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Bears Fire HC Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace After Missing 2022 NFL Playoffs

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 10, 2022

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy looks over his team warm up before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace's roller-coaster ride with the Chicago Bears is over.

Chicago fired the head coach and general manager on Monday after an 8-8 record in both 2019 and 2020 and a 6-11 mark in 2021.

ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported the news.

The Bears suffered a 31-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in their season finale Sunday.

Jordan Schultz reported in November "an overwhelming number" of the team's players wanted Nagy fired. One source said, "He lost some of the locker room last season, but now it's gone."

Still, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported around Thanksgiving that Nagy was expected to keep his job through the regular season despite other reports that suggested his job was in jeopardy.

Rapoport then reported Jan. 2 the Bears would likely fire Nagy at the end of the regular season.

Pace had held the role of Bears general manager since 2015 after spending the previous 14 years in the New Orleans Saints front office. The team reached the playoffs just twice during his seven years in Chicago.

While he made some successful roster moves, headlined by the acquisition of Pro Bowl linebacker Khalil Mack, the Bears failed to take significant steps toward title contention.

Chicago hired Nagy before the 2018 campaign, and the Bears went 12-4 as NFC North champions in his first season.

That they missed the playoffs in 2019 was one of the biggest disappointments of the year after they returned many of the same pieces. Entering the campaign, fans rushed to bet on their Super Bowl prospects and even saw quarterback Mitchell Trubisky as an MVP candidate.

The optimism was warranted considering Chicago featured an elite defense and a young quarterback who figured to make strides under an offensive-minded coach.

Instead, the Bears wasted that defense and now have to find a new coach after Nagy failed to register a playoff win.

He was close in his first year when Chicago lost 16-15 to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs after Cody Parkey hit the post on a potential game-winning field goal (later ruled a block). That miss helped define Nagy's time with the team, as Eddy Pineiro missed key field goals in losses to the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams in 2019 after he emerged from an unusual offseason search.

Kalyn Kahler of Sports Illustrated detailed Nagy's search for Parkey's replacement that saw him obsessing over 43-yard kicks—the distance of the miss against the Eagles—and using techniques such as "Augusta silence."

It was the start of a narrative switch for Nagy, who drew the ire of Bears fans when the 2019 season went south, even though he was the NFL's Coach of the Year in 2018.

Trubisky did not improve as hoped, and Chicago did not lean on rookie running back David Montgomery in the early going even when the quarterback struggled. Nagy told reporters after Montgomery had two carries against the New Orleans Saints that October: "I know we need to run the ball more. I'm not an idiot."

That he could change the play-calling wasn't lost on frustrated fans, and it was fair to wonder why the running back wasn't a bigger piece of the offense after Montgomery exploded for 135 yards in the first game after those comments.

Nagy also told reporters he wouldn't relinquish his play-calling duties despite the team's struggles, and Chicago was in catch-up mode in the daunting NFC almost all year.

It appeared the 2020 campaign would be better when the Bears started 5-1 behind a formidable defense. However, the same concerns arose as both Trubisky and Nick Foles—who the team acquired before the season—failed to establish consistency.

Chicago lost six straight games to fall out of a playoff spot at 5-7, prompting a report from Rapoport that the futures of Nagy and Pace were "uncertain."

However, switching play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor helped, as the Bears scored 30 or more points in four straight games for the first time since 1965. The offensive spark pushed them back into the playoffs despite a mediocre 8-8 mark.

Chicago lost to the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card Round.

The organization drafted potential franchise quarterback Justin Fields out of Ohio State in 2021.

Nagy was criticized for starting Andy Dalton at the beginning of the year, but he switched to the rookie in Week 3 and again gave up some play-calling duties to Lazor. That wasn't enough to save his job, though, as the Bears won just six games and failed to remain competitive in the NFC North.

While Trubisky's limitations put a ceiling on what Nagy could accomplish in Chicago and the coach didn't get much time with Fields, the reality that the offense was the biggest problem under a coach with an offensive background meant it was time for a change in the Windy City.