Bears Insider

Why Bears could fire Ryan Pace but keep Matt Nagy in 2021


Dec 6, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy during the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

If there’s a reality in which Matt Nagy is still coaching the Bears in 2021, it probably gained some plausibility Sunday afternoon.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying Nagy saved his job because the Bears thumped a listless Texans team, 36-7, at Soldier Field. Watching David Montgomery put together another good game made me wonder, first and foremost, why he hadn’t been put in a position to succeed for most of the season. And he only got 11 carries in a blowout win, this after he rumbled 80 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game.

But: 29-point wins don’t happen by accident in the NFL. The Bears only have 48 wins by such a margin in franchise history. And there have only been six other games decided by 29 or more points in 2020.

It is notable that the Bears mean it when they say they haven’t given up on this season. What we saw from the Texans on Sunday is what a team that’s given up looks like. The Bears are not there, and Nagy does deserve some credit for keeping his team engaged.

We just know that we like the man that’s in charge, ahead of us, our head coach,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “So when we go out there, we’ve got to make him look good.”  

So what if the Bears decide they still think highly enough of Nagy – who has two years left on his contract – but have seen enough from the guy who built this roster?

NBC Sports’ Peter King floated that thought on “PFT Live” last week, and it’s an important question to ask here: What if Ryan Pace gets fired, but George McCaskey decides he wants Nagy to stick around as coach for another season, even with a new GM in place?

“I’m not sure that Bill Walsh was going to make a really good quarterback out of Mitchell Trubisky,” King said. “I’m not sure anybody was going to do that. … My only thing is I think I would rather have a situation, if they’re going to do something, I would rather see them fire Pace and keep Nagy and also be able to pick his next quarterback, whoever that is going to be and then get a fair chance to work with him.”

MORE: Could Mitch Trubisky return to the Bears in 2021?

Remember, when the Bears extended Pace’s contract in 2018, it was only through 2021 – and then they went and hired Nagy on a five-year deal, which runs through 2022.

When King talks, you should listen, since he’s as plugged in as anyone around the NFL. So it’s not a totally insane theory to float Nagy staying as Pace gets fired.

And what if this team goes into Minnesota next weekend and wins, and then beats the Jaguars, and then the Packers rest all their starters in Week 17…

I guess you could talk yourself into a plausible – if unlikely – scenario in which Pace and Nagy are not tied at the hip.

But going down that path would significantly limit the options for McCaskey (and maybe Ted Phillips) in looking for a next GM and/or director of football operations.

The person or people hired to control the Bears’ football operations would have to like Nagy as a coach despite his offenses being among the NFL’s worst over the last two years. They’d have to trust his ability to evaluate quarterbacks even after his guy – Nick Foles – bombed out running Nagy’s preferred scheme. They’d have to trust he’s learned from some of his in-game decision making mistakes, be it playcalls, timeout usage, etc.

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That’s why I still believe the Bears will not, and should not, approach Nagy and Pace’s futures as being separate.

If the McCaskey family is going to sign off on major change, it has to mean hiring both their fourth GM and fifth coach since 2010. They won’t get the right people in place to finally build a sustainable winner otherwise – as painful as that may be for McCaskey, who genuinely like Pace and Nagy as people.

But maybe, just maybe, McCaskey talks himself into another year of Nagy. Since he didn’t fire him last week, we can’t yet rule it out, can we?

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