The kindling sat, drying, waiting to combust. Tuesday morning, ignition.
For the fan base, Bears issues piled up like kindling, ready to go up with the slightest spark.
First coach Matt Nagy refused to hold an open quarterback competition. Once Andy Dalton’s knee injury intervened, he wouldn’t call rookie Justin Fields the full-time starter until it was the most obvious thing in the world. First Nagy was the play-caller, and then — after the Browns disaster — he wasn’t.
Then came the losing streak: against the rival Packers, by five touchdowns to the Buccaneers, at home to the 49ers. The Bears’ loss to the Steelers was prompted by their own taunting penalty. Their defeat Sunday was against a Ravens quarterback making his first career start. Both came in the game’s final seconds.
The kindling sat, drying, waiting to combust.
Tuesday morning, ignition: A report by Patch.com that Thanksgiving would mark Nagy’s last game as Bears head coach. The franchise wouldn’t shoot the report down, on the record or otherwise. Nagy said he had been told no such thing — and hadn’t even met with his bosses this week — as he sat in a press conference, cruelly made to fight the wildfire alone.
Even if the Bears beat the Lions on Thursday, those flareups aren’t going away anytime soon. If Nagy has seven games left — or one, or anywhere in between — he should be prepared to deal with these fires as long as he has a seat at the podium:
They popped up even as Nagy tried to douse his own firing:
• On Monday, Jordan Schutlz, who hosts a basketball podcast with Bears receiver Allen Robinson, Tweeted that source said an “overwhelming number of Bears’ players want Matt Nagy gone.” Robinson was furious Tuesday, saying he was not Schultz’s source. Robinson said he was put “in a vulnerable situation” by his affiliation with him and talked to Schultz about the matter.
Robinson said he speaks for himself on social media.
“Anything that I wanted to get across has come from me, and it’ll always be that way,” he said. “It’ll never change. Anything I want to get accomplished, I want to say, ‘I’m a grown-ass man. I can get stuff done myself.’”
•On Tuesday morning, Cary-Grove High School principal Neil Lesinski sent a letter to parents apologizing for the school’s student section chanting “Fire Nagy” during a Saturday playoff football game against Lake Forest High School. Nagy’s son, Brayden, is a junior on the LFHS team.
The sentiment of the cheer wasn’t unique — Bears fans chanted it Sunday and, amazingly, Bulls fans did during their blowout loss on Monday — but at a high school game?
Nagy said he didn’t hear the chant — “I was there to be a dad; It was a pretty cool time,” he said —and actually praised Cary-Grove players who spoke to him afterward, saying they were polite when they asked him to pose for pictures.
• With Bears brass unwilling to talk, Nagy’s coordinators and three of his most respected players — Dalton, Robinson and safety Tashaun Gipson— were left to answer questions about his future. On a short week, they would have rather focused on the Lions.
“I know what losing feels like,” said Gipson, who had three coaches in his first four years as a member of the Browns. “I know what a losing locker room is like. This is not that. I know our record indicates that a lot of guys may be willing to check out, but that’s not the energy, that’s not the atmosphere, that I sense in here.”
Staying insulated is impossible in the social media world. Nagy knows that — he often talks about the power of Twitter and Instagram in his players’ worlds.
“You’re going to see some things even though you’re not trying to,” Dalton said. “But maybe don’t click on things that you shouldn’t click on.”
If only it were that simple.