Matt Nagy is just trying to get through what will probably be his final week as Bears head coach. He’d prefer the attention stay on the meaningless season finale against the Vikings on Sunday rather than rehashing the various failures that have led him to the brink of being fired.
But it’s a good bet that Nagy won’t hang around for a full debriefing after the Bears let him go, so he’ll endure a few more days of prying into the big-picture problems he’s been unable to solve.
With an inconsequential blowout of the Giants already forgotten by Monday morning, the conversation shifted to why the supposed offensive guru the Bears thought they were hiring hasn’t been able to deliver on those expectations.
“As the years go on, there’s a lot of things that happen for different reasons,” he said, delivering one of his signature non-explanations. “Without taking time to really study and sit back, I think every year’s different whether it’s by position, whether it’s by schematics and whether it’s by opponents that you play.”
Hold up. The opponents? You mean you don’t get to play the Lions every week?
It’s just another filibuster.
The closest Nagy came to honing in on what he believes to be the answer for the Bears going 22-26 over the last three seasons was when he pointed out — carefully and in his typical roundabout manner — the instability on defense after his first season and the decline in takeaways.
“There’s one big stat that matters, in the end, no matter what team you’re talking about: What’s the turnover margin?” Nagy said. “Do you take the football away on defense and do you respect the football on offense?
“Check out the turnover margins in the NFL right now and I’ll bet you there’s some playoff teams in the top 10. That matters.”
It does, certainly. Nagy’s point is correct, but it’s not the main point. If he had the Bears cooking up 30 points per game and struggling because of their defense, he might be keeping his job.
Yes, the defense led the NFL with 36 takeaways in 2018, then plunged to the 22nd-to-27th range the next three seasons. This season, with rookie quarterback Justin Fields throwing 10 interceptions and losing five fumbles, the Bears have 16 takeaways and 27 turnovers for a minus-11 differential that ranks 28th. But it’s more relevant to Nagy’s fate that the Bears have scored 20 or fewer points in 31 of his 66 games, counting the playoffs.
The Bears have averaged 21.4 points per game the last four seasons, which ranks 24th, yet Nagy has a winning record at 34-30. The other five teams averaging between 20 and 22 have a combined winning percentage of .373. That’s how it goes when you don’t inherit a defense that was world-class at the start and still very good until this season.
Over that span, Nagy has a league-high 12 wins when his team has scored 20 or fewer points. It’s hard to do. So while the defense has had issues, it’s not the real reason he’s on his way out. It has kept him afloat.
His comments were reminiscent of when he carried on about defensive lapses in the 41-25 loss to the Packers last season. Giving up 41 points was an absolute debacle, of course. But Nagy leaned a little too hard on that shortcoming and underemphasized that his offense had just 10 points before picking up a couple touchdowns in garbage time.
Remember the Double Doink? Nagy was stunned as Cody Parkey’s kick bounced away. It’s easy to forget the offense didn’t score its first touchdown until six minutes into the fourth quarter and finished with just 15 points.
For Nagy, ultimately, it’s actually not as much about the defense’s struggles or even his win-loss record as it is that the Bears hired him to develop a quarterback and ignite an offense. And “for different reasons,” as he put it, neither has happened.