It’s been a long month for Matt Nagy.
Not only did he lose all three games in October, but he was heavily criticized in a different, hyper-specific way in each one. Whether it was the late flight to London, running the ball seven times against the Saints, or mismanaging last Sunday’s final drive against the Chargers, Nagy’s been at the center of conversation as the Bears have struggled to meet expectations.
Nagy frequently talks about understanding the peaks and valleys of an NFL season. The Bears spent all preseason talking about their Super Bowl expectations, though, and are now last in the division – with playoff odds hovering below 5% – before Halloween.
“... You find out who’s real and who’s not real,” he said on Monday. “That’s what I love about this. For me, I can handle things myself. It doesn’t—I have that in me.
“I kinda enjoy it. I don’t want to lose, but it’s like, ‘Hey, let’s go. You’re gonna be at a point now where you’re gonna test us. Let’s roll. Let’s stick together. Let’s freaking go.”
Nagy and his players have been plenty transparent about their underwhelming first half. Mitch Trubisky said after the Saints loss that the team’s still looking for its identity. On Tuesday Prince Amukamara called it disappointing and said that "shocking is a good word for it."
His reputation as a play-called and game manager have taken a few hits in 2019, but his role as the team’s emotional leader hasn’t changed. The press conferences have become a bit more heated, but around Halas Hall, the Bears haven’t noticed a difference.
“He’s the same person,” Charles Leno said. “Every day he’s coming in with the same energy, same messages – like, hey, we are just going to continue to get better. He’s not phased or shook about this. He’s the same person every day and that’s the type of people we have in this locker room.”
Amukamara also mentioned that Nagy’s level-headed demeanor is especially appreciated in times like this, because “putting on all your pads and hitting each other on the heads” is never all that helpful.
There’s tons of value in keeping a losing locker room together, and much of the Bears’ unity so far is a credit to him. Of course a head coach is going to think a sputtering offense is only a few minor adjustments away, but Nagy pointed to David Montgomery’s 55-yard run as proof that his schemes, when executed correctly, has explosive-play potential.
“Perfectly executed,” Leno added. “The way that play was designed – it went exactly the way it was supposed to. You draw it up like that and that’s how you want it to be. That’s how it worked out.”
It’s runs like that, or throws like Trubisky’s pass to Trey Burton on 2nd-and-18 against the Chargers, that have Nagy believing the season’s still salvageable.
“You get that win and this stuff we’re talking about is a lot easier to talk about,” he said. “I think we’re talking a lot more about the growth of the offense and less about what to do on that other play at the end of the game.”