DETROIT – Cole Kmet’s phone blew up this week. It was so bad that he had to shut it off. He called this week “chaotic.”
“I’m not going to lie, it was tough for me,” Kmet said. “A lot in your head after going right from Sunday to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then playing Thursday. There’s a lot in your head. You don’t know what’s true and what’s not. That was difficult.”
As one of the only members of the team who actually grew up in the Chicago area, the tight end from Lake Barrington has a better pulse on where Bears fans’ heads are at than anyone. When something wild happens at Halas Hall or at Soldier Field, Kmet’s friends want to know what’s up.
That was the case this week as a report emerged suggesting that Bears coach Matt Nagy would be fired after Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day game, whether the team won or lost. Nagy vehemently denied that the report was true Tuesday, but neither the organization nor chairman George McCaskey addressed the report publicly.
Instead, McCaskey addressed the team privately Wednesday night at the team hotel and told the players himself that the report was false. Nagy didn’t ask McCaskey to do so. The coach said the team owner took it upon himself to do it.
“I felt better afterwards and I felt more clear-minded going into this game, which is obviously a spot you need to be in before playing a football game,” Kmet said.
Several players also spoke up at the meeting, including veteran quarterback Andy Dalton. After a tumultuous week, the meeting helped put the players in the right head space to go out and win a football game – which the Bears did in a 16-14 win over the Detroit Lions on Thursday at Ford Field.
Trailing by a point, the offense drove 69 yards and ate up 8:30 of game time to set up a game-winning, 28-yard field goal for kicker Cairo Santos. After one of the strangest weeks of the three-and-a-half year Nagy era, the Bears (4-7) finally found a victory, ending a five-game losing streak.
It means something when the team owner addresses the team. Second-year receiver Darnell Mooney said he doesn’t know if he ever heard McCaskey address the team, especially because everything was virtual last year and McCaskey was almost never in the building.
“[It showed] he trusts the process that we’ve got going,” Mooney said.
It was already a whirlwind enough trying to prepare for an early Thursday kickoff four days after a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. NFL teams have their preparation time cut in half when they play on Thursday. They don’t even have a full practice, opting for several days of walk-throughs instead.
Add the fact that Dalton was making his first start since Sept. 19, it was already a crazy week. The 11th-year veteran quarterback has been around the league a long time. He has watched fans and media doubt his head coach before.
So when Nagy asked him to speak in front of the team, there was no hesitation.
“I just spoke from the heart,” Dalton said. “It’s what it all boils down to it.”
Mooney said Dalton’s message was all about the Bears regaining their swag back and playing loose.
Dalton certainly followed his own advice. He threw for 317 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 24-for-39 passing in his return to the starting job. He, much like the Bears offense, had his share of good plays and bad.
A win over the hapless Detroit Lions (0-10-1) isn’t all that much to celebrate. But any win for the Bears this week to snap their losing streak would’ve been worth celebrating for the players and coaches in that locker room.
The man at the center of the drama, Nagy, said he leaned on his friends and family for support this week.
“When you’ve got other coaches and people from other teams that you talk to that are there to support you, when you have people inside your building, when you have family and friends as strong as my family and friends, it’s pretty powerful,” Nagy said. “Again, if I couldn’t handle it, I would’ve never signed up to take this job, but I can handle it. That’s me.”
Nagy deflected a question about his job status moving forward with six games remaining on the schedule. Frankly, the man was simply trying to make it through this week. The time will come when McCaskey has to address the head coaching position, and it seems that time wasn’t Thursday.
“Every week is a little bit different, and this one was definitely different,” Nagy said.