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Was Matt Nagy unfairly criticized in Chicago?

After examining the current state of the Chicago Bears, perhaps Nagy deserves a little less blame for his time here.

Detroit Lions v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

You’ve made it this far. You saw the headline, and you clicked before you criticized, and for that, I thank you.

Your second thought is probably along the lines of, isn’t this the jackass that was arguably Matt Nagy’s biggest supporter in Chicago? Right again.

So before we go any further, let me say this: Matt Nagy deserved to be fired. In my opinion, Matt Nagy deserved to be fired after the 2020 season, one season earlier than he was.

But I bring up Nagy’s tenure while the Bears are in the midst of a 12-game losing streak and his replacement, Matt Eberflus, sits with a 3-16 record.

After he was fired, Nagy returned home to the Kansas City Chiefs, working with Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, and helped the team win the Super Bowl last season. Those same Chiefs welcome the Chicago Bears to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

Since Lovie Smith has been fired, the success of this team has been less than ideal. Nagy led the Bears to a 12-4 record in 2018, and other than that, the Bears have 3 8-8 records (two under Nagy) and every other season ended with a losing record.

Nagy’s success was certainly aided by a defense that was able to dominate the league in 2018 and was still a strong asset in 2019 as well. That certainly added to wins and Nagy certainly wasn’t a key part of the defensive game plan.

Nagy’s offense had its issues. Some of them were certainly on Nagy himself. Nagy failed to recognize his own personal weaknesses and didn’t delegate those responsibilities to others which could have helped him have more success.

But one thing we’ve learned in Chicago is that you can’t win in the NFL without a quarterback. Some fans still may stick to the argument that the Bears ruined Mitch Trubisky. And while no one should argue that Nagy and the franchise couldn’t have done more to help Trubisky, I think it’s pretty clear at this point that Trubisky was never going to be an asset at the quarterback position, he was never going to be more than a game manager that needed significant help around him to have any level of success.

The one thing that Nagy was good at, and was one of the reasons I supported him more than most, is that he was a pretty good CEO head coach. He ran the ship pretty well. And for the most part, most of the players had his back throughout his tenure. Many fans wanted to claim that Nagy “lost the locker room,” but the truth is that rarely happens and it didn’t happen with Nagy’s Bears. It absolutely happened in 2014 with Marc Trestman, but it takes a lot for an entire locker room to lose all respect for the man in charge.

Nagy and Ryan Pace failed together. They failed not to pivot as a team after the 2019 season. At the end of 2019, everyone knew that Trubisky wasn’t going to succeed at this level. Pace and Nagy needed to sit down with George McCaskey and tell them they needed to fully pivot off their current QB situation, but they didn’t. Was that Nagy’s decision? From what we hear about how he felt about Mitch, probably not. Was it Pace’s? Most likely. We know Pace rarely admitted his mistakes and would he be willing to admit his biggest one after three seasons? Had the two of them fully regrouped at QB, perhaps things would have ended differently for them, but we know they chose some level of compromise and kept Mitch and paired him with Nick Foles in an open competition that was doomed from the start.

We know what happened from there. The 2020 campaign was a bad one, but Nagy had the team overachieve that year, eke out 8 wins and sneak into the playoffs. Perhaps had they lost one more game, the two of them would have been fired, but I doubt George was comfortable firing two guys he liked personally after an 8-win season and a playoff appearance.

That gave us the mess of the 2021 season where Pace and Nagy were told they needed to make the playoffs and fix the quarterback position. They tried to force it with Justin Fields and a roster with a lot of underperforming, overpriced veterans and we know how that season ended.

There were mistakes and struggles under Nagy. But we are 19 games into the Matt Eberflus era, and we all wish we could have a mulligan on this one. This season is already trying to compete with the complete debacle that was 2014, and that was arguably the most dysfunctional season the Bears have had in our parents’ lifetimes, let alone ours.

If you wanted to throw your support behind John Fox, you are talking about a three-season run where Fox’s teams couldn’t even average five wins a season. Fox brought a level of professionalism back to the Bears’ sidelines after the Trestman debacle. That was an important aspect of the Fox era, but there was nothing else he brought to the table, other than Vic Fangio whom Pace and Nagy convinced to stick around (with an enormous contract) after Fox was fired.

So when we look back at the years since Lovie Smith was fired, it becomes pretty clear that Nagy was the team’s best coach. In fact, if you eliminate Nagy’s 12-4 record, his winning percentage in his other three seasons is still better than any of the other three coaches’ tenures.

So is that my argument as to why Nagy was unfairly criticized? No. In fact, after reviewing this past decade, the criticisms laid upon Nagy were largely fair, and as I said at the top, he did deserve to lose his job.

Just because Nagy was the best of this group doesn’t mean he was unfairly criticized. It means the organization as a whole has done such a poor job putting leadership in place that Nagy’s mediocre results are easily the best we’ve seen in over a decade.

If I gave you four options: drinking water from a muddy pond, swallowing broken glass, swimming in raw sewage, or severing a limb, you are all going to choose the filthy water, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good option.

What this has demonstrated is just how poorly upper management (George and Ted Phillips) have done in putting leadership in place and bringing sustained success to this franchise.

With Kevin Warren in place, hopefully, he has a stronger handle on how to have an organization run properly. It hasn’t been for some time, and hopefully, we are in the midst of change. The Bears desperately need it.

Unless things drastically change, we are headed toward another new coach in 2024, and hopefully, the Bears do this the right way and start putting the right people in the right places.

As Bears fans, if things don’t change soon, I’m just not sure how much longer we can survive.