Tuesday wasn’t the first bizarre day at Halas Hall and it won’t be the last.
But it sure made the long list of regrettable days for the franchise. And it was another strong reminder that even if they move on from head coach Matt Nagy soon, the same problems that stretch decades will still exist.
In the middle of a short week of preparation, a bombshell hit the internet Tuesday morning when Patch.com reporter Mark Konkol reported that Matt Nagy had already been informed that Thursday’s game against the Lions would be his last as head coach of the Bears.
When NFL seasons start spiraling out of control — and the Bears have lost five games in a row — many rumors start to swirl, but this was an actual written report from a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, so it couldn’t be ignored. Konkol even went on at least three radio stations — 670 The Score, ESPN 1000 and WGN Radio — to discuss his report and insisted, “I’ve got a really good source on this.”
The Bears, however, chose to ignore the report, which led to this series of events unfolding:
- Bears special teams coordinator Chris Tabor was left to speak for the organization first, saying he was not aware of the report and had not talked to Nagy about his job status.
“Coach Nagy is our head coach. I want to work for this guy now, OK? Love him to death and he’s the head football coach of the Chicago Bears and he’s gonna lead us to a win on Thursday. I believe that deep down in my heart,” Tabor said Tuesday at Halas Hall. “So, to me there’s no story at all. Fair enough?”
- About 45 minutes later, Nagy entered the room and immediately denied he had been told Thursday would be his last game.
“That is not accurate. No, I have not,” he said. “I have great communication with ownership, with George (McCaskey) and Ted (Phillips) and Ryan (Pace), but I have not had any discussions.”
Nagy went on to say that he had not talked to the higher ups this week, and that was planned because of the short turnaround to Thursday’s game. But when asked multiple times if he has been assured he’ll be able to finish the season as the team’s head coach, Nagy declined to answer the question, saying his focus is only on the Detroit Lions.
— Still dealing with a ribs injury to starting quarterback Justin Fields, Nagy confirmed Andy Dalton will start against the Lions and that it’s unlikely Fields will be active, meaning Nick Foles will be the backup.
— Nagy also addressed a “Fire Nagy” chant that broke out at his son’s high school football game Saturday. The head coach was in attendance at Cary-Grove High School where his son, who plays for Lake Forest, was playing in a state semifinal game.
— Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said he didn’t know anything about the report of Nagy’s impending firing, but offered up this anecdote:
“I’ve been in the locker room before a game when a very well known national insider announced our coach was not going to be back. Players were on their phones getting messages. I’m not saying that’s the only reason we lost that day, but we played like crap that day. And, at the end of the year, not only was he not fired, but he got a new contract. And we’re still waiting for the apology from that national insider. So the No. 1 thing I can do is my job, which is beat the Lions, period.”
Lazor didn’t mention the team or the reporter, but the offensive coordinator was part of the Cincinnati Bengals staff on Dec. 17, 2017 when ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported then-head coach Marvin Lewis was “planning to leave the Bengals after the season to pursue opportunities elsewhere.” The Bengals lost to the Vikings 34-7 that day, but managed to win their final two games of the season and Lewis ultimately signed a two-year extension after the season. He was fired following the 2018 season.
— Safety Tashaun Gipson offered a strong endorsement of his head coach:
“Coach Nagy is my coach and you know I'm going to play for him. I think everybody in the locker room loves playing for Nagy,” he said.
Gipson went on say he was a part of “bad locker rooms” when he played for the Cleveland Browns and “this is not that.”
— Dealing with his own drama, wide receiver Allen Robinson had a different report to address:
Robinson has hosted a basketball podcast with Jordan Schultz, so the tweet immediately created speculation that Robinson was the source of the information.
“Stuff like that is very tough,” Robinson said. “Definitely is. It's tough because obviously, me and him having a podcast, putting me in a very vulnerable situation and stuff like that. That conversation, it was definitely had.”
Robinson was clearly unhappy and prepared to talk about the report. It was actually surprising to see Robinson even talk to the media today because he’s injured and was listed as a “DNP” on Tuesday’s injury report. The Bears’ policy is that players who do not practice are off limits to the media.
“You guys know me. Anything that I wanted to get across has come from me, and it'll always be that way. It'll never change,” Robinson said. “Anything I want to get accomplished, I want to say, I'm a grown-ass man. I can get stuff done myself.
“I have my social platforms. I have my own voice. I sit in front of you guys every week and talk. There's nothing I ever need to hide behind someone else to get out there.”
— If Nagy really had not talked to ownership this week, that apparently changed after he talked to the media Tuesday. The Chicago Tribune reported he met with ownership before the team’s second walk-through in the afternoon, informed the team of that meeting and then canceled the rest of the meetings scheduled Tuesday.
So what does all of this mean?
It means the end is near. Regardless of the accuracy of the Patch.com report, this isn’t the type of Tuesday that occurs during a short week for a franchise that is under control.
If Nagy indeed canceled the remaining meetings scheduled for Tuesday afternoon and evening, it’s a surprising move with only three days to prepare for the Lions. There are no full practices before these Thursday games so all of the mental work matters.
Nagy — and especially Tabor — were put in a tough spot by the way in which the organization handled a significant story — true or not. As former Bears long snapper Patrick Mannelly said perfectly on Twitter Tuesday night, the organization did not do its job to help the Bears beat the Lions.
For all of Nagy’s faults, he’s done a good job of holding the locker room together and leading the team for the majority of his four seasons as head coach. As bad as the six-game losing streak was in 2020, they did rebound from that and stay together.
Unfortunately, this is a different situation. Sunday’s loss to the Ravens felt like a breaking point and everything that has occurred in the last 48 hours has only made it worse.
To his credit, Nagy handled Tuesday’s press conference as well as he possibly could have, including the class he showed in responding to the ugly chants directed at his family at Saturday’s high school football game. And that’s one thing that’s not under debate: when Nagy leaves the Bears, he will leave with his dignity in hand.
The Bears’ franchise is a different story. Frankly, they’re hanging the head coach out to dry right now. When it ends is unclear. It could be Thursday night. It could be Friday. It could be Jan. 10.
But when it ends, the mess is going to be left in the same hands to clean up once again. And that leaves no one with any confidence that things will get better.