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10 Bears Takes after their thrilling 25-24 win in snowy Seattle

The Chicago Bears find themselves at (5-10) closing the page on Week 16, following a thrilling last-minute win against the struggling Seattle Seahawks. Does Sunday’s win change anything or did it further put off the inevitable?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Somehow, someway, the Chicago Bears notched their fifth win of the season in snowy Seattle after a 25-24 last-minute victory on Sunday afternoon. Despite going in as seven-point underdogs, and despite trailing by 10 points heading into the fourth quarter, head coach Matt Nagy’s squad was able to pull off the win. For as disappointing as the Bears have been in 2021, you won’t find many that will argue that the Seahawks have been even more disappointing. Especially when you consider that they nixed an early March trade that would have sent veteran quarterback Russell Wilson to Chicago for multiple first-round picks.

Both teams leave Week 16 with the same (5-10) record and both teams are now also officially eliminated from playoff contention. This will be Seattle’s first losing season in 10 years. To say this has been a disappointing year for both teams, would be exactly how both fan bases would describe it.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

1. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported early Sunday morning that with a loss the Bears could move on from Nagy to get a jump on their head coaching search. It’s hard to imagine they move on from him after a win, no matter how close or ugly.

Early Sunday morning, Rapoport reported that Nagy’s job was in serious peril. He then went on to say that if the Bears were to lose in Seattle, the Bears could open up their head coaching search on Monday.

The Bears did not lose and it’s unlikely they would fire Nagy after a win. The Bears have never fired a coach mid-season and it’s virtually unheard of for a team to fire a head coach (in-season) after a win for performance reasons. Even so, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t open up their head coaching search if they truly wanted to.

A few weeks ago, the NFL decided to allow teams to virtually interview head-coaching candidates starting on Tuesday of Week 17. The caveats? Teams either have to fire their head coach or notify them that they will not be returning for the next season. The other big qualifier? Candidates current teams can accept or deny these two-hour virtual interview requests. That means that in theory, the Bears could officially notify Nagy that he will not be returning for 2022 and start interviewing candidates.

Only time will tell how “successful” this new rule will be or how much it will help teams. A lot of that will fully ride on how accepting teams are in allowing their potential candidates to interview in the middle of the season, right before the playoffs. My guess? Teams won’t be too inclined to invite added distractions into their playoff chases.

I’ll also add that Nagy sounded like a guy that already knows he won’t be returning next year. His post-game press conference was an emotional one that led to him opening up about reflecting on his four years in Chicago and the learning experiences he has had. Whether or not the Bears have already notified him is anybody’s best guess, but the writing is on the wall.

2. My next thought on Rapoport’s Sunday morning report is — If they were willing to fire Nagy after a loss in Week 16 to jumpstart their head coaching search, what does that say for general manager Ryan Pace’s job status?

At this point, we all know Nagy and his coaching staff are gone in two weeks. It would be extremely shocking if that weren’t the case. With that being said, it has been radio silence on anything regarding Pace. Especially in recent weeks.

All we can do at this point is speculate, but if they haven’t already notified Pace of their decision to move on, it leads me to believe that he’s still at least got a chance to keep his job. It’s also completely possible that the Bears are simply dysfunctional enough to start interviewing head coaching candidates, while also planning to fire Pace. Either way, it’s a very weird guessing game that has seen no sort of inkling of what is going on.

It’s worth noting that Rapoport reported a few days prior that he has heard nothing on Pace’s job status. This comes just weeks after multiple reports stating that the Bears might be looking to reshuffle the front office. It’s possible Pace could stay as general manager with a new boss above him. It’s also possible that Pace could be promoted and they could hire a general manager below him. Either way, I’m in the camp of believing that keeping Pace in any capacity is not a smart decision and that a full house cleaning needs to happen for any hope at real change.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

3. Speaking of job statuses, when is someone going to crack down on Nagy playing veterans over deserving rookies?

As I wrote back on Thursday, the Bears are doing themselves more of a disservice by upholding their 100-plus year-long tradition of not firing a head coach mid-season. We saw proof of that on Sunday afternoon. It started with Nagy’s announcement on Friday that veteran Germain Ifedi (on a one-year deal) would be starting over fifth-round rookie Larry Borom at right tackle. It continued with not giving sixth-round pick Thomas Graham Jr. the start at corner, despite Jaylon Johnson still not being active for Sunday’s game.

This is the type of damage teams do when they don’t rip the Band-Aid off. No one can blame this coaching staff for doing what is in their best interests. Everyone should blame the leadership for not preserving key development for 2022 and beyond.

Simply put, week 16’s win should not save Nagy from being fired today but it absolutely will.

4. With another sack on Sunday, Robert Quinn is just one-half sack away from tying Richard Dent’s franchise single-season record and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Despite Quinn being ho-hum on the matter, it’s still an incredible achievement for the 31-year-old veteran. Especially when you consider that he had just two sacks last year, coming off a five-year, $70 deal last offseason. I’ll speak for myself, but I’m hoping he can tie and/or break the record in Week 17, so that way there isn’t an asterisk by this incredible achievement.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

5. Despite a losing season, this team has a clear set of leaders that will be here beyond this season and that’s worth noting.

Rewinding to after the 2014 season when both general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman were ushered out of Chicago, there was no core and not much leadership to speak of. That led to them trading Brandon Marshall, releasing multiple veterans, and ultimately trading Martellus Bennett.

The good news? The Bears have plenty of leadership on this roster and plenty of them will be carried over to next year’s team. David Montgomery, Robert Quinn, Justin Fields, and Roquan Smith are a few of the names that headline that list.

Don’t get me wrong, the Bears have a lot of work to do this offseason and there will be a large amount of turnover in the coming months. Overall though, there’s still more than enough to work with and assuming they get the right head coach, etc, they should be able to turn this thing around in much less than three years.

6. I’ve been hard on Cole Kmet this year, but Sunday was an encouraging performance and one I’d like to see more of.

His overall stat line may not look like much, but it was the plays he made on the field that made the difference and not so much about the overall numbers. On the game, Kmet had four catches for 49 yards, but it was two catches that stood out as progress for me.

The first was his first catch of the game on third down. Foles laid it out there and Kmet had a solid six yards to pick up for the first down with Bobby Wagner in front of him. Somehow, he was able to beat Wagner to the edge and get enough yards for the first down. The second play was later in the game where he broke multiple tackles on his way to a 16 yard gain and yet another first down.

Those are exactly the type of plays this team needs from him. He needs to become a reliable late-down target that is capable of breaking tackles and making plays happen. This was a nice step in the right direction for the second-year tight end.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

7. Don’t discount what Nick Foles was able to do on the field and more importantly, don’t overlook his post-game thoughts.

Considering this was Foles’ first regular-season action of the year and how much he had to deal with this offseason, this was quite an impressive performance on the field for the veteran quarterback. He finished the game (24/35) for 250 yards and a touchdown.

It was what he said after the game that stood out more to me. When asked why he believed the offense simply wasn’t working, he said “It’s not my place to say.” While he’s not saying a lot in terms of words, this is also the same guy who was very critical of this offense back in August when he had his first media availability of training camp.

Foles has been leaving subtle hints since mid-last season about how bad this offense is and how much it’s on the coaching. Sunday’s performance and his post-game comments drive the point home even more. Maybe I’m one of the few that feels this way, but I wouldn’t mind him back next year as the team’s primary backup.

8. Fast forwarding the rest of the season. How many teams are truly going to be looking for head coaches and general managers once Black Monday rolls around?

Right now, here is what we know.

The Las Vegas Raiders fired head coach Jon Gruden and the Jacksonville Jaguars recently fired controversial head coach Urban Meyer. Both of those teams will be looking for head coaches and there has been plenty of speculation that both teams will also be looking for new general managers.

Outside of them, you can count the Bears in the head coaching search, and more like than not, they’ll also be looking for a general manager. Then you have the Minnesota Vikings that are one loss away from being out of the NFC playoff picture. That’s would be four teams looking for head coaches. You could also make the argument that Vic Fangio may be out in Denver, but outside of that it appears that everyone else is relatively safe. It has been said that the New York Giants will retain Joe Judge for a third year. The only other questions may end up being Seattle and Carolina.

So in a very worst-case scenario of six openings, this may be the lightest hiring cycle in regards to head coaches in a while.

In regards to general manager openings, it appears that Jacksonville will be looking for one and the sake of this exercise, we’ll count the Bears as well. Outside of that, Las Vegas, New York Giants, and maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers (due to Kevin Colbert’s year-to-year status). Again, there doesn’t appear to be many openings on that front either.

Long story short? This would be a very good year for the Bears to be looking for both, at least in terms of limited vacancies.

9. Buckle up for Week 17’s game. It will be a matchup between a pair of bad teams, but shockingly enough, the Bears hold multiple distinct advantages (hence their opening line of -6).

For as bad as the Bears have been this year, the Giants have been quite a bit worse. Especially since losing quarterback Daniel Jones to a neck injury a few weeks back. The Giants have mustered a combined 16 points over the past two games and have been outscored by a 29-point margin in that time.

The only thing the Giants have the upper hand with? They own both their first-round pick and the Bears’ first-round pick. Either way, Week 17 will be a “win” of sorts for the Giants in that regard.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

10. The Bears might be out of the playoffs, but the playoff race is going to be fun to watch over the next few weeks, especially over in the AFC.

Heading into Week 17, there has been just one AFC team to clinch a playoff spot (Kansas City Chiefs).

The AFC North is a complete toss-up with all teams being separated by two games or less. The AFC East is locked up at the top with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots both locked up at (9-6) and splitting their head-to-head matchups. The AFC South is separated by one game with the streaking Indianapolis Colts just one game behind the division-leading Tennessee Titans.

The AFC wildcard race a pair of (9-6) teams and then three (maybe four depending on the results of Miami’s game tonight) locked up at (8-7) competing for one spot.

It’s going to be a fun ride over the next two weeks, but most eyes will be on the AFC.