With Bears head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace returning in 2021, they will be tasked with finding a way to pull the Bears out of NFL mediocrity.
After back-to-back 8-8 seasons, Nagy sports a 28-20 regular season coaching record.
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The Bears went 12-4 and won the NFC North in his first season in 2018, losing in the Wild Card round to the Philadelphia Eagles on kicker Cody Parkey’s double-doink missed field goal in the final seconds.
Nagy promised season two in 2019 would bring version 2.0 of his offense, with even better quarterback play from Mitch Trubisky. That never panned out. The Bears skidded to a disappointing 8-8.
The 2020 season started with a remarkable 5-1 start, then spiraled downward as the Bears lost six consecutive games. They finished 8-8 and earned the No. 7 seed in the NFC playoffs thanks to some help from the Los Angeles Rams in Week 17, but made a quick exit a week later.
Some speculated the coach might be gone, but it doesn’t appear that will be the case. Nagy, along with Pace, will have at least one more season together.
How did it get to this point? Here’s a look back on the Matt Nagy era so far:
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Timeline of the Bears’ Matt Nagy era:
Dec. 3, 2017: Amid a four-game losing streak, and a stretch in which his team lost six of seven games, Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid handed offensive play calling duties to his offensive coordinator, Matt Nagy. The Chiefs went on to win their final four regular season games and make the postseason with a 10-6 record. In a Wild Card playoff game, they squandered a 21-3 lead against the Tennessee Titans. Nagy later said he called every offensive play in the second half, when the Chiefs netted only 56 yards and failed to score.
While the playoff game was a disappointment, Reid showed the ultimate trust in Nagy down the stretch – and it worked. Already a known commodity in NFL circles, Nagy became an instant head coaching candidate in December of 2017.
Jan. 1, 2018: Bears general manager Ryan Pace fired head coach John Fox after three losing seasons. Pace confirmed he would be heading the search for a new coach. When the Bears hired Fox in 2015, Pace had been on the job for three weeks. That hiring process was heavily aided by chairman George McCaskey, team president Ted Phillips and an outside consultant, Ernie Accorsi. The next hiring would have Pace’s fingerprints all over it.
[Remember when?: Hub Arkush: Bears make right moves by firing John Fox, giving Ryan Pace extension]
Over the following days and weeks, the Bears interviewed a number of candidates for the head coaching job, including Nagy, then-Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, then-Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo, then-Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmer, then-Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Jan. 8, 2018: The Bears hired Nagy as the 16th head coach in team history.Nagy had high praise for Trubisky’s potential at quarterback. Nagy provided hope for a new offensive era of Bears football, with fans envisioning the type of offense the Chiefs and Eagles ran under Reid.
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Sept. 1, 2018: The Bears traded for outside linebacker Khalil Mack, adding a Pro Bowl pass rusher to an already solid defense.
[Remember when?: Bears expected to trade for Khalil Mack from Raiders]
Sept. 9, 2018: The Packers beat the Bears in Nagy’s first game as head coach, but the Bears defense arrived with an impressive performance against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Nagy paid homage to the Bears’ early history by lining up his offense in the T-formation on the first play of the game.
Sept. 30, 2018: Trubisky threw a career-high six touchdowns passes in a win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was the first time a Bears quarterback threw at least five touchdown passes since 1949.
Dec. 16, 2018: The Bears defeated the Packers at Soldier Field, clinching their first NFC North Division title since 2010.
Jan. 6, 2019: Kicker Cody Parkey missed a potential game-winning 43-yard field goal – the infamous double-doink – in a Wild Card Round playoff game at Soldier Field against the Eagles.
[Remember when? Bears’ defense comes up short in NFC wild-card game vs. Eagles]
Jan. 9, 2019: The Denver Broncos hired Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as head coach. Two days later, the Bears hired former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano to replace Fangio as defensive coordinator.
Feb. 2, 2019: Nagy earns 2018 NFL Head Coach of the Year honors.
[Remember when?: Bears’ Nagy is 2018 NFL Coach of the Year]
Sept. 5, 2019: The Bears and Packers kicked off the NFL’s 100th season on “Thursday Night Football” from Soldier Field. The Bears offense struggled in a 10-3 loss.
Sept. 29, 2019: Trubisky injured his shoulder against the Minnesota Vikings. With backup Chase Daniel in the game, the Bears held on for a win to improve to 3-1. They went on to lose the next four games, dropping them to 3-5 and severely hurting their playoff hopes.
Oct. 20, 2019: The Bears lost to the New Orleans Saints, even with Saints quarterback Drew Brees out with an injury. As offensive play caller, Nagy called only seven rushing attempts in the game, compared to 54 passing attempts. Days later, Nagy made headlines saying, “I’m not an idiot, I know we have to run more.”
Dec. 31, 2019: Nagy fired offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich and numerous other offensive assistant coaches following a disappointing 8-8 season.
Jan. 13, 2020: The Bears hired Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator, hoping to reinvigorate Trubisky’s quarterback play and the Bears run game.
March 12, 2020: The Bears closed their facilities due to the emerging coronavirus pandemic. Other teams made the same decision around that time, and the league later mandated all facilities close, throwing a curveball at the 2020 offseason.
March 31, 2020: Pace traded for former Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles. The Bears later announced plans to have Trubisky and Foles compete for the starting quarterback job.
Sept. 4, 2020: Nagy named Trubisky the starting quarterback after a training camp battle with Foles prior to the 2020 season.
Sept. 27, 2020: Nagy pulled Trubisky in the second half in favor of Foles, who led the Bears to their second 17-point comeback in three weeks. Nagy later said Foles would be the starter moving forward.
Oct. 26, 2020: After a 5-1 start to the season, the Bears lost to the Los Angeles Rams on “Monday Night Football,” the first of what became six consecutive losses.
Nov. 13, 2020: Nagy announces that he is giving up offensive play calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
[Remember when?: Bears head coach Matt Nagy gives up offensive play calling duties]
Nov. 16, 2020: Foles suffered a hip injury in a loss to the Vikings. Trubisky returned to the starting role in the Bears’ next game.
Dec. 6, 2020: The Bears blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead against the Detroit Lions, losing their sixth consecutive game. Some fans called for change after the debacle, but Pace and Nagy kept their jobs through the end of the season.
Jan. 3, 2021: The Bears lost to the Packers, 35-16, but still snuck into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the NFC thanks to some help from the Rams, who beat the Arizona Cardinals that day. It marked their second consecutive 8-8 regular season.
Jan. 10, 2021: Making their third playoff appearance in two seasons, the Bears lost to the New Orleans Saints, 21-9, in a Wild Card round playoff game.