Bears at the Bye: Eddy Pineiro has been Matt Nagy's best decision of 2019

Bears at the Bye: Eddy Pineiro has been Matt Nagy's best decision of 2019

Matt Nagy's first season as head coach of the Bears was a near-impossible act to follow. The Bears went 12-4, won the NFC North and, let's be honest, if they had a competent kicker in last year's wild-card game against the Eagles, he'd have a playoff win on his resume too.

Nagy was named the 2018 NFL Coach of the Year, but with such success comes higher expectations and unexpected challenges.

Following such a dominant season on defense, Vic Fangio was one of the hottest coaching candidates on the circuit last offseason. He was hired by the Broncos to become Denver's new head coach, which thrust Nagy into a coaching search of his own to find a new defensive coordinator.

Enter Chuck Pagano, who after five weeks of the regular season has the Bears defense humming. There's been no regression post-Fangio. In fact, Chicago's defense is playing faster and with more physicality. There's more upside with this group under Pagano than there was with Fangio, and they've carried the Bears in their three wins out of the gate.

Nagy checked that box with no problem. But the boxes he hasn't checked this season yet are a consistent passing game and effective running game. His reputation as a standout offensive coach will slowly but surely be questioned if Mitch Trubisky and the rest of this offense don't get things figured out quickly after the bye.

One of the coaches who will be under the microscope is offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. And it's not because he's doing a bad job; his resume precedes him. Instead, the offensive line just hasn't come together through five games and the onus is on Hiestand to get them out of their funk. 

Ironically, the best decision Nagy's made so far in 2019 was the one to keep Eddy Pineiro as the team's starting kicker. Pineiro has been fantastic through five games; he's missed only one field goal attempt and it was while he was playing through injury in Week 3. Otherwise, he's been automatic. 

The Bears don't have a kicker problem anymore. Ever since Cody Parkey's double-doink that ended Chicago's season last year, the Bears' kicker situation has been under the national spotlight. From the training camp carousel of names to the sometimes awkward kicking competitions at practice, the end result has made it all worth it. Pineiro is a stud.

At least, so far.

We can't close out our Bears at the Bye without discussing the punter, Pat O'Donnell. He's been a mainstay on special teams since 2014 and he's doing just enough to keep that streak going into the future. He's 13th in the league in net average yards per punt, which isn't great but isn't bad either. Essentially, it's another classic O'Donnell season.

Bears coaching grade at the bye: C+

Bears special teams grade at the bye: B+ 

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Top 5 moments in Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers rivarly history

Top 5 moments in Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers rivarly history

With sports on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, sheltered fans get to relive their favorite moments in sporting history through re-airs of classic games.

And that includes Bears fans.

On Thursday, April 2, NBCSN will re-air the 2015 Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers Thanksgiving Day game. You know, the night the Bears ruined Brett Favre’s jersey retirement.

But it had us thinking… where does it rank amongst the top five moments in this storied rivalry.

Here are the top five moments, Bears moments, in the history of the rivalry.

And don't forget, you can watch that Bears-Packers classic on NBCSN at 8:30 CT.

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Brett Favre's number retirement against Bears healed deep wounds with Packers


Brett Favre's number retirement against Bears healed deep wounds with Packers

As far as Thanksgiving evenings go, it was as miserable as it gets. Cold. Rainy. Windy.

And yet, no one inside Lambeau Field seemed to mind. The 78,488 fans in attendance were just happy Brett Favre was actually there.

For a long time, many wondered how long they would have to wait to see Favre’s No. 4 retired. It had to happen eventually, but the divorce between Favre and the Packers was so messy that over seven years passed before the quarterback was finally honored at Lambeau Field.

Nov. 26, 2015. A primetime game on Thanksgiving. Against the Chicago Bears.

As a Chicagoan growing up in the 90s, Favre wasn’t exactly a fan favorite. But like many outside Wisconsin, I came to respect the gunslinger who went 22-10 against the Bears in his career. Honestly, it felt more like 30-2. As time passed and I gained the perspective of covering the NFL for a decade, I now look at Favre as the most exciting quarterback I ever saw. Considering the quarterbacks I witnessed in Chicago over the course of Favre’s career, that conclusion shouldn’t be too surprising.

But it’s a big reason why I was genuinely excited to cover Favre’s number retirement ceremony in 2015. Typically, I’m not too thrilled to leave my family on Thanksgiving, but since our Thanksgiving dinners take place in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, I was able to sit down for an early meal before driving over to Green Bay.

As cruel as it seemed, the NFL did a good job scheduling the game against the Bears. It’s still a crime that Favre wore a Vikings jersey before his number was retired in Green Bay, and those wounds were still too deep to have the ceremony occur against Minnesota. It had to be a Bears-Packers game.

Few will remember that John Fox got his only win over the Packers that night or that Marquess Wilson caught a touchdown in the 17-13 Bears victory. From Chicago’s perspective, they got a little revenge and sent Favre out with a loss, even though he didn’t play in the game.

"I grew up a Brett Favre fan, so that night, I was definitely aware of the fact that Brett Favre was being recognized and I thought it was really cool that we spoiled that," former Bear Kyle Long, who played right tackle in that game, told NBC Sports Chicago this week.

In Wisconsin, the Bears' win is just a footnote. Despite the ugly weather and being subjected to “Simply The Best” for 15 straight minutes, the halftime ceremony was perfect. Bart Starr stole the show, making it onto the field at 81 years old despite suffering two strokes and a heart attack the year before. He clearly shouldn’t have been there, but refused to miss it -- a true testament to Favre.

Few remember that Jim McMahon won a Super Bowl in Green Bay. In fact, I don’t even think Packer fans remember that. So it was a little weird seeing the former Bears quarterback on the field in a Packer jersey, but there he was.

The most significant moment came right as the halftime ceremony was ending. The players were running back onto the field and Aaron Rodgers went out of his way to find Favre. The two exchanged a genuine handshake and hug, signaling an end to the frozen war of Wisconsin.

In 2013, Rodgers and Favre surprised everyone when they took the stage together at the NFL Honors. It was a scripted, intentionally awkward appearance, and provided some hope that Favre and the Packers could reconcile and settle their differences. But Favre and Rodgers were anything but friends at the time, so the embrace at Lambeau Field in 2015 was meaningful. Today, that relationship is much different. By the time Starr passed away in 2019, Rodgers was posting messages like this one on Instagram.

In Wisconsin, Nov. 26, 2015 will be a night that healed wounds and brought together the Packers’ three greatest quarterbacks ever.

In Chicago, it was the time a bunch of random Bears like Chris Prosinski and Jeremy Langford spoiled Favre’s big ceremony.

For this sportswriter, it was a night that fused my childhood with my professional career. It was a night I’ll always remember.

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