The Chicago Bears fired head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace on Monday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Back in the autumn of 2018, Nagy was piloting a Bears turnaround, reversing the course of the storied franchise in his first season at the helm. Pace had helped fuel the rise by orchestrating a blockbuster deal for Pro Bowl edge rusher Khalil Mack and drafting linebacker Roquan Smith at No. 8 overall. The Bears earned their first playoff berth in eight years, leading Nagy to earn the AP NFL Coach of the Year honors. The best of times came quickly for Nagy, but they were gone just as suddenly.
Nagy, 43, ends his four-year tenure with a 34-31 record and two playoff appearances (0-2).
“To the Chicago Bears organization — It was an honor to serve as your Head Coach over the past four seasons,” Nagy said, in part, in a statement released through the team Monday. “I want to thank Ted Phillips, George H. McCaskey and Mrs. Virginia McCaskey for the opportunity to lead one of the game’s most storied franchises. It’s four years I’ll always remember.”
Pace, 44, began in his post in 2015 and oversaw the hiring of John Fox as head coach. Pace was in charge when the Bears traded up to No. 2 overall to select Mitchell Trubisky in 2017, replaced Fox with Nagy and moved up to draft another potential franchise quarterback in Justin Fields last April.
“This is a first-class organization and my family and I enjoyed our time in Chicago,” Pace said in a statement released through the team. “Today’s news is the tough part of our business but, I am proud to have poured absolutely everything into making the Chicago Bears a better football team every single day since first stepping foot into Halas Hall.”
Bears owner George McCaskey told reporters Monday that he will run the search for a new coach and general manager while taking input from CEO Ted Phillips and retired Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian, whom McCaskey has consulted with in recent weeks. But Phillips’ duties will no longer include overseeing the GM position, McCaskey added. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the Bears have already requested an interview with Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier for their HC vacancy.
Nagy, after serving as the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2017 under coach Andy Reid, was hired by the Bears ahead of the 2018 season to revitalize a sputtering offense. He helped Chicago finish with the No. 9-ranked scoring offense, but it was a dominant, Mack-led defense that truly paved the way for a 12-4 season in which the Bears won the NFC North (the team’s first division title since 2010).
However, following Nagy’s rookie campaign, the Bears’ offensive production floundered, with the team’s scoring offense ranked No. 29 in 2019, No. 22 in 2020 and No. 27 this season.
In retrospect, things began to spiral for Nagy thereafter.
The 2019 offseason was marked by a circus-like kicker competition to find Parkey’s replacement. And while Trubisky showed some promise immediately after Nagy arrived, garnering a Pro Bowl nod in his second NFL season, the QB’s mostly subpar play forced the Bears to restart its decades-long search for a viable franchise quarterback.
After Trubisky struggled through an 8-8 campaign in 2019, in which Nagy’s play-calling began to come under heavy scrutiny, the Bears pulled off an offseason trade for Nick Foles. It did nothing to cure the team’s offensive issues. The quarterback problems persisted through another 8-8 season the following year, when the Bears backed their way into the postseason and were routed by the New Orleans Saints in another first-round cameo.
Chicago opted not to re-up Trubisky last March and, after a failed attempt to trade for seven-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson, signed veteran Andy Dalton to a one-year deal. While Pace’s decision to add Dalton was met with a lukewarm response — at best — from the Bears’ fan base, he did breathe life into the city after trading up to No. 11 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft for Fields.
Dalton, Fields and Foles each started in 2021, but the Bears’ offense was listless, reaching 30 points just once in the season.
Amid a five-game losing streak heading into Thanksgiving, the rumor mill swirled on overdrive that Nagy’s days in the Second City were numbered. However, the Bears won in Detroit and Nagy remained. The club ultimately stuck with Nagy through Week 18, having continued an established practice of never letting a coach go during a season.
In the end, the Nagy/Pace ouster was hardly a shocking turn of events — and it does little to bring clarity to the franchise’s future. Mack was lost for the season with a foot injury. Wide receiver Allen Robinson was playing on the franchise tag and having his worst season in Chicago before being sidelined by an injury. The offensive line remains an issue. And maybe most significantly for this particular organization, the defense has fallen from its pedestal as a dominant entity.