This morning Mark Konkol, a Pulitzer-winning and subsequently very canceled Patch.com reporter, bigfooted the entire Bears beat and the usual cast of NFL insiders when he reported that “a top source with knowledge of the decision” told him that Matt Nagy’s last game as the head coach of the Chicago Bears will be Thursday’s Thanksgiving game at the Detroit Lions. What’s more, Konkol reported that “Nagy was informed of his pending post-Turkey Day termination on Monday.”
The first person from the Bears to address the report was the first scheduled press conference of the day: special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. Tabor denied knowing anything about Nagy’s job status and said “speculation is speculation. I’d love to talk about the Detroit Lions.” He’s probably the first person to want to talk about the Detroit Lions.
Nagy himself was scheduled for 11:45 a.m. but didn’t appear until after noon. He denied the report, and called it a distraction, and said that he is “not focused” on his job status. “[The report] is not accurate,” Nagy said. “I have great communication with ownership, with George [McCaskey] and Ted [Phillips]. I have not had any discussions.”
When the news broke, Nagy was leading the team through their morning walkthrough. He said he had not addressed the report with the players and when asked a follow-up question about whether the players would be curious, said he didn’t plan to address it with them. “That is up to them, as to how they want to view that or what they think,” he said. “The players have been awesome. We are in there going over the gameplan.”
If the report is inaccurate, shouldn’t the players be reassured of that? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but neither does the initial report, honestly. It’s not unprecedented in the NFL that ownership gives a head coach notice of their upcoming firing, or an ultimatum, but as far as I can find it’s never happened midseason, and definitely has not happened where the termination is reported definitively ahead of time and the coach is forced to address it. In 2003, Giants head coach Jim Fassel requested a meeting with owners to ask if he was going to be fired at season’s end. He then asked the team to announce his firing right away and allow him to coach the final two games of the season. In January of 2015, Fox’s Jay Glazer reported that John Fox could be jobless if the Broncos lost their opening playoff game. They lost, and the Denver Post claimed that the Broncos had never discussed firing Fox. The next day, they fired him.
The Bears have never fired a head coach during the regular season—not once in 101 years! But if they do intend to fire Nagy, why not just do it now, instead of asking him to soldier on for one more game as a lame duck? He could have a nice Thanksgiving dinner at home with his family! Chicago’s record is 3-7, and the only reason they aren’t last in the division is that the Lions exist.
But then, nothing about the Bears makes sense these days. It didn’t make sense when Ted Phillips and George McCaskey explained last January that they decided to keep Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace on staff because of the leadership and collaboration they showed in leading the Bears out of a six-game losing streak. It didn’t make sense when they then allowed that same staff to draft a rookie quarterback, while knowing that if Nagy didn’t have success, they would likely move on from him and waste a crucial year of that quarterback’s development.
We will find out Friday if Patch.com did indeed scoop the entire NFL media. But either way, you do have to hand it to the Bears when it comes to mishandling things. How many teams can botch their coaching situation and then turn around and botch it worse 10 months later?