The story feels written. The outcome assured. After the full-team collapse Sunday night in Wisconsin, it will surprise no one if, at season’s end or sooner, George McCaskey and family fire Ryan Pace, fire Matt Nagy and reassign Ted Phillips within the organization, away from football operations.
But for those wanting these changes to take place yesterday (or the day before) it is time for a pragmatic pause. Because while this season feels over, it is not actually over. The Bears face the bad Lions, with an interim coach and lame-thumbed quarterback, Sunday at Soldier Field. They face the bad Texans, who were apparently popping PEDs like Sweet Tarts, in that same building the following week. If they win both of those of those games they will be 7-6 and viably challenging for spot in the tournament.
And making the tournament still matters. The Bears, for as bad as they’ve looked offensively through this five-game losing streak, are one game out of the 7th spot and a game and a half out of the 6th spot currently held by Tampa, a team they have beaten. Just because this current incarnation of the club has zero shot of winning the Super Bowl doesn’t mean a playoff berth ceases to be an achievement. Winning these next two games would, if nothing else, earn Pace and Nagy the right to complete this 2020 campaign. That’s it. It would allow them the opportunity to fix the mess they’ve created. Is that likely? Of course not.
If the Bears lose EITHER of these next two games, the time for pragmatism ends. A seventh loss with three (or four) to play ends the dream of January football. And not making the playoff field in a year where the NFC has this little depth is certainly cause for termination. If the Bears lose either of these next two games, Pace and Nagy should be fired the following day. (The Ted reassignment can happen whenever.)
Will making changes in-season have any tangible impact? Unlikely. A few reasons:
- Covid protocols will be tightening over the coming weeks, so the idea that the Bears would be able to schedule face-to-face interviews with prospective GM candidates IN-SEASON is highly unlikely. Hard to imagine those taking place until teams have been eliminated. (Nobody is hiring their personnel chief over Zoom.) This would limit them to conversations with folks not currently affiliated with/working in the buildings of franchises. Someone like John Dorsey comes to mind.
- Right now, only one team in each conference is scheduled to have a bye and that could be reduced to zero. Coaching interviews will be as scattered this offseason as any before.
But that doesn’t mean the Bears should not make the change in-season. It is important for George to show fans that the on-field performance, especially from half the roster, is not good enough and will not be tolerated. George argued that a talent deficiency was the reason for moving on from Phil Emery and Marc Trestman. Well, at the most important poisition in the sport, quarterback, the Bears are not only light years from the league’s top teams. They are miles from middle of the road clubs like Detroit and Houston.
And the team doesn’t have to worry about filling roles in-season. The Bears have a former head coach as their defensive coordinator and an offensive coordinator now calling plays. Firing Pace and Nagy in the next two weeks would have little-to-no tangible impact on game day.
It could all be moot Sunday afternoon, should the Bears fall to the Lions. Or perhaps it’ll be moot a week later, if the quarterback they passed on beats them in their own building. But there is nothing wrong with giving the team’s current leadership these two weeks to earn the remainder of the 2020 season. Should they falter again over the coming fortnight, there is nothing wrong, and everything right, with moving on.