CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy insisted Wednesday he has not been informed by his bosses that the season finale at Minnesota will be his last game leading the team.
“I’m very honest and open with you all,” Nagy said Wednesday. “That has not been told to me. There’s gonna be reports that come out this time of the season. Anything that is said or reported by anybody is just that. I haven’t been told anything. I’m a pretty good source to ask, so I would say you’re doing a pretty good job asking me.”
Nagy also said he expects rookie quarterback Justin Fields to start Sunday against the Vikings after missing back-to-back games because of an ankle injury.
But the bigger issue right now is what will happen after the curtain finally falls on a difficult season for Chicago? The Bears (6-10) were in a similar spot 12 months ago, after going 8-8 in the regular season for the second year in a row.
Chairman George McCaskey opted to stick with Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, citing the team’s culture and ability to bounce back from a six-game losing streak to make the playoffs. The Bears slid in as the seventh and final seed in an expanded field, then bowed out meekly in a wild-card loss at New Orleans.
The team’s struggles this season could spell the end for Nagy, ending a four-year run that began with an NFC North championship in his first season. It’s not clear if Pace will remain with the team, whether he continues to oversee the football operation or winds up in a different capacity. The Bears have just two playoff appearances and no postseason victories in his seven years.
Chicago lost eight of nine before beating Seattle and the New York Giants. The Bears will try to close with three straight wins. If this is his final game, Nagy is not looking at it in a sentimental way.
“No, it’s all been on Minnesota,” Nagy said. “All on the Vikings and helping these guys do everything we can to finish the season strong.”
With a 34-30 record, he would join Lovie Smith as the only coaches since Mike Ditka to leave the Bears with a winning mark.
Nagy was hired off Andy Reid’s staff in Kansas City in 2018 to modernize Chicago’s struggling offense and get the most out of former prized quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
The Bears won the division at 12-4 in his first season thanks to a dominant defense following four straight last-place finishes and made the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Nagy helped energize the fan base with a fun-loving demeanor, turning the locker room into “Club Dub” to celebrate victories and running trick plays with names like “Santa’s Sleigh.” The season ended with a gut-wrenching loss to Philadelphia in a wild-card game at Soldier Field, punctuated by former kicker Cody Parkey’s double-doink miss off the left upright and crossbar.
Things declined from there. What looked like a breakthrough turned out to be more of an aberration.
Trubisky, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2017, regressed after making the Pro Bowl as an alternate. The Bears opted not to exercise their fifth-year option on him prior to the 2020 season and let him leave as a free agent at the end of the year.
The Bears have not finished ranked higher than 21st on offense under Nagy, and that was in his first year. They come into this week’s game 28th overall and 26th in scoring. Nagy handed off play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor each of the past two seasons in an effort to jolt a struggling unit.
One thing he has been able to do is connect with his team. Running back David Montgomery said he is “blessed” to play for Nagy.
“He’s always had an open-door policy, and that says a lot in itself, just being able to be a head coach in the NFL and still have an open-door policy for the players to come up and talk to the coach and let him know where we’re at and how we feel,” Montgomery said. “Just to have that, that’s good. And knowing that I’ve got a coach that’s behind me, that’s even better.”
Fields, the No. 11 overall pick, called Nagy “a great coach.”
“I know there’s been a lot of outside talk or whatever, but as far as I’m concerned, he’s coached me to the best of his ability and he’s a great person on and off the field,” Fields said.