September 20, 2021


Hub Arkush: There’s no reason to believe Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy enter season on hot seat

Let’s look back for a moment to Jan. 13 and the Bears’ press conference with Chairman of the Board George McCaskey and President and CEO Ted Phillips that went so quickly and so far off the rails.

The reason, of course, was that so many believed it should have been the last day on the job for general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy.

It left in its wake an organization that many fans crowed was unsalvageable, and to which they would no longer pledge their allegiance.

Now, fast forward four months through the exile of whipping boy Mitch Trubisky, a change in offensive philosophy and player acquisition to a speed-kills mentality, a bold move to take another shot at a franchise quarterback in the draft, and a priority put on finally fixing the tackle position with the next two picks. Suddenly it seemed fans everywhere were back on the bandwagon, albeit with a healthy load of skepticism remaining about ownership and management.

The Bears may already be the comeback team of the year.

But left in the wake of that tragic comedy remains a serious lack of trust and consistent desire to seriously underrate the talent on the roster. Along with the constant drone of an idea that was just proved completely false: that Pace and Ryan now come to work every day desperate to save their jobs.

Anyone who has thoroughly studied the Bears organization and ownership knows they aren’t wild about change. They don’t act rashly. They don’t react to public pressure. They are exceptionally loyal. When they tell us something, they generally mean it, and did I mention they don’t like change?

So why are so many running around spreading the false narrative that the general manager and head coach are tiptoeing at the peaks of their professional bubbles and will be fired at the end of this season for anything short of a deep playoff run?

What are the realistic expectations for and from Pace and Nagy this season?

Here’s what McCaskey, the guy who ultimately decides if they stay or go, told us in January.

“Have mistakes been made? Yes. But I think both Ryan and Matt are learning and growing in their roles,” McCaskey said. “We’re frustrated, too. And it would be a perfectly natural reaction to say, ‘Back up the truck. Major overhaul.’ Whatever you want to call it. You deserve your Bears being winners. The decisions we’re announcing today might not be the easiest or most popular, but we believe they’re the best decisions for the Bears.”

“We know we need to get better. We believe that Ryan and Matt are excellent leaders,” Phillips said. “They have each had successes and failures. But the path to winning is rarely linear, and we feel that the strong ability of Ryan and Matt to work to together to build a shared vision of success is the fastest way toward building a consistently winning organization.”

The inconvenient facts for the doubters are that as a duo Pace and Nagy have never had a losing season, have been to the playoffs two of the past three seasons and have a 28-20 record.

Sure, if they only win four, five or even six games this year they’ll probably get fired. They should be if that’s where they’re at after four seasons and, no, developing Justin Fields won’t be used as rationale for them to stick.

But their records to date are a lot closer to what their bosses expect and would be welcomed in most NFL markets.

For the exact same reasons a 10- or 11-win season, or more, will almost certainly get them extensions.

But if they’re competitive, but stuck in the middle again, what evidence is there anywhere ownership and management will act any differently than they did eight months ago?

At the end of the day, I don’t have a dog in this race, and I’m not making any predictions here.

I am saying there is absolutely no reason to believe Pace and Nagy will kick off the season fighting for their jobs or making decisions focused strictly on saving them.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media