This post is not to eulogize the 2020 Chicago Bears. Uneventful, unrewarding, and unfulfilling would be the words I'd use if this were but it's not.
This post is to analyze Matt Nagy's future with the team.
Nagy joined the Bears in 2018 and led the team to a 12-4 record, earning coach of the year honors and a division championship along the way. It's easy to dismiss Nagy's early success as a product of defensive excellence rather than offensive outbursts, which is Nagy's speciality. It's probably not a coincidence that since Vic Fangio took over at the helm in Denver, Nagy's regular season record is 16-16. Mitchell Trubisky has failed to evolve into a successful NFL quarterback but seems to do just enough every time we're ready to count him out.
Nagy's tenure has been enigmatic. Two playoff appearances despite one in three seasons with a winning record. Discipline issues and penalty problems from a group of players who never quit on their coach. The best Bears team since the 2007 Super Bowl iteration, eliminated from the playoffs on a double doink.
While the 2020 Bears finished in exactly the middle of the pack, fifteenth, when it came to penalties they often felt extremely impactful or mind-bogglingly undisciplined. Yesterday, in the third quarter of a 7-3 playoff game and on 4th and 1, the Saints put utility-man Taysom Hill in at quarterback and drew veteran safety Eddie Jackson offside. The Saints scored a touchdown on the next play. Later, Saints cornerback CJ Gardner-Johnson baited Anthony Miller into punching him in the face. Miller became the second Bears player this season ejected for punching CJ Gardner-Johnson in the head; Gardner-Johnson was wearing a football helmet both times.
A quick Gardner-Johnson tangent if you'll allow, henceforth to be referred to as CJ GJ because it's an excellent, flowy nickname and one he should start using, if he isn't already. I'm allowed to say this because I'm a Bears fan and if any of you who aren't Bears fans try to say it I'll violently argue the opposite but CJ GJ owns the Bears now. The McCaskey family had owned the Bears for 100 years and now CJ GJ owns them. In two meetings, he instigated two ejections, two punches to a helmeted head, and 30 cumulative penalty yards. An all-time Chicago villain is born.
Nagy noted that the Bears sporadically showed clips of CJ GJ's antics throughout practice this week in an effort to prepare his players mentally. And so what to make of these prepared failures? Of an offensive mind so brilliant he often overthinks the simplest option? Schemes that find wide receivers open down the field, but a quarterback that overthrows the target more often than not? And then in the playoffs when he finally doesn't overthrow the target and throws a ball so perfect you can hardly believe it was thrown by Mitch the receiver has it go entirely through his hands? What to make of a coach who's finally found a kicker when it seems to matter least? The whole era is an enigma of mediocrity.
It's already leaked that with the playoff appearance Matt Nagy's job is more than likely safe. Perhaps the McCaskey's are hesitant to fire Nagy with a career .583 winning percentage after firing Lovie Smith, his .563 winning percentage, and 10 win final season. After Smith's firing Bears fans suffered through the eras of Marc Trestman and John Fox the former's .406 and the latter's .291 winning percentages among the lowest in franchise history.
Without a quarterback change the conversation is all for naught. The Bears with Mitch Trubisky at quarterback are resigned to a middling fate. But it might be so that the Bears are resigned to a middling fate at quarterback, period. One year failures range from Mike Glennon to Nick Foles and perennial disappointments like Jay Cutler and Mitch Trubisky make it feel like this is certainly the case, especially after seeing the success of the quarterbacks drafted after the Bears selected Trubisky.
Matt Nagy will be back and this writer endorses that decision. Ryan Pace, however, is another matter. There's simply no justification that would allow Ryan Pace to be allowed to choose another quarterback to lead this franchise, either as a stop gap or as a building block. He missed on Mike Glennon, drafted Mitchell Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, and just this offseason, looking for a veteran quarterback with Super Bowl experience passed over Tom Brady to sign Nick Foles. I'm looking forward to a 2021 Bears season without Mitch Trubisky at quarterback. Anything else is unacceptable.