At a certain point, people in a sports organization go from everybody pulling in the same direction to pure survival mode. A point where they know that people are likely getting fired in the near future and they must do everything they can to make sure it isn’t them. It seems like the Chicago Bears have crossed that bridge after dropping to 3-7 on Sunday. In fact, there were signs even before the game that GM Ryan Pace might be getting a head start on trying to make his case to ownership.
It is more evident than ever that Matt Nagy is on borrowed time. Having one of the worst offenses in the NFL is bad enough. Losing to the Baltimore Ravens at home despite no Lamar Jackson? That was his point of no return. For those paying attention though, they might’ve seen Pace begin his personal campaign to distance himself from the head coach. It started with his interview with Jeff Joniak on WBBM Newsradio 780. When asked about the state of the Bears, he did two noteworthy things.
He talked up the young talent on the roster and didn’t once mention Nagy.
“I think the bye came at a good time for us. Really, right now, I see a team that is growing and improving. A lot of our young core talent is making an increasing impact as we go forward. Especially in the last two games on offense, you’re seeing some of that talent translate on the field, and now it needs to translate into wins. We’ve seen positives and growth from our offense, but our defense we understand needs to finish and play a complete game and that’s what we’re planning on doing today.”
It didn’t end there. One thing people should keep in mind? Pace actually has ties to former Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo. The two attended Eastern Illinois University and were briefly teammates. So is it any coincidence that Romo, who did the CBS broadcast of the Bears-Ravens game, seemed to talk up Chicago’s roster as often as he could? First by praising Justin Fields prior to the contest and then other offensive players like Larry Borom and Darnell Mooney.
"I think you're seeing a guy just learn the game every rep, every day at practice, every game… This kid has got a chance to be really good." – @tonyromo on @ChicagoBears QB Justin Fields pic.twitter.com/elQKwBJrNX
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) November 21, 2021
Tony Romo said on the broadcast that he thinks the Chicago Bears got a steal in offensive lineman Larry Borom.
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) November 21, 2021
Tony Romo said Ryan Pace told him the Bears received a bunch of calls about their guys along the defensive line at the trade deadline.
— Matt Eurich (@MattEurich) November 21, 2021
It isn’t hard at all to think Pace spoke to his former teammate and friends and nudged him for a little favor to talk up his young guys whenever possible. Anything to give himself some extra shine in the eyes of Bears ownership. Some of those players helped out. Mooney had 121 yards and a touchdown. Trevis Gipson had a sack. Roquan Smith was everywhere. Is it possible that Pace may yet save himself?
Ryan Pace isn’t safe but also isn’t as finished as Nagy
When it comes to optics, the head coach has no leg to stand on at this point. The team is falling apart despite a number of winnable games over the past few weeks. They had chances to beat San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore but coughed it up every time. Both because the offense couldn’t score enough and the team was plagued by mind-numbing self-inflicted wounds at the worst possible times. That is a coaching issue.
Conversely, the Bears have been getting strong contributions from their younger players. Particularly the past two draft classes. Mooney is their leading receiver. Jaylon Johnson has emerged as a rock solid starting cornerback. Even Cole Kmet has seen an uptick in production of late. Fields looked great in Pittsburgh. Borom has played fairly well in his first three starts and even Khalil Herbert shined when given a chance.
Could this group take a big step forward with better coaching?
That is undoubtedly what Ryan Pace will try to sell the McCaskeys on over the final seven games. Whether it is enough remains to be seen. Some in the organization believe ownership is reluctant to fire the GM but also know fans might rebel if he is kept in place. It is a fair assumption details may surface in the coming weeks.