Watching Justin Fields on Monday night in Pittsburgh was a treat. Last week it felt like the rookie quarterback began to blossom as a runner. This time, on the road in primetime against a good defense, the light seemed to go on for him as a passer. He threw for 291 yards, averaging 15.7 per pass attempt, and threw a gorgeous touchdown with under two minutes left to give the Chicago Bears a 27-26 lead. Sadly the defense wasn’t able to hold it and the team fell 29-27. However, this performance by the young QB led to speculation. Is Matt Nagy more likely to save his job now?
The simple answer here is no. One source stated that while Fields’ development was an important part of Nagy’s evaluation, it wasn’t the only part. There are other issues with this team that must be considered. Most notably is the fact it isn’t winning. George McCaskey stated with clarity back in January that he expected to see “progress” from this team. Being 3-6 at the bye week with a declining defense and an offense that is still one of the worst in the league does not qualify as progress.
Then there is the more troubling aspect. The lack of discipline.
Since the start of last season, the Bears have now seen three of their players ejected from games for throwing punches. Javon Wims and Anthony Miller against the Saints. Bilal Nichols against the Buccaneers. One such event can be explained away as an incident. Three? That is a trend. It speaks to a coach not being able to hold his players accountable for their actions.
Then there are the penalties. So far this season, the Bears are tied for seventh in the NFL with 58 penalties called against them. Three of them are of the taunting variety and five were for unnecessary roughness. Those types of penalties again point to a discipline problem. Players not being able to keep themselves under control. That is another big reason why Nagy is in trouble.
Can Matt Nagy flip the script? Yes he can
The way to do it is quite simple. Win more games. Even at 3-6, the Bears aren’t technically out of the playoff picture. It just means their margin for error over the final eight games is razor-thin. One or two more losses and it’s a safe bet their playoff hopes are dead. They need to go on a considerable streak to get back into the mix and right now it doesn’t look as if their schedule is going to cooperate.
Three of their next four games coming out of the bye week will be Baltimore, Arizona, and Green Bay. All opponents that look like playoff locks. Is it possible for this team to somehow put together some magic and win those games? Matt Nagy better hope so. This season has marked the third in a row where his team has lost at least four straight games. In the previous times, he was able to save himself with timely winning streaks. The problem is the schedule cooperated both times with weaker opponents.
Not this time.
If Nagy wants to keep his job, he’ll have to do something he hasn’t done yet in his coaching tenure. Beat good teams on a week-to-week basis. Maybe Fields will help him if he keeps improving but it’s hard to trust this team is disciplined enough and well-coached enough to pull it off. High effort is one thing, but it takes more than that to win big games.