Two days ago, a Pulitzer-winning reporter made a clear and unequivocal report regarding the status of Bears coach Matt Nagy. Mark Konkol claimed that Nagy has been told that the Thanksgiving Day contest against the Lions will be Nagy’s final game.
The story landed early Tuesday, and it caught fire and spread over several hours, until Nagy spoke to reporters at 1:00 p.m. ET and said that the report is “not accurate.” During the window between report and refutation, the Bears said nothing.
Specifically, the Bears issued no statement denying the report, either on behalf of the franchise or with names attached to it, like chairman George McCaskey or president Ted Phillips or G.M. Ryan Pace.
Two years ago, ESPN reported and then doubled down on the report that Jaguars coach Doug Marrone had been told he’d be fired after the final game of the regular season. Owner Shad Khan issued a prompt and clear denial. ESPN did not relent. The next day, after the final game of the season, Marrone was not fired.
It’s entirely possible that the leak changed Khan’s mind. It’s entirely possible that the more recent leak has changed the Bears’ plans. It wouldn’t be the first time, or the last, that the premature release of sensitive information regarding a looming decision caused the decision to change.
Regardless, it’s worth scrutinizing the timeline and the official silence when trying to root out the truth. If McCaskey, Phillips, and/or Pace never say publicly that Nagy will be relieved of his post after Thursday’s game, they never will have lied about the situation. Instead, the only direct falsehood to the fans and media will have come from the guy who no longer works there, if he indeed is fired after today’s game. And the last thing he would do when trying to go out on a high note and lay the foundation for his next landing spot in the NFL would be to say into a microphone on Tuesday, “Yep. It’s true. I’m out in two days.”
Later today, Bears fans will get their answers. More and more of them are clamoring for change. As we said after the team traded up from No. 20 to No. 11 to draft quarterback Justin Fields, it makes absolutely no sense to go all in for a new quarterback if there’s going to be a new coach or a new G.M. after only one year. Hoping that the next coach and/or G.M. will be truly on board with Fields becomes a major complicating factor in hiring replacements.
But, alas, dysfunctional teams do dysfunctional things. For the handful (or more) of perennially dysfunctional teams, the fish truly does stink from the head. And the head belongs to those who own and operate the team, no matter how hard they try to make it look like they aren’t directly influencing the direction of the football operation. By creating and maintaining an environment that doesn’t strive for or achieve excellence every day and/or by hiring General Managers and coaches who simply aren’t good enough to thrive in the zero-sum world of the NFL (or by hiring and keeping for more than two decades a team president who continues to make bad decisions when hiring football people), the teams that find themselves more often that not at the bottom of the standings will continue to wonder why, while their competitors are having sustained or at least periodic success.
For the Bears, the dysfunction is less noticeable because they share a division with the Lions, who haven’t won a playoff game in thirty years. Meanwhile, the Packers are in the mix for a championship every year, and the Vikings (despite being caught in #PurplePurgatory) at least find themselves alive for a one-and-done playoff appearance every other year or so.
As to the Bears, whether Nagy is or isn’t fired after today’s game treats a symptom but provides no real cure. The dysfunction embedded deeply within the organization is going nowhere, frankly, even if Nagy does.