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Week 14 Q&A: Can Matt Nagy rally the Bears and save his job?

Patti Curl of Windy City Gridiron checks in for a Week 14 chat.

Arizona Cardinals v Chicago Bears Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

It’s been nearly two months since the Packers and Bears met, and in that time the two teams have gone in markedly different directions. The Packers have built off their strong start despite injuries, while the Bears have faltered amid repeated blows.

Much of their struggles have been centered on rookie quarterback Justin Fields. Making just his third start of the season when he faced the Packers in October, Fields had powered the Bears to wins the previous two weeks. But he and the Bears fell to the Packers, then dropped their next four before Fields was knocked from the lineup with an injury.

Fields returns for the Bears this week, giving them a chance to salvage their season. At 4-8, Chicago is still technically in the playoff hunt, and embattled head coach Matt Nagy has a chance to save his job. Can he do it? What would it take to achieve redemption? We asked Patti Curl of Windy City Gridiron that and a few other questions ahead of the Packers’ Week 14 meeting with the Bears.

APC: I asked you this back in October and I wanted to check in for an update: where are you at on Matt Nagy? Is there anything he could do to redeem himself yet this season?

Patti Curl: I don’t want Nagy to continue being the Bears head coach after this season, but right now I mostly feel sorry for the guy. It can’t be easy to try to coach and hold the respect of your team with “Fire Nagy” chants roaring through the stadium on home games. I still think Nagy has some good traits, but he ultimately was too stubborn trying to install an offensive system that either doesn’t work for our players, doesn’t work at all, or he’s unable to teach effectively. I don’t think there’s a plausible scenario in which he redeems himself this season. Winning out and showing continued improvement in Justin Fields might give him a fighting chance to save his job, but the first part is obviously not realistic. To redeem himself in my eyes, he’d have to acknowledge that he’s not the right person to run this offense, and I’d have to believe him. Again, that’s not realistically going to happen.

APC: The Bears have dealt with quite a few injuries this year, but that can give some big opportunities to new faces. Has anyone unexpected emerged as a worthwhile contributor since we last saw Chicago?

PC: There have been a couple pleasant surprises this season. 5th round rookie Larry Borom is playing right tackle at an adequate level. I know the Packers seem to have plenty of success with later offensive line picks, but league-wide that’s definitely above expectation for a 5th rounder and bodes well for potential to progress in future seasons. On the defense, a 2nd year 5th round pick, Trevis Gipson has had some nice flashes and overall played will as a rotational edge player in Khalil Mack’s absence. He’s obviously not a replacement for that future Hall of Famer, but it’s definitely nice to see some decent pass-rush depth.

Unfortunately, in the two positions with the most opportunity for new contributors to step up—cornerback and wide receiver—nobody has seemed thrilled to rise to the occasion. Any “promotions” along those depth charts have been due to bad play from the starters rather than anyone proving their worth.

APC: What’s your hope for Justin Fields over the final five weeks of the season?

PC - Show off some highlight moments, continue developing chemistry with the Bears starting receivers, make some mistakes that he can learn from, and destroy the Packers so thoroughly that a thick shame hangs over the team and suffocates any excitement that might otherwise come from post-season success.

APC: Khalil Mack’s cap hit balloons to more than $30 million in 2022. What do you think the chances are he’s done in Chicago?

PC: Fun fact about that cap hit: the Bears have repeatedly gone back to the “bank of Khalil” to restructure his contract to be a higher percentage bonus salary, an act which decreases the current year’s cap hit but increases that hit in subsequent years. The result is that 90% of that cap hit will be dead money if the Bears cut him in 2022, leaving only 3 million savings. So the Bears are happily married to Mack for at least one more year. After that, his cap is only about 50% dead money if he’s cut, so he may be gone as soon as 2023.

APC: What do the Bears need to do to expedite a rebuild for 2022? What would be your first move?

PCI think the fan base is split about whether it’s even realistic to plan for a competitive team in 2022, and I’d guess more than half would think it’s best to cut ties with older players (when possible, see above) and aim for a rebuild that blossoms around 2024. That said, I do think the Bears could cobble together a competitive crew next year if they get some luck along the way. If things work out with the current player’s health (particularly Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn and development (particularly the two rookie tackles) the Bears still need a wide receiver, a cornerback, and a center. So I guess my first move would be to replace Ryan Pace with a new general manager who can convince Allen Robinson to sign an extension, who can acquire a replacement-level CB2 in free agency, who can draft a starting center in the 2nd round, and who can hire a coach that will build an offense around Justin Fields strengths.

Is that cheating?