Bernstein: Bears Have To See Reality

The trust in Matt Nagy and the Bears dwindles with each passing week.

Dan Bernstein
November 03, 2019 - 4:20 pm
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(670 The Score) Not good enough. Not that game and not this season.  

One last spasm of effort and competence kept faint hopes of relevance flickering for the Bears, but 3-5 is who they are no matter what they thought they could be or what their occasional flashes of success convinced them was still possible.  

The Bears' unlikely comeback from trailing 19-0 midway through the third quarter against the Eagles on the road was both too late to matter and incompletely executed, with a dropped screen pass and leaky third-down defense sealing the fate they ultimately deserved after a first half in which they gained nine yards of total offenseAs that 22-14 loss became their fourth straight in a shriveling season, what matters now is how seriously their issues are recognized and confronted.​ It's on coach Matt Nagy in more ways than one.

Related: Haugh: All the Bears inspire is doubt

We don't want to hear about any steady or incremental progress from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who's still too often confused or overwhelmed. Nagy feels he has to keep puffing up his wreck of a trigger man, constantly praising a handful of good throws and decisions while underplaying the preponderance of stagnation, if not outright regression. All of that smoke-blowing either means Nagy believes Trubisky is that emotionally fragile or Nagy himself remains oddly tantalized by whatever promise he still sees. Just to be clear, neither one is good.

Nagy himself has to learn how to see the game unfolding in front of him and call plays appropriately, with his strategy continuing to look unfocused and random, trying to do everything at once and accomplishing nothing. It took him almost an entire half of football to remember how a fullback keyed some success last week, even after the first play from scrimmage Sunday was a perfectly acceptable four-yard gain from an offset I-formation. Nagy didn't roll it back out until his team had clawed back into the game so improbably, getting back to it as if waking from some kind of trance induced by watching all those missed blocks and inexplicable pre-snap penalties.

Nagy showed the Bears a PowerPoint presentation last week selling them on a parallel to the Washington Nationals, who resurrected what looked like a lost season to eventually win the World Series. But that did nothing to have his team ready to play when the game actually started.

If Nagy's instinct is now to supply more of the same -- this warmed over Norman Vincent Peale playbook that he thinks will keep youngsters upbeat and veterans bought in -- it must be mitigated by brutal honesty that can actually identify what's missing and why. While it​'s possible that Nagy's forward-facing persona diverges from what he is behind the closed doors of Halas Hall, the best evidence of what players are hearing from coaches is the way they use those themes in their own comments to reporters and fans, and those indicate more of this default to finding what still feels good enough amid such disappointment.

"It's no consolation prize, but the guys fought to the end," Nagy said after the game, awarding a kind of consolation prize. "I'm learning that our team is strong. We need to support one another."

It had better be strong to weather the inevitable conflicts that will now continue to pull at a last-place team, one that will be increasingly unable to hold off larger concerns well beyond the discrepancy between short-team expectations and results. Those too will require the Bears to see what the rest of us are seeing.

Nagy said after the Bears' loss to the Raiders in London on Oct. 6 that he knew what needed to be fixed during the bye week, before they fell flat at home against the Saints. He then said they had a productive week of practice before they lost to the hapless Chargers.  

Our trust dwindles with each next defeat placed on the pile, and we have to hope that a clear and purposeful reckoning with reality does something to restore it.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in midday. You can follow him on Twitter @Dan_Bernstein.