The Chicago Bears are playing their final regular season game with hopes that it isn’t their final game of the season. In addition, there are a few jobs on the line.
Well, here we are in the final week of the 2020 NFL regular season. Many speculated that we’d never get here but, after some bumps on the road, we made it. After everything the Chicago Bears went through (fast start, long losing streak, injuries, and COVID positive tests), it is amazing that they’re still in playoff competition.
If the Bears beat their hated rivals, the Green Bay Packers, they make it to the playoffs. They also get in with an Arizona Cardinals loss. After spending nearly half the season (six games) losing consecutive games, having it come down to this scenario is something only the real diehard Chicago Bears fans thought possible.
There is a lot riding on this game, and it’s more than a playoff berth. There are some jobs on the line as well. For a couple of months now, there’s been much speculation about whether general manager Ryan Pace, head coach Matt Nagy, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky would come back after the struggles of this season. Despite the vast improvement of the team the past month, would any of that talk change if the Bears don’t make the playoffs? Would that talk change even if they did make it?
Changes will be made whether the Bears win or lose
Despite the newfound success of the offense, expect some changes to this team come 2021. This team is performing well at the moment, but there are still flaws. Allen Robinson is basically the wide receivers corps. He received 25.5 percent of the passing targets this season. The next up is Darnell Mooney, the rookie, with just 15 percent.
This could be Robinson’s final game in Chicago. He’s due to be a free agent after the season but the Bears cut off contract negotiations early in the season. They’ve rewarded their other players who played well with new contracts early into their final seasons, but for some reason, they haven’t done that with Robinson. If he’s gone, who takes the bulk of the targets.
That decision may or may not rest on Nagy’s shoulders. A month ago, many people thought he’d lose his job. The offense ranked at the bottom in nearly every category and his playcalling and game management were messes. He was certainly a dead man walking at Halas Hall, right?
Well, a month later the offense is moving the way he envisioned it. Nagy gave up playcalling to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. As a result, the Bears scored 30+ points in four straight games. They haven’t done that since 1965. David Montgomery, despite having three games in which he ran for 30 yards or less, eclipsed the 1,000 rush yard level. The beat up offensive line has jelled and is opening holes for him and protecting Trubisky.
The way things improved, it now looks likely that Nagy did enough to save his job, especially if the Bears win on Sunday. While he probably saved his job, the person who decides which players he coaches may be different next season.
The front office will be different
Things might be different for Pace. He put this roster together. He basically put his job on the line for Trubisky. Despite the recent success, this team suffered through some incredible struggles last season and this one. There were some available free agents who could’ve helped the team but Pace decided to stay pat (Damon Harrison, aka Snack, could’ve been a great replacement for Eddie Goldman, who opted out of the 2020 season). Yes, he felt confident that this team was better than it showed, but even at full strength, it wasn’t a Super Bowl contending team. One playoff appearance in six seasons, no matter how bad the team was when he took over, isn’t good.
Also, Chicago Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips is also likely out, though he’ll opt to retire. His resume is even flimsier than Pace’s. He’s been at his position for 21 seasons and the Bears only have five playoff appearances and three playoff wins to show for it.
Bears’ Chairman of the Board, George McCaskey, is reportedly looking to hire a “football guy” to replace Phillips. That person would oversee the day-to-day operations and keep the general manager on track. Phillips was more involved with the financial aspect of the team and didn’t do much in terms of making football decisions. Pace basically had his way as long as it was financially feasible.
A different coach could lose his job
While there was so much speculation about Nagy’s job security, there is another coach whose job is on the line this week. Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano inherited one of the best defenses in recent history. He came in with a reputation of being more aggressive than former coordinator Vic Fangio. In his two seasons in Chicago, however, we haven’t seen that.
With Fangio, fans were frustrated when he sent Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd into pass coverage too much. We see the same thing from Pagano, though. In last week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, he put little pressure on quarterback Mike Glennon in the first half and Glennon did a good job of completing passes. Late in the first half, the game was actually tied before a Roquan Smith interception. The Bears converted that turnover into a field goal before the half and went on to dominate the second half.
Latest Bears News
Pagano cannot afford to do that against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. If Rodgers has all day to throw, he’ll pick the secondary apart. If that happens, Pagano might as well clean out his office after the game.
The Chicago Bears defense took a step back this season. After finishing first in scoring defense in 2018, Fangio’s final season in Chicago, the unit finished fourth last season. This season, the ranking is ninth. Also, after being the top rush defense in 2018, the Bears went down to ninth in 2019 and now ranks 15th this season. Against the pass, they went from ranking fourth in touchdowns allowed last season to 14th this season. It’s frustrating to believe when the defense has Akiem Hicks, Mack, and Quinn, along with Smith and Danny Trevathan.
Pagano has to come up with something special in this big game. If he doesn’t (and maybe even if he does), he’ll be looking for another job in 2021.