LAKE FOREST – Perhaps it was just me, but Bears coach Matt Nagy seemed to bring as much an air of resignation as hope for the first time Monday at Halas Hall.
No, nobody really expected the Bears to beat the Cardinals on Sunday. No one threw in the towel afterward, and the battle cry of rising up against the hated Packers next Sunday night still was there.
But the repetitiveness of the four turnovers, stupid penalties, missed assignments, missed tackles and much more – did the headsets really go out for the second game in a row at home? – appeared to have finally worn Nagy down.
Make no mistake, he is a proud man still coaching 24/7 with every ounce of his being and believing good things are still right around the corner, but it was hard to escape the feeling we weren’t attending a news conference as much as a wake.
Consider his answer when asked what the five games remaining on the schedule really mean.
“I think some people have the opinion that it’s overrated, but I think for us right now our focus inside that locker room is beating Green Bay,” Nagy said. “It stinks that we lost [Sunday]. We are 4-8, and that’s not the record we want.
“You see the records of other teams in the NFC right now and where things are. And so for us, we are aware of that, but it doesn’t matter if you lose. We have to win, and we have to win now.”
Nagy then referenced running back David Montgomery’s comments after the loss regarding the team continuing to practice and play at 100%
“When you have that, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on,” Nagy said. “You fight. It’s as simple as that.”
It’s almost poignant considering the turning point Nagy’s career is at right now.
But it doesn’t change the facts.
There is a boatload of yahoos out there who just want the man’s job because they’re disappointed and angry.
That’s fine. Go vent and act like fools on Twitter, where reason and rationality go to die.
But if it is time for Nagy’s tenure as the Bears’ head coach to end now, why?
Let’s stay out of the quagmire of play-calling, quarterback development, game management and all the minutiae of his job because none of that is completely clear cut, and it really isn’t all that complicated.
I asked Nagy on Monday morning if Andy Dalton playing one of the worst games of his 146 NFL starts Sunday was just on him or was a team issue, and there was a part of his answer that really stood out.
“I think it’s only fair for Andy to understand on every play in that game, as many times in the game as you can have 11 players doing 11 things the right way ... I felt like [Sunday], it was more of 10 of 11 in certain plays,” Nagy said. “Whether it’s the quarterback, wide receiver, running back, bad play call, bad decision by me, whatever it was, it’s all of us.
“And not just on offense. It’s in all three phases. And that’s where, if we can just minimize those, because those happen with every team, when you win, it deodorizes it, but when you lose, it magnifies it.
“If we can just minimize those mistakes, I think we can be a lot better, and I think it showed with some of our numbers [Sunday].”
He isn’t wrong, but here’s the problem:
The Kansas City Chiefs were 3-4 with one of the worst defenses in the league and have won five straight since, allowing 11 points a game and not more than 17 in any of their five wins.
The Miami Dolphins were 1-7 and have won five in a row.
Washington was 2-6 and has won four in a row.
Successful head coaches are the ones responsible for every player and every assistant coach on the team and for minimizing those mistakes and bringing their teams back.
Facing that challenge for the third year in a row and having never really answered it the past two years, now near the end of his fourth full season, it feels more than fair to assume they are answers this head coach just doesn’t have.
• Hub Arkush is a Shaw Media correspondent.