With his job on the line, has Bears coach Matt Nagy made “progress” in 2021?

Bears president George McCaskey retained coach Matt Nagy after two dismal seasons on one condition: he had to show “progress” to keep his job beyond this season.

It was a perfectly chosen word because it’s malleable enough that the Bears could twist its definition to fit – or not fit – to whatever Nagy does. If rookie quarterback Justin Fields appears to be on the right track, McCaskey might decide that alone is worth keeping Nagy.

The overall numbers, however, are worse than they’ve ever been, starting with the Bears ranking 31st in points per game at 15.4, which would be their lowest since 2004. They also average the fewer yards per game (4.4) and are 3 -5 with the Steelers and Ravens looming next.

Asked about McCaskey’s tenure and what improvement he might report, Nagy wandered into a response to “where we are right now” and how “you have to win football games – that’s very, very important”.

When asked for a real answer, he noted – with precision – that Fields’ prospects are bright and the racing game looks legitimate.

“Now that he’s the starter, what is our identity as an offender and how has he grown? Nagy asked, coming out of Fields’ best game. “We’ve established an identity in the running game, and now the next part is being able to establish the passing game and definitely get more explosives. [and] be able to score more points.

“And while that is happening, make the quarterback improve in his decision making and his game. When you watch the [49ers] game by game, decision by decision, it was a very good game for Justin Fields. A very good game. “

On both fronts, the question is how much credit Nagy deserves. He might not care now, but that will be part of the conversation when McCaskey makes a decision in January.

Fields completed 19 of 27 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown and ran 10 times for 103 yards and a touchdown in the 33-22 loss to the 49ers and looked more at ease than he ever was in as a pro.

“It was by far his best game in terms of footwork, pace and he got the ball out on time,” quarterback coach John DeFilippo said.

Interestingly, this performance came when Nagy wasn’t around. It’s reasonable to wonder if Fields felt a little more free to play as he pleased.

Nagy certainly helped, but it’s not just him. The Bears have a host of coaches, as well as Andy Dalton and Nick Foles, dedicated to the development of Fields. And it’s fair to say that Fields would probably be further ahead if Nagy had organized a real competition between him and Dalton, with the two players getting equal shots of the first team rather than stubbornly committing to Dalton, whatever the promise. and Fields polishing.

Nagy only gave up on this plan after there had been a mountain of momentum for Fields to begin and he couldn’t credibly continue with Dalton.

Then there’s the running game, which only took off when Nagy once again gave up the call to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. That’s an average of 149.4 yards per game since the change, which is the NFL’s second in that span.

It would be a stretch to thank Nagy for this when he has always shown an aversion to running and often got in trouble for it. The Bears have been around for over a century and he holds the record for the fewest rushes in a game.

In the end, it would take the most generous definition of “progress” to say that Nagy made it. But it’s only halfway through the season, and it works in his favor, that Fields should only get better. And at his best, he makes up for anything that goes wrong with the Bears offense. If he continues to do so, it might be enough to save Nagy.


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