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Matt Nagy
Chicago Bears

Recapping The Good, Bad & Ugly Of Matt Nagy Era

  • Bryan Perez
  • January 10, 2022
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The Chicago Bears officially ended the Matt Nagy era in a move that was expected following the embattled coach’s worst season on the job. He finished 2021 with an underwhelming 6-11 record after back-to-back seasons of .500 finishes at 8-8. Nagy ended his time with the Bears with a winning record—34-31 (plus 0-2 in the playoffs)—but the team’s consistent descent since his first year with the club was undisputed. It’s a new era in Chicago, but before it can officially begin, it’s time to take a look at some of the memorable moments from Nagy’s four-year regime. The Good… We have to go all the way back to 2018 for all the feels from Nagy’s Bears. A 12-4 record, an NFC North crown, and a home playoff game kicked off what felt like the next best thing to Mike Ditka and the Monsters of the Midway from the mid-80s. Nagy unleashed ‘Club Dub’ on the NFL universe after his first win as the team’s head coach in 2018’s Week 2 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. “It feels good,” Nagy said after the win. “For me, though—and I mean this—it’s just more about us. It’s just so neat to start here from my first team meeting and meeting all the guys and seeing us grow. So I’m just really looking forward to the future of this team.” Little did he know, right? Still, we can’t have selective memory when it comes to Nagy. He was the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2018 and with a second-year quarterback in Mitch Trubisky, who analysts like ESPN’s Louis Riddick suggested was a strong MVP candidate in 2019, the future was justifiably bright. Unfortunately, that first season would be Nagy’s high watermark. The Bad… While the selection of Trubisky wasn’t directly Nagy’s decision, he was the coach hired by general manager Ryan Pace that was expected to get the most out of the former second-overall pick. It was a 2017 selection that felt cursed the moment Patrick Mahomes threw his first NFL pass and it became clear the Bears made a historic mistake. But Nagy was in Chicago to change the narrative; to make sure Trubisky was the best version of himself, even if that best version would never come close to Mahomes. As long as the Bears won games with Trubisky under center, no one would care, right? Well, not really. Trubisky actually did win games—he owns a 29-21 record as the Bears’ starter—but it became clear pretty quickly that Chicago was winning in spite of Trubisky—and Nagy’s offense—instead of because of it. Trubisky’s pedestrian performances became so concerning that after just three seasons in the league, Nagy’s Bears decided to trade for former Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl hero (and a Nagy guy), Nick Foles. The Bears commenced a forgettable quarterback competition in 2020’s training camp that resulted in one more chance for Trubisky to prove he was the guy. He failed. But when Foles took over the starting job, he failed too. In fact, Foles was so unimpressive that the Bears signed Andy Dalton in 2021’s offseason to presumably be the QB1, as the team’s social media squad infamously tweeted soon after the ink dried on Dalton’s deal. Trubisky. Then Foles. Then Dalton. I guess the old saying of "three strikes and you're out" certainly applies here, right? Nagy had three swings—big ones, too—to get it right at quarterback. And if we count the Bears trading up for Justin Fields in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Nagy actually got four shots at quarterback (three of them coming to Chicago under his watch). In a way, Nagy’s management of this year’s quarterback situation was like a sledgehammer striking one of his coffin’s nails, if not the final one. Bears fans, while not the ultimate barometer of what’s best for the team, called for Fields to be the opening day starter from the moment his name was called on draft day. But Nagy’s stubborn approach—his refusal to suggest Fields even had a chance to win the starting job in training camp—spent any remaining equity he had in Chicago. Nagy, the offensive guru, became downright offensive in 2021. His system, in which he served as the play-caller and had at least two of his guys orchestrating behind center, entered the final week of the 2021 season ranked among the NFL’s bottom five clubs. They finished 26th in total offense in 2020. They were 29th in 2019. Nagy failed at what he was hired to do; to develop quarterbacks and revive a dormant offense in the Windy City. And when you fail at your two primary objectives, you get fired. The Ugly… There were a lot of ugly moments over the last four years, but the most embarrassing of them all has to be the Bears’ 2019 training camp kicking competition. Nagy launched what was essentially a daily reminder of Cody Parkey’s double-doink, the missed game-winning field goal attempt in Chicago’s playoff game against the Eagles the season before, by holding a kicker tryout that began with NINE candidates. Yes, you read that right: the Bears at one point had NINE kickers vying for the job. Eddy Pineiro ultimately won the competition that was narrowed down to three contenders (Elliott Fry and Chris Blewitt being the other two). Nagy once called the contest exciting when it was down to just two—Pineiro and Fry. Maybe he was enjoying the daily jokes made at the Bears’ expense; the fans certainly didn’t.  It wasn’t fun to be a Bears fan in the aftermath of the double-doink, and Nagy’s failure to lead Chicago back from that trajectory-altering miss began what eventually became his final undoing. The Next Chapter… The Bears are once again in rebuilding mode, and of all the offseason decisions the front office has to make, hiring the right head coach to pair with Fields is the most important one. The list of candidates will be long, ranging from exciting big names from the college ranks like Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day to high-profile coordinators like Kellen Moore, Brian Daboll, and Byron Leftwich. Candidates with previous head coaching experience like Leslie Frazier will be in the mix, too. Whoever becomes the 18th head coach in Bears history will go through the rite of passage that all franchise-changing decision-makers experience. Some fans will love whoever is hired while others will hate it. Pundits from all corners of NFL media will have their hot takes, both good and bad. But when the dust settles after the hire, one truth remains: the Bears will be better off in 2022 for making this necessary change.

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Bryan Perez