Skip to main content

Eight Games to Decision Day

Analysis: Deciding whether to replace a coach and/or GM is rarely a no-brainer, and even for a Bears team struggling with four straight losses it can be one circular nightmare.

The Bears organization faces a conundrum and it has nothing to do with still being named the Chicago Bears when they move to Arlington Heights.

The difficult situation revolves around the futures of coach Matt Nagy, GM Ryan Pace and the real decision makers within the walls of Halas Hall,  team CEO Ted Phillips and board chairman George McCaskey.

With the team at 3-6 and buried under their third long losing streak in three years, the possibility of some type of change looms at season's end.

Of course, the Bears could always do a complete reversal, win their remaining eight games and cruise into the playoffs. There would be no tough decisions then.

Considering the last time this happened was when they won the Lombardi Trophy, it's not very likely.

McCaskey called "progress" the goal for the season, while Phillips said they needed to win a playoff game. McCaskey gets the award for realistic thinking here.

So what constitutes progress is the real question to be answered behind closed doors. Is it merely winning nine instead of eight, like they did in 2019 and 2020? That would mean taking six of the last eight.

It could also be a term for the team's playing level.

Do they reach some sort of momentum going into the offseason? They're no longer last in offense. They're at a healthy 31st, although they still rank last in passing. But the second half of the Pittsburgh game gave rise to optimism that things could change in the way their offense functions over the season's final eight games.

Here is the conundrum ahead for the Bears when a decision is due on coach and GM.

Firing Matt Nagy, not Ryan Pace

Would the same GM get to hire a third head coach after the team made the playoffs two times in his seven seasons, with one division title and no playoff wins? With that record, does he deserve to be retained?

While Nagy must take blame for the offense's failure and the way they kept Justin Fields out of the No. 1 quarterback spot initially, he is also responsible for at least part of one very important success people lay on Pace.

Nagy and Pace together collaborated on the draft the past few years. Before they began collaborating on players so closely, Pace really didn't have the greatest draft record, unless you consider Kevin White's career a success because of his one 38-yard reception for New Orleans. He was a bust. Injury only initially stopped him. He couldn't play the game, and it showed by what happened after his injuries healed. He never developed anywhere.

Pace bombed out on drafting Mitchell Trubisky, who probably would have been a decent choice as a second-round quarterback but not the No. 2 pick overall. Adam Shaheen, Hroniss Grasu, Riley Ridley, Anthony Miller and Jonathan Bullard are some other flops. Pernell McPhee, Mike Glennon, Dion Sims, Markus Wheaton, Jerrell Freeman, Eddie Royal, Antrel Rolle, Ray McDonald, Cody Parkey and Trey Burton all are examples of Pace being no more successful in free agency at times in than the draft.

However, he has had successes both ways, too, and the biggest one has to be engineering the trade to draft Justin Fields.

Even there, Nagy was a driving force in identifying Fields as a real talent worth trading up to get. He also was one of those in Kansas City who was a real proponent for trading up to draft Patrick Mahomes.

Because of Pace's success while collaborating with Nagy on the draft, it's almost as if Nagy has as much value as a personnel guy as the coach.

So if they decide to part ways with Nagy, you're left with only half the personnel force that brought Fields to Chicago. The delicate balance of collaboration could be altered.

They're also leaving it up to Pace to be able to bring in another head coach when they would have already decided the decision he made on Nagy was poor by firing him. 

So the logic here makes your head spin.

Fire Pace, keep Nagy

The worst thing Pace has done recently is his part in signing Andy Dalton.

Well, drafting an injured Teven Jenkins wasn't too swift, and putting them in cap shape so they had to cut Kyle Fuller wasn't exactly a daft move, either.

There was nothing wrong with bringing in Dalton per se.  But the problem was bringing in Dalton and telling him he was going to be the starting quarterback. It's unclear if this was a Nagy or Pace creation, but Nagy is in charge of on-field decisions so it would be easy to see how he made this one.

Read More

However, Pace was in Chicago when they tried to do the same thing with Glennon and Trubisky. It was an unnecessary waste of money and effort then just like it was this year with Dalton and Fields. So this one has the Pace stamp on it as well.

Regardless, there seems to be no logical way now for the Bears to fire Pace and keep Nagy after many of Pace's recent moves have panned out—including the Fields and Khalil Mack trade. 

The big problem currently is the not-so-minor issue of losing. If Nagy had them winning, there would be no reason to fire either of them.

Then there is the Nagy impact on Fields. Would they want a coach developing Fields who can't get an offense out of the bottom of the league? They've been in the vicinity of the bottom for three years.

Double Firing

The alternative of firing both Nagy and Pace will have its share of supporters, especially if Fields doesn't progress and they keep losing games.    

Starting over with both positions means a complete rebuild. This forces any franchise back at least a year to a year and a half with reorganizing and fitting talent to suit the new coach's needs.

Beyond that, it creates what could be the worst scenario of all. 

It leaves Phillips and McCaskey in charge of replacing the GM so that a new coach can then be hired by the GM. There is a real fear factor involved in this one.

These were the people who decided it was OK to hire Phil Emery as GM, to let him fire Lovie Smith as head coach after a 10-6 season, to hire Marc Trestman instead of Bruce Arians and then to hire the current GM and hire John Fox.

What have they ever done to indicate they could possibly get a decision of this magnitude correct?

Could Last Option Be Best?

They could keep Nagy and Pace, and give each another year to prove themselves. 

This is essentially what they did last year, except without the extra year officially added to contracts, as far as we know. They wouldn't talk about contract lengths during their postseason press conference. They punted after last season. And if they punt again it could work, but they would probably absorb a public relations beating.

Still, it's easier to accept such punishment when a buffer like Fields is providing cushion. Fans tend to be less abusive when they have hope. Fields provides it.

Barring a complete collapse to 6-11 or 5-12, or the offense remaining totally stagnant despite Fields' presence, keeping both Pace and Nagy for at least another year might be the only option to avoid a real disaster.

This would be the potential disaster when Phillips and McCaskey are out beating the bushes for their new GM, or Pace is doing the same for his third coach.

And even with a budding young quarterback, everyone goes through the same old monotonous circle of failure until the next firings and then Phillips and McCaskey get involved again and again.

It's eight games until decision time and a player wearing No. 1 can go a long way toward preventing any such move with some victories.

Twitter: BearDigest@onFanNation