Two weeks ago the Chicago Bears quit, in primetime, against their oldest rivals.
A week ago the Chicago Bears collapsed against the Detroit Lions, squandering a double-digit lead in the final minutes.
These were two of the worst weeks for a Bears head coach since Aaron Kromer turned rat against Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman pathetically refused to fire him. They were two weeks that felt like the end of Matt Nagy’s tenure with the team. The offense was showing signs of life but the defense seemed in freefall. How could the locker room hold up? How on earth would Nagy survive?
And now Houston was coming to town, bringing with them the star quarterback the Bears ignored in the lead-up to the 2017 NFL Draft. And while revisionist historians now want to paint the Texans as the Washington Generals, take a step back. The Texans were 4-4 under Romeo Crennel. In the last month they had beaten Belichick, crushed Detroit on a short week and fumbled away victory over the Colts on the one. This wasn’t some pushover. The Texans were FAVORED to win Sunday at Soldier Field.
And instead, Matt Nagy’s Bears delivered their most inspired, complete performance of the 2020 season. They buried Houston. For many fans, this is too little, too late. They’ve seen enough and they want Ted Phillips, Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy, the janitorial staff, the lady who runs Bears Care and two curators at the Field Museum fired.
This space has argued as much, for several reasons. But primary among them is the Bears need to find a quarterback, the current GM shouldn’t be allowed lead that search, and the new GM shouldn’t be saddled with a coach he didn’t hire. Call it the transitive property of firing. Nagy wouldn’t be the target. He’d be caught in the crossfire.
But…what if Nagy is becoming a really good head coach? Here’s a simple fact. People get better at things the more they do them and Nagy had never been an NFL head coach before. Changing head coaches would put a new voice in the room but does the room seem like it needs a new voice? This year alone he has made some fundamental shifts that illustrate his growing on the job.
- His play-calling became an issue and he handed those responsibilities to Bill Lazor. It worked.
- Mitch Trubisky struggled to execute the system Nagy intended so in recent weeks, the system has been rejiggered for the quarterback’s ability.
- When the defense collapsed against the Packers, Nagy publically called them out for the first time. He was criticized for it, including by me. But maybe that was just what the OFFENSE needed. Maybe the locker room needed to know they were all in this together and no one was above criticism.
But it was Sunday’s performance that stood out most of all. The Bears had every reason to get their doors blown off by the Texans. They had to feel that they’d let their season slip away against Detroit. The expensive pass rush had disappeared. All anybody around the Bears talked about last week was who would be fired and when. And on Sunday, the offense dominated. The pass rush dominated. The energy was obvious, on the field and on the sideline. The Bears bounced back from one of their worst on-field fortnights in many-a-moon. If they quit against the Packers, they apologized against the Texans.
There are three games remaining in this disappointing 2020 campaign and plenty to play for, starting Sunday in Minneapolis. If the effort remains high, and the results positive, isn’t it fair to suggest the most significant factor in the resurgence would be the head coach? Isn’t it sometimes wise to be patient and let a young man get better at his job? If Nagy’s floor as a head coach is 7 or 8 wins, isn’t that something worth committing to long-term?
2020 was the year nobody needed. But maybe it was exactly the season Nagy needed to go from being the guy on the sideline with the oversized play sheet to the head coach of the entire football team. And a good one at that.