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Are Both Chicago Bears HC & GM On the Hot Seat Heading Into the 2020 Season?

There is a lot of speculation regarding the job security of Head Coach Matt Nagy & General Manager Ryan Pace. Are they actually on the Hot Seat heading into the season?
To put it in perspective, the coaches that were fired in 2019 had a winning percentage of 49.88% with a playoff record of 5-8 combined. The two general managers that were fired had a winning percentage of 34.73% and a playoff record of 0-1. Bears HC Matt Nagy has a regular-season record of 20-12 (62.5%) and a playoff record of 0-1 which brings his combined win percentage to 60.6%. Bears GM Ryan Pace has a combined record of 34-46 (42.5%) and is also 0-1 in the playoffs. According to these statistics, Nagy should be safe as for Ryan Pace, he has had more of a rough go, but…
Context is everything. Ryan Pace took over a rough team in 2015. A few weeks back there was a replay of the 2015 Bears Thanksgiving win against the Packers. The guys that were sent out to play defense that game were:
2015 Starting Defense:
DE: Jarvis Jenkins
NT: Eddie Goldman (Pace Rookie)
LB: Christian Jones
LB: Shea McClellin
CB: Kyle Fuller
CB: Tracy Porter (Pace FA)
S: Adrian Amos (Pace Rookie)
2020 Projected Starting Defense:
OLB: Khalil Mack (Pace Trade)
OLB: Robert Quinn (Pace FA)
DE: Akeim Hicks (Pace FA)
DE: Roy Robertson-Harris (Pace UDFA)
NT: Eddie Goldman (Pace Draft)
LB: Roquan Smith (Pace Draft)
LB: Danny Trevathan (Pace FA)
CB: Kyle Fuller
CB: Jaylon Johnson (Pace Draft)
S: Eddie Jackson (Pace Draft)
This is the context that is so important. Ryan Pace has changed the entire defense through free agency, and the draft. The defense under Pace has finally come back to the historic ways of the Monsters of the Midway. Pace’s first decision as GM, he hired recently fired HC John Fox. The hire sounded smart at first, a guy who had just been fired from an extremely good Broncos team, strictly because they did not reach the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Fox era in Chicago did not go well, as he had a record of 14-34. The locker room clearly did not respect John Fox and Pace set out to hire someone who could bring the locker room back together, that guy was Matt Nagy.
The biggest struggle for Ryan Pace has been on the offensive side of the ball. In FA, signing Mike Glennon to a big deal, signing TE Dion Sims, Trey Burton, & drafting Adam Shaheen, and of course drafting Mitch Trubisky ahead of Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
The Mike Glennon signing wasn’t a huge deal to me, they did give him a decent amount of money but the way the contract was structured, there was a clear-out for the Bears. Glennon was signed to be a bridge QB for whoever they drafted in the upcoming draft.
Dion Sims never produced like they expected, which then was replaced by Philly Special TE Trey Burton, who was set to bring a true “U” TE back to Chicago. Burton had good production when he was healthy, but that was his downfall, health.
Adam Shaheen was in my opinion Pace’s attempt to find his “Jimmy Graham” as he had in New Orleans. Shaheen has never become much of anything and would not surprise me if he gets cut before the 2020 season.
Now let us talk about the big mistake that Pace made that is still being talked about 4 years later. First, let us get out of the way ANY talk about the Chicago Bears being a racist franchise who refused to draft Watson because he was black. Second, Trubisky and Mahomes were the top 2 guys they had on their board. The Bears brass met with Both Mahomes and Trubisky in different settings, It is confusing that they did not give Watson the same amount of attention that those 2 guys got but those are the facts. Scouting and evaluating is an opinion business. What might be one guy’s QB1 could be another guy’s QB4 and that’s what some people need to understand, scouting is not a black and white thing, there is a lot of a grey area and a lot of opinion in that business. Just as a reminder, there were a lot of analysts who had the QB’s ranked as such in the 2017 NFL Draft:
  1. Mitch Trubisky
  2. Deshaun Watson
  3. Deshone Kizer
  4. Pat Mahomes
There were also plenty of National Analysts who had Trubisky over Watson & Mahomes:
  • Mel Kiper
  • Daniel Jerimiah
  • Bucky Brooks
  • Louis Riddick
  • Lance Zerlein
  • Charley Casserly
  • Mike Mayock
  • Pete Schrager
  • Todd McShay
  • Matt Miller
  • Peter King
The idea that the selection of Trubisky as QB1 was un-heard of, or surprising, is absolutely ridiculous. Mahomes was looked at as a massive project and a guy with “Boom or Bust” potential. Mahomes went to the absolute perfect situation in Kansas City with Andy Reid & Alex Smith.
People also give Pace a hard time because he moved up from pick #3 to pick #2 in order to select Trubisky. The argument that is heard the most is “Pace is stupid to think that the 49ers would pick Trubisky if the 49ers wanted him, why would they trade the pick to the Bears?”. There are teams in that draft who were reported to have been exploring a trade up to #2 including the Cleveland Browns who debated taking Trubisky at #1 (Myles Garrett). After the Browns took Garrett with the #1 pick, Cleveland was trying trade back up in order to pick Trubisky ahead of the Bears at pick #3. When you have conviction about a player in the draft, especially at the QB position you make the move and go get him. The bottom line to that decision is that it was the wrong one. GM’s make bad choices every year in the draft, Pace just happened to make a bad choice at the most important position in football. The most important thing to do when a bad decision is made is to make sure you don’t compound a bad decision with another bad decision. Pace and Nagy understood that Trubisky’s level of play is hurting the max potential of the team, that is why they traded for QB Nick Foles. The 2020 Season will determine if the Foles trade turns out to be another bad QB decision by Ryan Pace.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy has switched the entire narrative about playing in Chicago. The Bears are now a place that guys want to be because the culture is so strong. The players absolutely love Nagy, when he was hired, he was brought to Chicago to make the offense productive again. During Nagy’s tenure, the Bears have yet to finish in the top half of the league in total offense, but is that really his fault?
Matt Nagy in his first season as HC in 2018, dumbed-down the playbook for QB Mitch Trubisky. This is not uncommon, it’s a new system for a young QB, to maximize his production in the offense you have to let him get really good at a small number of things rather than “okay” at a lot of things. The point of emphasis in the Bears 2018 season? Let Trubisky play within himself, and win games. This strategy worked extremely well as they finished 12-4 with a Division Title. Fast-forwarding to 2019, the Bears were favorites to finally get back to the Super Bowl. Nagy understood that if the playbook stayed as small as it was in 2018 that defensive coordinators would easily catch on in 2019. It was finally time for Mitch to take the next step, and become a legitimate NFL QB. Trubisky showed just the opposite, in 2019 he struggled to make reads, struggled to throw the ball downfield, and struggled to push through injuries. People question Nagy’s ability to call a productive offense but how can he call a productive offense when he has a QB that can’t run the offense? Nagy has his flaws but pointing all the blame on him for the lack of improvement in Trubisky’s game is unfair. The addition of Nick Foles had to be pressed by Nagy. frankly, because he has worked with Foles in both Philly & KC. In both of those places, Foles has been in the exact same system as he will be in 2020 with the Bears. If Foles stays healthy I believe the NFL will finally be able to see the offensive potential of Nagy’s play calling. If Foles stays healthy and offensive production does not improve? Then it’s time to start putting blame on Nagy.
Overall, Nagy is an exceptional HC but an average play-caller. He has made it fun to play in Chicago and has the trust of every single player on the roster. Heading into 2020 Nagy finally has multiple receiving threats at both the U TE position and the Y, and he has a competent QB who has literally won a super bowl running the offensive system. There will be no more excuses if Nagy can’t get production out of the 2020 roster.
A situation where the Bears have a bad enough season to fire Nagy is not realistic, nor do I think Nagy should be fired. Pace and Nagy are tied to the hip, Pace would not get a chance to hire his third HC, therefore if Nagy gets canned, so does Pace and vise versa. The Chicago Bears finished 8-8 in 2019, not only do they have a much healthier roster than they did in 2019, they have a much better roster. The 2020 schedule has its challenges but with even league-average QB play the Bears have a chance to win the NFC North for the second time in 3 years.
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