January 24, 2022


Hub Arkush: What’s next for Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace?

It’s the most talked about subject in Chicago sports: should Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy keep their jobs?

Sadly most of it is based on nothing more than emotion and the silly misnomer that some media and fans actually think they know as much or more about the game as the Bears brain-trust.

But the emotion is understandable. The bar was set somewhere over the moon when the Bears duo became coach and executive of the year in that 2018 campaign – Nagy’s first season – and then entered the franchise’s 100th anniversary season as the hottest story in the league.

All rookie coaches are expected to fail before they succeed, but Nagy and Pace never got that chance.

They haven’t failed, they just succeeded too soon.

But that’s not to say either have achieved all they should have with the resources they’ve been given in their first 3 ½ seasons together. Nor am I saying they deserve a shot at a fifth season.

There are no clear guidelines or statistical proof as to what makes a coach or general manager worth keeping, but there are some comps worth looking at.

These are the seven head coaches hired to start the 2018 season:

NameOverall recordLosing seasonsPlayoff appearancesPlayoff record
Mike Vrabel36-21022-2
Frank Reich32-25121-2
Matt Nagy31-26020-2
Jon Gruden22-3120
Matt Patricia13-2930
Pat Shurmur9-2320
Steve Wilks3-1310

While you are free to demand and argue that you deserve more, when you consider Nagy inherited a team that was 19-45 in the four seasons before he arrived, you cannot argue that he’s failed.

My favorite Nagy comp when it comes to separating reality and emotion is 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.

Shanahan is 32-40 with the 49ers over one more season than Nagy, he has just one playoff trip, albeit that ended in a Super Bowl loss, and the other three of his four completed seasons have all been losing years with a combined record of 16-32.

Yet we constantly hear fans and media yearning for Shanahan or another coach like him over Nagy? Why?

I can’t answer the Shanahan phenomena, but there certainly is a case to be made that Nagy has reached his limits and it’s time for a change.

He was brought here to bring the Bears offense into the 21st century and it is currently the worst in the league.

He was stubborn to the point of near foolishness before finally relinquishing play-calling duties that were keeping him from being a full-time head coach.

And then there is the failure at quarterback. Both Nagy and Pace are responsible for their rush to cast each Mitch Trubisky, Nick Foles and Andy Dalton aside for the next shiny object, which is now Justin Fields.

Everyone in Chicago should be head over heels to have Fields, but we can’t really evaluate Nagy’s or Pace’s QB work until we see who both Trubisky and Fields are, and if there is anything left to the careers of Foles and Dalton.

And how about one more complicating factor?

Pace should not be blamed for John Fox. It’s a subject for a different column but trust me on that one.

But if Nagy has failed as a head coach, doesn’t it have to mean that Pace did enough to win with the right coach? Or vice versa, if Pace has failed as a G.M., does that mean that Nagy has actually overachieved?

The culture is dramatically improved and there is young talent developing.

No one can argue this duo hasn’t been a dramatic improvement over their predecessors, but without a playoff win – let alone a Super Bowl – unless it happens this year, you can certainly argue they haven’t improved enough.

But there is one more consideration to make.

With no true football person above them in the organization, if the plug is pulled, what are the odds the next hires will be better?

New is rarely better in the NFL, but sometimes you just have to try.

Nagy and Pace have eight more weeks to make their case and all that is certain now is that nothing is certain yet.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media