LAKE FOREST – Bears coach Matt Nagy said Tuesday that a report speculating about his job status is “not accurate.”
Rumors swirled on social media and the internet after a report surfaced that Thursday could be Nagy’s final game as the head coach, win or lose.
The Bears are scheduled to face the Detroit Lions at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in a Thanksgiving Day matchup at Ford Field in Detroit. The team faces a quick, four-day turnaround after Sunday’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
The report in question indicated the organization already had told Nagy that Thursday would be his final game.
“That is not accurate,” Nagy said Tuesday. “I have great communication with ownership, with George [McCaskey] and Ted [Phillips] and Ryan [Pace], but I have not had any discussions.”
Asked if he had assurances that he would coach out the remainder of the season, Nagy said, “My focus is on these players and Detroit.”
Whether or not Thursday is Nagy’s last game, what can be agreed upon is that Tuesday was a public relations debacle for the Bears.
The organization did not address the report with any sort of statement or news release. Instead, it held Tuesday’s media availability as previously scheduled. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor was first at the podium and was put in the uncomfortable position of answering questions about his boss’s job status.
Tabor said he knew nothing of any reports circulating online.
“I want to work for this guy,” Tabor said of Nagy. “[I] love him to death, and he’s the head football coach of the Chicago Bears. He’s going to help lead us to a win on Thursday. To me, there’s no story at all.”
This much is true: When chaos reigns and all anyone is talking about on sports talk radio is the head coach’s job status, it should not fall to the special teams coordinator to answer questions first.
This much appears to also be true: Nagy will coach Thursday in Detroit.
Nagy has coached the Bears since 2018. He has a 31-27 record in 3 1/2 seasons, which includes two playoff appearances. The current team is mired in a five-game losing streak and stuck at 3-7 on the season, ahead of only the winless Lions in the NFC North.
During Nagy’s tenure, the Bears have suffered through long losing streaks in each of the past three seasons. They lost four straight in 2019, putting a damper on a 3-1 start. They lost six consecutive last season, before rallying to grab the seventh playoff spot in the NFC with an 8-8 record. Now a five-game losing streak in 2021 is testing the resolve of Bears fans yet again.
Many fans were calling for Nagy to lose his job last year, particularly as the calendar turned from November to December and the team’s losing streak persisted. Instead, chairman McCaskey and president/CEO Phillips announced Jan. 13 that Nagy and general manager Pace would remain in their positions for the 2021 season. They have still never clarified the length of Nagy’s and Pace’s contracts.
Drafting quarterback Justin Fields with the 11th overall pick in the spring gave Bears fans a jolt that they hadn’t had in a while. But the management of Fields – from starting Andy Dalton in Week 1 to the game plan when Fields did eventually start – only has led to more questions about whether Nagy is the best man for the job.
Since the Bears were formed in 1920, the organization has never fired a coach midseason. Nagy and the 2021 season is testing that.
Players weigh in: Most NFL veterans who have been around for any length of time have been through this once or twice. When things go south, it usually falls on the head coach.
“There are rumors all over the place about a lot of different things at different times,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “And as a locker room, you don’t worry about that. There are so many other things you have to worry about.”
Dalton will have to worry about the Lions. He will start in place of the injured Fields, Nagy announced Tuesday.
The social media environment certainly makes ignoring the outside noise more difficult. Veteran safety Tashaun Gipson said the team’s locker room felt like any other day Tuesday. He didn’t hear anyone talking about reports referencing their head coach.
“I haven’t seen anything that’s pointing toward the signs that guys have disengaged, or guys are checked out,” Gipson said. “I’ve been in the league 10 years, I think I’ve had six losing seasons out of my 10 years, seven maybe. So, obviously, I know what losing feels like. I know what a losing locker room is like, and this is not that.”
Receiver Allen Robinson agreed that Nagy hasn’t lost the locker room. Robinson’s partner on an NBA podcast they do together, Jordan Schultz, reported Monday night that players were losing faith in Nagy, citing unnamed sources.
Robinson said Tuesday that the report didn’t come from him.
“It’s tough because, obviously, me and him having a podcast,” Robinson said. “[It’s] putting me in a very vulnerable situation and stuff like that. That conversation, it was definitely had.”