After a tumultuous week, the Bears’ head coach felt the support of his players in a 16-14 win over the Lions. “They told me they were going to do it and they did it. How cool is that?”
After a tumultuous and chaotic week at Halas Hall, the Bears rallied around their beleaguered head coach Thursday at Ford Field — and barely squeaked by a winless Lions team that at times seemed trying harder to lose than to win.
But Matt Nagy will take it. A win is a win, and Nagy gladly accepted the Bears’ 16-14 victory over the Lions on Cairo Santos’ 28-yard field goal as time expired as a show of support in a time of uncertainty.
“I do, and not just me,” Nagy said. “The other part of this, too, is as Ryan [general manager Ryan Pace] and I do this thing together, they rallied around all of us — not just me, the coaches. In the coaching world, you have assistant coaches, so we’re all part of this thing. And we’re all working together here and I think that’s what’s impressive.”
The shaky victory was unlikely a game-changer for Nagy. But he’s so focused on the moment — to his credit, but also perhaps to a fault — that it doesn’t matter. His team won Thursday. And he wasn’t fired.
What a relief?
“No, it’s just joy,” Nagy said. “The biggest part for me — and I’m not built this way about being selfish — this is about the team. This is selfless for them. Those guys are the ones out there practicing every single day to fight like hell to get a win.
“It’s hard. You either win or you lose in this league. We had two close ones the last two weeks. It’s a big difference if you win those. We didn’t. But we won today. You can’t take that away from those guys. There’s a joy in that locker room. They’re going to have a great Thanksgiving today because they earned it and they fought like hell. They told me they were gonna do it and they did it. How cool is that?”
That was the gist of the players’ message, anyway, when quarterback Andy Dalton, linebacker Roquan Smith and other leaders spoke at a team meeting Wednesday.
“It’s something that we’ll probably just keep to the team,” Dalton said. “Matt wanted me to say something. And I did. And I just spoke from the heart.”
Tight end Cole Kmet said the idea was to win for Nagy. But overcoming the distractions of the erroneous report that Nagy had been told Thursday would be his last game as head coach — and the firestorm that followed — was the biggest tribute to the respect they have for their coach.
“I think at the end of the day we just did this for ourselves — as players, as a team, with coaches involved and just the organization in general,” Kmet said.
As for Nagy, his status as the Bears’ head coach remains day to day. And, publicly at least, he seems fine with that. He talked with Bears chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips after the brouhaha over the report of his imminent firing. But he wouldn’t say if his future was discussed at that meeting. All he wanted to know, he said, was that the report of his firing was not true.
“I think everybody can understand [that] that’s an internal discussion we had,” he said. “But the biggest part of that discussion was [the report]. The next part is me making sure we didn’t have too much of a distraction take away from practice. It didn’t. That’s that. That’s about what it was.”
Nagy’s job status will remain an issue until McCaskey and Phillips clarify it one way or the other. But Nagy seemed only interested in beating the Cardinals next week.
“My understanding, which is what it’s been since the day I signed to be [the Bears’] coach,” Nagy said, “is to win as many games as I can possibly win and do it the right way. When you lose five games in a row, you understand, and when you’re 3-7, you know that territory you can get to. That comes with the job.”