A major shakeup is underway for the Chicago Bears, as sources confirmed to NBC Sports Chicago the organization fired both general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy Monday morning following a terribly disappointing 6-11 season that concluded with a 31-17 loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis.
And more changes could be coming, with all eyes now on team president Ted Phillips and a possible reorganization of top executives.
While Nagy’s firing has been expected over the last month, Pace’s fate was less certain. His seven years in Chicago were defined by inconsistency, as Pace had his fair share of big mistakes and savvy roster additions.
Both Nagy and Pace were put on notice going into the 2021 season. After 48 hours of silence following their January playoff exit, Bears chairman George McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips announced Nagy and Pace would return in 2021, but needed to show progress. Despite trading up in the NFL Draft for prized rookie quarterback Justin Fields, that progress never occurred.
Nagy was heavily criticized for announcing free agent quarterback Andy Dalton as the team’s unquestioned starter and for not giving Fields a chance to compete for the job. Fields was forced into action by Week 2 when Dalton suffered a knee injury, but his lack of reps with the first-team in the preseason didn’t help as he went through his predictable rookie struggles.
Optimism about Fields is still sky high inside the walls of Halas Hall, so it seemed plausible that Pace’s big move to draft Fields in April might give him redemption for his failed pick of Mitchell Trubisky in 2017. But in the end, Pace’s pairing of Nagy and Trubisky together was too much to overcome.
Nagy leaves the organization with a record that barely stayed over .500, finishing at 34-33, including an 0-2 record in the playoffs. He got off to a blazing start with the team in 2018, winning the NFC North title with a 12-4 record while earning AP and PFWA NFL Coach of the Year honors, but was never able to build on his early success.
Entering the 2019 season with Super Bowl expectations, the Bears finished 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. Trubisky regressed mightily in his third NFL season, which led to the team signing Nick Foles to a big contract to compete with the young quarterback in 2020. Neither played well enough in 2020, but the Bears squeaked into the playoffs with an 8-8 record despite enduring a six-game losing streak in the middle of the season and losing to the Packers in Week 17. They were barely competitive in the postseason, losing 21-9 to the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round.
For Nagy, his four seasons in Chicago will always be defined by an offense that never found an identity. Having only coached under Andy Reid before arriving in Chicago, Nagy tried to run the only offense he knew, but it never caught on. Even in 2018, when the Bears won 12 games, the offense ranked 21st in the league. In 2019, the offense ranked 29th and in 2020 it ranked 26th. Finally in 2021, even with Fields showing signs of breaking out, the offense dipped to 28th in the league.
For all of Nagy’s faults, players largely enjoyed playing for him. He ran a respectable program and dug the team out of lengthy losing streaks in 2019 and 2020. But this season always appeared to be a do-or-die campaign for the head coach and he simply could not survive another long losing streak, which reached five games mid-season.
A November loss to the Ravens, who played without MVP candidate Lamar Jackson, appeared to be the breaking point. The Bears did not score any points until midway through the third quarter and then blew a late 13-9 lead. Nagy also wasted numerous timeouts in the second half, which killed any hopes when the team needed a late field goal to tie.
Despite an erroneous report that claimed Nagy had been told the Thanksgiving game against the Lions would be his last, Nagy was kept around until the end of the season.