Field, on December 5th, against the Arizona Cardinals. Justin vs. Kyler. A fired up building on the lakefront. Christmas only 20 days away!
It is highly unlikely Matt Nagy can still earn his way back onto the sideline for 2022, but the only way that conversation can start is by winning these next two, while Justin Fields progresses.
Outcome #2 – The Shutout
Emotional Outcome: MAKE IT STOP.
The McCaskey family is opposed to firing coaches in-season, with Marc Trestman pushing them as close to the line as they’d ever come. That year, what prevented them from making the move was their desire to clean house – removing Trestman and GM Phil Emery – and they thought it best to make both moves once the season ended.
But if the Bears fall to 3-8, including a loss on Thanksgiving to an awful and untalented Lions team, the outcry may be too great to ignore. Nagy will have lost the fans, and the locker room. With a new, two-week, regular season interview period open for head coaches, ownership may see no reason to leave Nagy in the job for a meaningless month.
And that’s all the remainder of the schedule would be: meaningless. The results would not matter, not even artificially. All that would matter is a few highlights from Fields and the development of young talent like Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, Larry Borom and – hopefully – Teven Jenkins. December and early January become de facto preseason games.
Outcome #3 – The Split
Emotional Outcome: EH.
Isn’t this what every fan expects? Be relevant, or be terrible. The problem with the Bears under Nagy – since the end of the 2018 season – is they’ve been neither.
I always like the Chicago Bears.
And it will be intriguing/exciting to see Justin Fields use the extra practice time to develop chemistry with his offensive playmakers. Will Come Kmet continue to ascend? Will Allen Robinson finally deliver? Will the Bears get anything from the bottom of their wide receiver depth chart?
The Ravens have designs on winning the Super Bowl. That’s what teams strive for when they have MVP candidates at quarterback. They currently sit at 6-3, third in the conference, with a fascinating schedule to come: home Browns, at at Steelers, at Browns, home Packers, at Bengals, home Rams, home Steelers. That is five division rivalry games and two games against the best of the NFC. John Harbaugh will know the team can’t afford to lose Sunday at Soldier Field if they want to avoid needing three road wins to get to a Los Angeles in February.
The Bears have lost four straight, and they have two games in five days. Matt Nagy has heard the discussion. He knows his time with the Bears is coming to an end and he also knows there is only one way to stave off his termination: win big down the stretch of this season. That has to start Sunday. A Bears loss will give them seven on the season, and five straight (after losing six straight a season ago). That would be definitively “it” for Nagy. A win, followed by a win in Detroit on Thanksgiving, would move them to 5-6, and at least give their home tilt with Arizona on December 5th, Justin versus Kyler, some juice.
The Wire has, like it or not, becoming Baltimore’s iconic piece of art. But the comic moments are not usually the ones that receive the most attention. Here are two phone calls I still reference all the time.
Under Matt Nagy, the Chicago Bears have been notoriously horrendous after the bye week. They are 0-3, with two of those losses against backup quarterbacks, and two of the three being complete blowouts. Another woeful showing this week would take place in front of his potential replacement: Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Nagy is done. At least, that’s what NFL Insider Benjamin Allbright has reported, stating the Bears have already begun doing background checks on other coaches, mentioning Vance Joseph and Brian Daboll specifically.
Sunday’s matchup with Baltimore brings an interesting option to Soldier Field in Roman. Baltimore’s offense isn’t lighting up the league, but they sit a respectable 12th in scoring and second in yardage, despite numerous injuries. A major reason for that is Lamar Jackson’s ability to do everything on the field and it is easy to see how Justin Fields could fit in an offense that maximizes a quarterback’s mobility as well as his ability to throw the ball down the field.
What makes Roman more interesting, though, is that he isn’t just reliant on Jackson being an MVP. He brings a unique and exotic running scheme that has had his team leading the league in rushing each of the last five years he has been an offensive coordinator. His teams have never finished lower than eighth in rushing and have been inside the top five in yards per attempt seven times in nine seasons.
Roman has been in the NFL a long time, coming in under Dom Capers in Carolina. If available, Vic Fangio figures to be his top candidate as defensive coordinator, as the two were together in Carolina, Houston, Baltimore and San Francisco.
But do you really want Fields taking so many hits? While Jackson has proven to be excellent at avoiding big shots, Fields has been just the opposite. He takes a big hit every week. It isn’t hard to see why this kind of offense isn’t preferred when the top priority is protecting a young quarterback.
But Roman isn’t the only strong candidate who figures to be available for the Bears in this cycle, here’s a quick look at some of the others, in no particular order:
The emergence of Josh Allen has made Daboll a hot name — Allbright said he is the top candidate for the Bears job — but it’s worth wondering who deserves credit for Buffalo’s success.
Before Allen became an MVP candidate, Daboll only once coached an offense that finished outside the bottom-10 in scoring. They have regularly been near the bottom of the league in turnovers and, of course, his teams haven’t won much as he was a part of three coaching staffs that were fired — largely because they couldn’t score.
Many want to fire Nagy because of his work with Justin Fields, but Daboll’s offense had almost identical production with Josh Allen as a rookie.
Much of the credit for Arizona’s success this year has gone to Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray, but Joseph has quietly coordinated a top-five defense.