March 01, 2024


Hub Arkush: Can Matt Nagy save his team and his job?

Believe it or not, the Bears’ Sunday in Tampa was not rock bottom

LAKE FOREST — Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, the COVID-19 gods – if there are such a thing – had another surprise for Bears coach Matt Nagy.

There is absolutely nothing acceptable about being witty or clever with the news Monday morning that Nagy has tested positive for the virus.

I trust and hope all of Bears Nation joins in wishing him the speediest and as asymptomatic as possible recovery, and that the virus stops in the Nagy home with him, and that his wife and kids stay healthy and safe.

That said, after Sunday, our focus for the moment has to be on just how bad these 2021 Bears are, and what has to happen to keep this season from being Nagy’s last in Chicago.

As ugly as Sunday’s 38-3 loss to the Bucs was, if memory serves me correctly, the hated Packers suffered an identical loss six weeks ago to a lesser team in the Saints, and their world didn’t come to an end.

No, the Bears are not as good a team or organization as the Packers, but the point is they’re not as bad as they were Sunday, either.

Reality is they’ve lost four times to the 6-1 Rams, 4-3 Browns, 6-1 Packers and 6-1 Bucs – and the loss to the Packers was a three-point game with just 4½ minutes to play – while beating the 5-2 Bengals, 5-2 Raiders and hapless Lions.

This aura pervasive around the Bears, that everything that goes wrong is all on them and everything they get right is all gifts from opponents, is ridiculous.

In this NFL, they are an average team that can’t afford to be average again if people want to keep their jobs. A brutal schedule has left them at a tipping point.

That is further complicated by a brilliant young quarterback who is a real threat to be the second coming the Bears have been waiting for since Sid Luckman, but while ready to learn the job, he clearly isn’t ready yet to succeed at it.

Knowing I would think that he had to win at least nine or 10 games to keep his job, I have been puzzled since he did it why Nagy gave the job to Justin Fields as early as he did?

I asked him Monday if the team’s offensive woes were systemic or due to Fields not growing quickly enough, and he took exception.

“I would say I don’t agree with that. I think that he’s done a really good job of growing,” Nagy said. “We all knew there was going to be growing pains, that’s with every single rookie quarterback that has ever played in the history of this game, that has happened.

“And so what is important for us to understand is learning how to do things as an NFL quarterback, and some of these times that we have whether good or bad, he’s going to use those to make him a [heck] of a quarterback in this league for a long time.”

A couple of excerpts from a much longer answer, none of it responding to the point of my question that was, “quickly enough?”

This is often the dilemma in analyzing Nagy: Is he strategically choosing not to answer the question for whatever reason, or does he really not understand his offense isn’t just a light bulb going on away from being competitive, and he actually just accentuated why the move to Fields may have been too soon?

There were a few warning signs last week that all might not be well in Shangri-La, but the Bucs disaster still is a step or two short of proving them prescient.

Nothing final happened in Tampa.

Put your emotions aside for a moment, and you’ll see the next two games, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, are actually quite winnable, especially if Robert Quinn, Akiem Hicks and Tashaun Gipson are back on the field. And if the Bears do win them, going into the bye at 5-4 will have a different look and feel.

But with the Bears’ backs now as flat against the wall as they can be, lose either one with anything resembling another performance with the football as offensive as Sunday’s was, and there could be nothing left to keep Nagy.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush was the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and