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Dannehy: Fair to Question Luke Getsy

| October 5th, 2022


Once again, Chicago Bears fans are left playing the “chicken or the egg” game when it comes to determining what, exactly, is the problem with the team’s offense. But there certainly is some evidence to suggest offensive coordinator Luke Getsy isn’t getting the most out of his players.

Justin Fields might be bad, but we know he is certainly capable of being much better than this. In his last four complete games of his rookie season, he passed for 975 yards and five touchdowns, with a passer rating of 85.9. Compare that to the first four of 2022, in which he has managed 471 yards, two touchdowns and a rating of, gulp, 58.7.

Fields isn’t even as effective as a rusher. In that same span, he ran for 257 yards, compared to 147 this year.

Somehow, the Bears offense is worse. They went from 27th in scoring and 24th in yardage to 31st in both. They are averaging 33 fewer yards and 2.3 fewer points per game. It is especially concerning when one evaluates Getsy’s performance in the passing game because, well, Getsy came to the team after being a passing game coordinator. It’s supposed to be his specialty.

It’s hard to see a major difference in the supporting cast; it isn’t as if the Bears didn’t have struggles at wide receiver and offensive line last year. And, while I have written several times about the difficulties Fields might have adjusting to an offense he has never played in — especially one that quarterbacks tend to struggle in — at least some of that should be offset simply by Fields no longer being a rookie.

The benefit of the wide zone offense Getsy was set to bring to Chicago is supposed to be the easy throws for the quarterback, but we aren’t seeing those. One can watch any Green Bay Packers game and see several examples of Aaron Rodgers taking a three step drop and making an easy throw for six yards. Do those not exist in Getsy’s version of the offense or is the quarterback not pulling the trigger?

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Details on the Firings of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy

| January 10th, 2022


I have been pretty locked in on the thinking of Bears ownership over the last few months, actually working a few friends harder than I normally would for information. Here’s the fruits of those efforts.

  • Matt Nagy began to fall out of favor with ownership this summer. George McCaskey, and Ted Phillips, shared my outrage with how the quarterback position was being handled. George was physically moved to see Justin Fields receive a standing ovation at a preseason game and could not understand why Nagy, and to a lesser degree Pace, were eschewing that enthusiasm to play a journeyman quarterback.
  • Despite what has been reported, George never instructed Nagy to play Fields. But he did, almost weekly, ask WHY Fields wasn’t playing. The problem? Nagy’s answers never held water. When the coach would resort to tired phrases about the kid not being “ready”, the owner wanted to know what that actually meant. Nagy could never communicate that effectively.
  • The Bears decided to fire Nagy before Thanksgiving, but never entertained the idea of firing him in-season. Nagy never lost the locker room; the team constantly played with effort. The Bears are comfortable waiting until the season is over. Nagy was NOT told that week.
    • On the Patch report, the same source tried to leak that story to many journalists and non-journalists like me. We vetted it. It had no merit.
    • The Bears were furious about the story getting traction. And they still can’t believe they faced criticism for a bullshit story.
  • The decision to fire Ryan Pace was far more complicated and took FAR longer. Some highlights:
    • The Bears, through back channels, used a series of consultants to evaluate the whole of their football operation. Bill Polian was involved. Tony Dungy was involved. In the early stages of that process, the recommendation was veering towards only replacing Pace if they could land an
    • established GM. But at the conclusion of the process, the formal recommendation was for the Bears to move on.
    • Ozzie Newsome was approached about a formal role in the organization. He chose to remain retired.
    • The Bears put out feelers to both Kevin Colbert and John Schneider, gauging potential availability and interest. (I honestly don’t know the outcomes of those feelers, but Colbert is retiring from the Steelers after this coming draft.)
    • The Bears have been pretty definitively firing Pace for a few weeks. But it became “official” last Wednesday.
    • Polian helped compile a list of a dozen GM candidates and those meetings will begin immediately. I do not know what his involvement will be in the coming weeks.

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What Do You Write When There’s Nothing to Write About?

| January 3rd, 2022


You see them sprouting up across the internet.

“Five Things the Bears Can Learn from Their Game with the Giants.”

“Which Bears Have Something to Prove Sunday?”

“Why Bears vs. Vikings Matters.”

There is nothing to learn.

Nobody is proving anything.

It doesn’t matter.

These are the sad facts of playing out the string, down the stretch of an NFL season, especially when there’s major organizational change coming in the off-season. It was nice to see the Bears put on a fun show for their fans Sunday at Soldier Field, harassing a Giants offense that would politely be described as sub-professional. Matt Nagy’s team has not quit, and the schedule has presented them with some beatable opponents, keeping the season from being an embarrassment.

But while we all want to find value in each of the 17 games we are given to watch each year, the truth is there’s little to be found in these contests. And there is a certain disingenuousness to writing about them with any level of seriousness. (Star Trib columnist Jim Souhan actually used a game quarterbacked by Sean Mannion as “final proof” that Mike Zimmer should be fired in Minnesota.) There is rarely any correlation between how a team finishes one season and how they begin the next one. There are simply too many variables, too much turnover.

And a week from today, Monday January 10th, a new era will begin for the Chicago Bears. Coach Nagy will be fired; a very good man who just never developed into a very good coach. GM Ryan Pace likely will too; a solid talent evaluator paying the price for whiffing on his two most important decisions. All focus will shift to finding their replacements. The final games of this season will be completely forgotten.

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With Urban Meyer’s Firing, Bears Need to Expedite Decisions on Nagy, Pace

| December 17th, 2021


[Note: The game preview will be published Monday, as it seems pointless to analyze a game three days out when both teams are already in advanced Covid protocols.]

On Wednesday morning, the Las Vegas Raiders were the only team affirmatively looking for a new head for the coming season. And while there is certainly some appeal to coaching in Vegas, that job comes with an expensive question mark at quarterback and 17 road games.

On Thursday morning, after the late-night firing of Urban Meyer in Jacksonville, there is now a second team looking for a new coach. That team plays their football in Florida, a state with no income tax. That team possesses Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback that has as much talent as any player at the position in the league. While it may be the league’s worst professional football market, the job will have significant appeal because of those two elements.

On December 28th, the interview window opens for assistant coaches. And the Bears must be active in that window. That means two things:

  • George McCaskey must make his determination on Ryan Pace quickly and decide who is going to hire the next head coach.
  • Matt Nagy must be let go prior to the 28th so the Bears can begin conversations with a host of capable assistants that are likely to make a deep run into the postseason. It is conceivable the Bears could identify their man before the end of the regular season and allow that coach to begin assembling his staff prior to the end of the postseason. (Not officially, of course, but that’s how it’ll happen.)

The decision on Nagy is made. He is not going to be the coach in 2022. Jacksonville’s sacking of Meyer means the Bears will now have serious competition in the head coach market and there is another team that can match Chicago’s offer of a young, potential star quarterback.

This is the time for an historically reactive franchise to be proactive. They have to get this coaching hire right, for their future and the future of Justin Fields. That process begins December 28th.

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Dannehy: Bears Offense Closer Than You Think

| December 15th, 2021

Stop if you’ve heard this before, but the Chicago Bears are good quarterback play away from having a really good offense.

As thoughts of sweeping changes in Halas Hall flood the minds of Chicago Bears fans, the reality is that the offense isn’t as far away from being good as most think. The season totals probably aren’t even as dreadful as they look; they’d be 22nd in yards per game without their 47-yard performance. That game was a part of a five-week clunk fest in which the Bears didn’t do a heck of a lot well on offense.

But we have seen some considerable progress since.

In Fields’ last four games, the Bears have averaged 36.4 yards per drive. That mark would be tied for the sixth-best in the entire league. They have also averaged two points per drive, a mark that would be tied for 20th.

Not great, but certainly not as awful as some have reported.

There’s more to this though, with Andy Dalton at quarterback, the Bears have averaged 40.6 yards per drive — a mark that would be the best in the league — and 1.98 points per drive, 21st. Since Halloween, the Bears offense is 16th in EPA per play.

What this tells us is that when the Bears have had adequate quarterback and offensive line play — which they mostly have since Halloween — they’ve moved the ball. But the quarterbacks need to take better care of the football if the team is going to score more points.

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On the Notion of Apathy Among Bears Fans.

| December 9th, 2021


We got apathy, my friends. That’s right we got apathy here in the Windy City. With a capital A, and that rhymes with J and that stands for Just Get this F’n Season Over With.

John Patrick Shanley’s brilliant play Doubt opens with a simple line that sets the ideological foundation for the entire evening: “What do you do when you don’t know?” A similar question can be asked for the current state of the Bears fan base: “What do you do when you don’t care?”

(Okay, that’s two theatre references in two paragraphs. I think that’s enough.)

Justin Fields was the antidote to apathy this season. Every game he played, every snap he took, allowed fans to commit emotionally because Fields is going to be the quarterback of the Chicago Bears for at least the next several seasons. His development, his flash plays, were all that 2021 was supposed to be about and those moments would provide hope for 2022 and beyond. To a large extent, they have. Fields has a long way to go but he has shown the kind of excitement he can bring to this organization, under the right tutelage.

Without him, what were fans left with to care about?

  • The team is out of contention. There’s no potential playoff berth with which to concern oneself.
  • The head coach will not be here next season so the performance of the roster under his leadership – on both sides of the ball – is inconsequential. By and large, we know who is good, who is not good, and who will be interesting to watch under new coaches.
  • Does it really matter how the young players – Kmet, Mooney, Borom, etc. – develop in this failed program? Is it even development? If they don’t fit what the next coach wants to do offensively, they may not even be on the team. Investing in hypotheticals is not an exciting proposition.
  • Injuries have ravaged them. What started at left tackle this summer has permeated the rest of the roster. It could still be fun to watch the Bears defend Aaron Rodgers with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks out there but without them?

Fans want to care, even when the team isn’t winning. That crowd in Seattle was passionately supporting the Seahawks Sunday as they fought the Niners for their fourth win of the season. Why? Because they still have emotional stock in a coach and quarterback who have brought them tons of success. The Lions fans that showed up in Detroit Sunday were in tears as they beat the Vikings for their first win of the year. Why? Because they hope against hope this will be the coach who rights the ship, and it all starts with that first victory.

But this coach is righting any ships. He is weeks (if not days) from walking the plank. And not only has he been unsuccessful as the head coach, but his offenses have been wildly unentertaining. (Most of the Fields-based entertainment had little to do with Matt Nagy.) Every one of us knows exactly what we’re going to see when whatever non-Fields plays quarterback. And every one of us knows it’s going to be a long, boring failure. How is it possible to commit emotionally to an athletic contest when the outcome is negatively predetermined?

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Dannehy: After Sunday Night’s Loss, Matt Nagy Should Be Handed His Walking Papers

| December 8th, 2021

If the Chicago Bears lose to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, it should be the last game Matt Nagy coaches.

It was worth seeing if Nagy could mount a charge down the stretch and the Bears had a decent game plan against Arizona. They might have won the ballgame if not for a shocking number of dropped passes and horrendous interceptions. But they didn’t win and, after yet another press conference about “finding out the whys”, it’s clear Nagy will never discover the answers.

The Bears are going to lose to the Packers this week and that loss will eliminate them from playoff contention. There’s a good chance it will be embarrassing, but that’s become a minor consideration when deciding when to fire Nagy. The more important point is about timing.

The team has a short trip home and with the next game being on Monday Night Football, Chris Tabor will have the extra day to settle into the role of head coach. They won’t want to do it after the Minnesota game because it will be a short week. The following week will also be shorter than usual as they play in Seattle on Sunday afternoon. (Besides, the Bears might win that game and they won’t want to make the move right after a win.)

Given the rule change that allows teams to interview coaches over the final two weeks of the regular season, it would be irresponsible for the Bears to wait any longer. There is already one team that will be champing at the bit to interview potential new coaches. By the start of Week 17, there could be several more.

If the Bears intend on taking a look at college coaches, they could do so immediately after Nagy is fired.

While Jim Harbaugh would surely wait until after Michigan’s season is over, Ohio State’s Ryan Day or Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald might be more willing to jump to the pros immediately, considering they are not competing for a national title. Even if Harbaugh wants to wait to announce his departure, the Bears could still feel out his interest.

In two weeks, they could turn their attention to NFL assistants. Theoretically, the Bears could have their new coach picked out before the regular season even ends.

There could be hold-ups since NFL teams have to grant permission before the Bears interview any assistants. Considering this is the first year with the new rule, there’s no way of really knowing if teams will actually allow assistants to look at other jobs during the course of the regular season.

If reports that the Bears are already doing background checks on other coaches are true and Nagy’s last-ditch efforts to save his job have fallen flat, the Bears need to move on to the next chapter. The importance of doing so can’t be overstated.

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Dannehy: Nagy Deserves Chance to Fight for Job

| December 1st, 2021

While “Fire Nagy” chants fill even the smallest stadiums in Illinois, the Chicago Bears are doing the right thing by giving their coach at least a chance to fight for his job. Had the Bears lost to the Detroit Lions, that story would be different.

Perhaps it can be argued that a last-second win over the worst team in the league shouldn’t matter, but keep in mind that the Ravens, Browns and Vikings were also taken to the wire by Detroit, with several of them deserving to lose. There’s no such thing as a bad win, especially when draft status is not impacted.

Thanksgiving’s victory isn’t likely going to mean anything, but giving Nagy a chance to dig out of this hole will surely look good to candidates interested being his replacement. (Firing Nagy mid-season, a year after making the playoffs, might turn off some candidates.) Since there would be no actual benefit to firing Nagy right now, why risk eliminating any potential replacements? Especially considering the most interesting rumor involves one of Nagy’s good friends, Ryan Day. While the Bears being “in the hunt” is a punch line today, it might not be a week from now.

Sunday, the Bears face a team from the southwest, at noon, on what is expected to be a cold and rainy day. Nobody likes the term “Bear weather,” but there have been plenty of warm-weather teams who have struggled to deal with it over the years. The Cardinals are very good, but they’re young, wounded and have their own coaching distraction to worry about. Likely working for a contract extension, Kliff Kingsbury didn’t even shoot down the rumors about Oklahoma.

The Cardinals have a top-10 offense and defense, but if ever there was a chance for a massive upset, this is it.

It’s likely going to take nine wins to make the playoffs, and if the Bears win Sunday that won’t be as far-fetched as many believe, especially if the team can get back to running the ball and playing defense like they did earlier in the year. (They’ll also need their young quarterback to replicate his Pittsburgh performance a few times down the stretch.)

The most likely scenario is a loss for the Bears — probably even an ugly one. That coupled with a sure loss to Green Bay next week will seal Nagy’s fate. The Bears will be out of the playoff hunt and can move on from Nagy with time to interview coaches before the end of the season, thanks to a recent rule change.

Fans can hate Nagy all they want, but those looking at the job from a distance will look positively on two playoff appearances in two years. They may see things they think they could do better, but nobody will paint the picture fans have of Nagy matching the incompetence of John Fox and Marc Trestman. They’ll see a coach who made the playoffs with horrible quarterback play and they’ll know how difficult that is to accomplish. They also know what all coaches know: If you don’t win enough, you won’t have a job for long.

Nagy is still a winning coach and has dug out of holes before. The Bears have nothing to lose by giving him the opportunity to do so again.

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Bump: George McCaskey Should Fire Matt Nagy.

| November 22nd, 2021

UPDATE 11/21/21. There is no reason to recap Sunday’s train wreck loss to the undermanned Baltimore Ravens. This is over for Matt Nagy. Time to make it official. Waiting no longer makes sense.

This piece originally ran after the Tampa game.


Nate Tice, son of the the legendary Mike Tice and one of the better young NFL analysts got me through Monday with a Twitter thread.

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Not having any desire to sit through Sunday’s debacle again, it was nice to see Tice confirm what I had believed in real time: that Justin Fields had zero chance to succeed in Tampa. This was Cleveland redux and the entirety of the blame falls onto the shoulders of the head coach. The game plan made no sense. The offense, now in fourth season, makes no sense. And we are now at that moment in the development of this young quarterback where the most important question has been answered. Matt Nagy is not now, and will never be, the right man to maximize the ability of Fields.

A source close to ownership texted me Monday morning that Halas Hall was “fed up” with the head coach. They should be. But being fed up is not enough. George McCaskey should fire Matt Nagy. Today, next week, on the bye, whenever. But Nagy shouldn’t make it to the end of the season. If only for the symbolism alone, a message to the fans that this simply isn’t good enough.

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