Bernstein: Bears, Nagy Losing — And Losing Trust

Matt Nagy claims he's not an idiot, but he keeps making idiotic decisions.

Dan Bernstein
October 27, 2019 - 4:05 pm
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(670 The Score) When all is said and done, the epitaph of "I'm not an idiot" might just end up earning a rightful place on one of the headstones in the cold and barren graveyard of Chicago coaching tenures.

"Here lies the once promising career of Matt Nagy, ​who kept assuring us that everything would be OK and that he knew how to fix what was wrong. Alas, he may have been wrong in his self-scouting."

Nagy's Bears were given a gift on a platter by the bumbling Chargers on Sunday, but instead of stocking away a workmanlike victory, improving to 4-3 and insisting that they're the winning team their record advertises them to be, they found just the right path to defeat and despair, falling 17-16 at Soldier Field. Eddy Pineiro's 41-yard field-goal attempt as time expired pulled just wide of the left upright, and with it went any reasonable hope for this team -- positioned as a legitimate candidate to win the Super Bowl just weeks ago -- to contend for the postseason.

If we're true to the standards this team set for itself, it should've been an easy win. Nagy finally figured out how to employ some running plays, even if the concept of play-calling balance itself proved not to be the answer. The Bears dominated time of possession, racking up a season-high of 388 yards of offense that included 162 on the ground. The problem was putting the ball in the end zone.

The Bears led 9-7 at half yet were booed off the field due to their incompetence close to the goal line. Their four possessions inside the 20-yard line resulted in just three field goals, and their 11 plays with goal-to-go netted just three yards. It was then that the game was truly lost, though it would still appear to remain theirs to win for some time.

The Chargers kept taking dumb penalties that extended Bears drives or kneecapped their own and made multiple pass drops, including a pair of potential touchdowns. The Chargers are a bad football team that was asking to be put out of its misery, and the Bears couldn't oblige.

Related: Haugh: Bears' dumbfounding loss leaves a mark

What's left of Mitchell Trubisky isn't making anything easier on his remaining believers, doing just enough to undermine the goodwill earned with some clutch throws by continuing to put the ball in danger in the air, then leaving it on the ground.

Nagy did him no favors late by not providing help for Bobby Massie against the force of nature that is Joey Bosa on the edge. The ensuing sack of Trubisky forced a punt with the Bears down by a point. Still, a stop thereafter kept them in it.

Then the Bears' playoff loss to the Eagles last January seemed to recapitulate itself in front of our eyes, with Trubisky delivering two strong and accurate completions and a deft 12-yard scramble to put them in range to win it. So Nagy decided to dress up as Marc Trestman for Halloween, the most blood-curdling frightening costume humanly imaginable.

Instead of advancing the ball closer from the 21-yard line on first down, he opted to take a knee for a one-yard loss, then run the clock all the way down from 43 seconds to kick for the win on second down, despite the fact that a closer kick is more likely to go in. In explaining his decision, Nagy gave us a window into his own insecurity and lack of trust in his offense.

"What happens if you take a sack or lose a fumble?" Nagy asked rhetorically. "I'll be brutally clear -- zero thought of throwing the football. Zero thought of running the football."

As long as we're grabbing for phrases of postmortem commemoration, "zero thought" also deserves to be considered.

Nagy has now burned through all of the capital built up by his flashy and entertaining 12-4 debut season, and as his team is crumbling in front of us, we wonder where this is and now where it's going. We need to see more and soon to remain convinced that Nagy's joking comment last week doesn't end up as a mordant legacy.

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