Coach Matt Nagy always tries to maintain the sunniest possible outlook, regardless of how dismal the Bears might be on the field. Being relentlessly upbeat is one of his best qualities.
Sometimes that optimism feels forced and delusional, but it’s merited at the moment. The Bears seem to be on their way up for the first time in three seasons. Their quarterback of the future is improving, the defense is fearsome and they’re 3-2.
They’ve arrived at the test that looms largest every season: the Packers. The Bears host them Sunday with the hope of proving their legitimacy. Everyone has heard that before, and it usually ends in heartbreak.
Setting all that aside, the Bears are in decent position to make something of this season. That seemed unlikely at several checkpoints since Nagy was fortunate to escape a firing in January. First, there was his farcical handling of quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Justin Fields, then a season-opening humiliation against the Rams and an absolutely atrocious loss to the Browns.
The next morning, it was 45 minutes past when Nagy’s news conference should’ve started, and he hadn’t shown yet. It was reasonable to wonder if it was more than his typical tardiness. Perhaps, after the Bears’ purported offensive guru oversaw their worst offensive performance since 1981, ownership had run out of patience.
But Nagy survived, and things have gotten better. Now it’s reasonable to wonder something totally different: Is he doing a good job?
That’s never as straightforward as it should be.
Is Bruce Arians doing a good job with the Buccaneers? Yes.
Is Urban Meyer doing a good job with the Jaguars? No.
What about Nagy? There’s always a long pause, followed by an even longer answer.
He has repeatedly steered them out of trouble — of his own making. He leads them out of holes, but his fingerprints are on the shovel that dug them. It’s hard to give him credit for solving problems he created.
The most obvious example is the hot potato of play-calling.
It took conviction, humility and selflessness to let go of it. He has done that twice, conceding last November and again two weeks ago — after reversing course in the offseason with minimal explanation — that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is better suited for it.
“Hey, whatever I need to do to be the best head coach for the Chicago Bears, I don’t care,” Nagy said. “I just want us to have the best opportunity to win.”
It’s admirable, and there’s no doubt Nagy means it.
But if the Bears hired him to establish a high-powered offense and now Lazor is the one shaping it, it calls into question what Nagy is actually contributing and whether he’s the answer going forward. It doesn’t even look like Lazor is running Nagy’s offense as the Bears shift to a power running game and beef up with extra blockers.
They also hired him to develop quarterbacks. That never happened with Mitch Trubisky. He got next to nothing from Nick Foles. And it seemed like he was the last one to concede that it was Fields’ time.
And after the first game of Lazor calling plays for Fields, the rookie thought they fit well together.
“His voice is always calm — that’s the one thing I like,” Fields said. “[Nagy], it’s hard for him to be calm if he has to focus on the defense, focus on special teams. [Lazor’s] voice is calm.”
The conclusion is predictably murky. Nagy is doing a better job now than he was a few weeks ago. Ultimately, he’s the one who arranged everything that has been working well for the Bears, from giving Lazor control to green-lighting Fields — making the right moves, though only after several wrong ones.
There is good cause to believe Nagy can navigate the rest of this season, but he hasn’t offered any more proof that he’s the Bears’ long-term solution.