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Bears Feel the Emotion of Losing Leaders

Matt Nagy made things fun for the players, and now they'll head into the offseason facing uncertainty.

No one could say they really were shocked, although some players said it anyway.

Bears players knew the firing of coach Matt Nagy and possibly even GM Ryan Pace could result from a 6-11 season, and when it happened Monday the emotion of losing two leaders they've known collided with what they saw as a need for the organization to improve.

It's a results-driven business was the catch phrase for the day.

"Personally, it's kind of pretty emotional for me just because I'm just a kid from Cincinnati who didn't have many shots coming out of high school," running back David Montgomery said.

Montgomery recalled being passed up by recruiters coming out of high school until ending up at Iowa State.

"And then coming out in the draft, I'm being passed up by a lot of teams and I'm not thinking what’s going to happen and not knowing what’s going to happen next for me," the 2019 third-round pick said. "And Pace and Nagy? They took a chance on me. They took a chance on a poor kid from Cincinnati who people looked at as if he wasn’t going to be good enough to even get a chance to play.

"That’s why it’s emotional for me. Because they stuck their neck out on the line for me. And I appreciate them for that. Just sitting and waiting to see what’s going to happen next."

For Montgomery, in particular the personal relationship he built with Nagy led to difficult feelings. They talked privately for a few moments at Halas Hall.

"Me and coach Nagy built a relationship together while we were here," Montgomery said. "Like I said, they took a chance on me. And I commend and I appreciate them for that. But as soon as I stepped foot in here, they showed me nothing but love. I appreciate them for that.

"It's unfortunate what happened. But at the same time, you understand this is a results-driven league and we want to do what we have to do so we can handle business."

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The need for better results was obvious in an example Daniels cited about coaching decisions. Nagy was criticized greatly for the Cleveland game when he had too little help for the tackles blocking edge rushers with Justin Fields making his first start."Like for example I'm watching a game and I'm seeing the highest-paid left tackle in the NFL get chips—multiple chips not just one chip, multiple chips—versus an undrafted free agent rookie rushing," Daniels said. "(Then) I'm seeing 38-, 39-year-old Jason Peters, he's a great player but with no chips he's blocking one of the best pass rushers to ever play in the NFL one-on-one constantly on the road.

"So it's just situations like that where I think coaches could have helped. Coaches could have put the players in a better situation. But at the end of the day the players are the ones out there, so it doesn't matter what the coaches are really doing."

Players will go out into the offseason training now and watching for news about the new regime coming into Halas Hall. The league in the past has allowed teams with new coaches an extra minicamp, so they'll be starting their work with the team a little early this year.

"It's definitely going to be difficult not knowing what's going to happen," Montgomery said. "I guess you can say everyone fears the lack of knowledge and not knowing anything and not knowing."

It could be a different mood than in the past. Daniels felt Nagy supplied something to practices he never felt in college under Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. He seemed to win the hearts of players from the day they invented "Club Dub" and he started hollering "boom" in 2018.

'I just feel like coach Nagy did like a really good job of trying to make us have fun," Daniels said. "I feel like coach Nagy did a really good job playing music at practice, like in 2018 when we started with the dance offs on Saturday before the game, or like Club Dub, I feel like coach Nagy did a really good job trying to make us have–like helping us have fun.

"I really enjoyed that because I'm not sure if you know, I came from the University of Iowa and coach Ferentz. Coach Ferentz is just as basic as it comes. ... I mean he's not against having fun, but just like some of the stuff like playing music at practice or doing dance offs, we never did that in college. It was very nice when I came here that coach Nagy put a huge emphasis on that and tried to help us have as much fun as we could."

In the end, they know their own parts in the failures of the past three seasons and need to change those no matter who is heading the team.

"Just the fact that I thought we underachieved," cornerback Jaylon Johnson said. "We have the players to be a contending team, and then for us not to get to the playoffs, it's definitely disappointing considering I feel like we have enough people to do it.

"Just really being able to figure out how we can piece all of these great pieces that we have together, find a way to get more wins and find a way to execute better, more consistently. Because I mean there were definitely times where we did it at a high level, but we have to find ways to continue to put it together and put it together consistently throughout the year. So just trying to move forward in that direction."

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