Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy, a professional coddler, left the humiliating loss to Green Bay Sunday by saying that no one was going to point fingers, that this wasn’t the time, or the team, for that. Then on Monday, he started pointing.
“That’s not who we are as a defense,’’ Nagy said, “That can’t happen. And our defensive guys know that. You have to be able to shut them down and not allow 16 first downs in 36 plays. . .They need to understand where we’re coming from with that and how we feed off of them as a defense.’’
OUTRAGE! How could he point fingers at a defense that has carried the team and saved Nagy’s backside while he fumbles around with his pet project, Mitch Trubisky and the offense? That’s the cry today in the media, which find Nagy’s outburst to be evidence that he’s out of answers.
Ha! To me, this was the first time Nagy has started talking. If he did anything wrong Monday, it was that he didn’t go far enough. This team is built entirely around the defense. That’s where the star players are. And, as Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said on national TV, they quit Sunday.
And now we’re supposed to feel bad that Nagy hurt his defense’s little feelings?
The DNA of Chicago sports fans requires that coaches are tough and say what they mean and mean what they say. Nagy never does that.
Screaming and yelling is a plus, too, but fans can overlook calm and encouragement if the team wins championships, I guess. Joe Maddon’s new-age management style was a culture shock to Chicago, but when he won the World Series with the Cubs, well, OK then. Phil Jackson was new-age too, but he still spoke directly. He also had Michael Jordan.
Chicago loved Ozzie Guillen’s in-your-face bluntness as he brought Chicago a World Series title with the White Sox after an eternity. That was sort of the ideal.
Chicago still lives on its coaching hero, Mike Ditka, even though his Super Bowl title was 35 years ago. Kids still dress up as Ditka on Halloween.
And when Ditka brought along a young quarterback, he famously got right in his face on national TV and started screaming, bullying, intimidating the poor kid. It was a moment Chicago will never forget. That kid was Jim Harbaugh, by the way. By contrast, Nagy brings along Trubisky and never says a negative word to him. And it’s not working.
It was just 22 months ago that Nagy was named the Coach of the Year. Last year, the Bears were falling apart, and Nagy thought he’d have schematic answers. He didn’t. Earlier this year, the Bears were 5-1, but everyone knew they really weren’t that good.
So now they’re 5-6 and, counting the bye week, that means they’ve been collapsing for six weeks. Chicago smells Nagy’s blood now. I get that. He hasn’t developed Trubisky, doesn’t like to run the ball and has a defense that has given up.
So Chicago has now decided that everything Nagy does is wrong. But let’s be fair. He’s supposed to be an offensive genius, but was given one of the worst three or four quarterbacks, offensive lines, running back and receiving corps in the league. That’s on general manager Ryan Pace, who has decided to sit comfortably in a luxury suite and let the coach he hired face everything.
Pace is a terrible general manager. You can hire the world’s greatest chef and still aren’t going to get a great meal if his ingredients are lint, two sticks and some cardboard.
Nagy isn’t out of answers. This is his latest answer. He’s learning as a first-time head coach. He gave up play-calling. He switched around the pieces in his offensive line and finally got a game with a 100-yard rusher.
A coach has to figure out which buttons to push. His instincts are to say that the team is fighting hard together, that they’ll never give up. He backs his team and everyone talks about what a great locker room atmosphere the Bears have. That’s not working anymore.
We saw him Sunday night after one of Trubisky’s interceptions, or maybe his fumble. Nagy supported Trubisky, told him to focus on the next play, keep his head on straight, that everything is going to be OK.
It wasn’t a Ditka-Harbaugh moment, but Nagy apparently realized then that he didn’t want to go out that way. He smelled his own blood, too.
So Nagy slept on it Sunday night, watched film and decided it was time to find his inner Ditka.
“Flat-out embarrassing,’’ Nagy said on Monday morning. “Ridiculous.’’
Damn straight. It’s probably too late, but Nagy might be starting to get the hang of this Ditka thing after all.