Matt Nagy is still here, but he knows firing rumors won’t go away

Matt Nagy is still here, but he knows firing rumors won’t go away

Matt Nagy stands on the sideline during the fourth quarter Thursday. | Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Bears coach acknowledged Friday that dealing with rumors is part of his new reality.

Rumors about Matt Nagy’s job status aren’t going to go away because he beat the Lions by two. They figure to hover over Halas Hall the rest of the season, clearing only if the Bears go on a miraculous win streak or Nagy gets fired while there are still games to play. The latter remains far more likely the former.

Nagy, to his credit, acknowledged Friday that dealing with rumors is part of his new reality.

“Is this going to stop?” he said. “No. It’s probably going to continue. There’s still going to be rumors that happen. But as long as we understand as players, and coaches, and everyone in this building — what’s real and what the truth is — then we’re OK.”

Nagy pointed to Thursday’s 16-14 win against the Lions — the Bears’ first since Oct. 10 — as evidence that his team can handle distractions. That might be the only complimentary thing one could say about defeating a winless team at the gun.

“There’s a right and way to handle [distractions],” Nagy said. “The wrong way is you let it affect you. We didn’t do that, and we haven’t, and we won’t. Also, you stay ahead of it by knowing, like I just said 一 not just us, but other players一 there’s going to be more distractions. That’s just natural.”

The spark that threatened to set Halas Hall on fire Tuesday was a one-source story from a Patch.com reporter who doesn’t cover sports. It said Nagy had been told Monday he’d be fired Friday, whether he beat the Lions or not.

When “Black Friday” began and Nagy was still employed, the Patch.com reporter wrote: “Did I get bamboozled when a trusted source, in the position to know, told me Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy was told he would not be on the sidelines after Thanksgiving? Or did something change at Halas Hall after I reported what the high-level source told me? I don’t know.”

Tuesday, Nagy said he wasn’t told he’d be fired. Wednesday, McCaskey told Bears players it wasn’t true. Thursday, general manager Ryan Pace told the team’s pregame show it wasn’t true.

It’s unlikely Nagy would have been pre-fired — and then unfired — but never actually fired.

The Bears’ reluctance to have Nagy’s bosses shoot down the report quickly Tuesday, though, set the stage for a bizarre 72 hours.

Nagy laid out what he said was the truth Friday. Unprompted, he shot down recent reports of Bears’ dysfunction. He claimed a Shaw Media report that chairman George McCaskey forced Nagy to keep Justin Fields as his starting quarterback “couldn’t be … furthest from the truth.”

Refuting a Tribune report that players found Nagy canceling late Tuesday afternoon meetings to be bewildering — given the coach had talked to his superiors earlier that day — Nagy blamed a scheduling error. The Bears’ schedule mistakenly said there was a meeting, Nagy said, and he told his players there was not. He called it “almost comical” to believe the schedule change was “because I’m getting fired.”

However, confusion and doubt among some players Tuesday afternoon and later in the week was — as Nagy would say — real. And preventable.

“A lot in your head after going right from Sunday to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then playing Thursday,” tight end Cole Kmet said after beating the Lions. “There’s a lot in your head. You don’t know what’s true and what’s not. That was difficult for me. You don’t know what’s going on. …

An Arlington Heights native, said he had to turn off his phone this week because his friends wanted to ask him about the rumors.

“It was pretty chaotic,” he said.

They’ll probably ask again.

The Bears have never fired a head coach during the season. For the first time, they have motivation — a new NFL rule allows teams to interview assistant coaches for head coaching jobs over the last two weeks of the season. The value of that disappears, though, if the Bears also decide to replace general manager Ryan Pace.

If upcoming games against the first-place Cardinals and Packers go as expected, perhaps McCaskey would consider firing Nagy after the rivalry game, given the Bears would then have eight days to prepare for a Monday contest against the Vikings. The next two opportunities to make a move would fall four days before Christmas or two days after it — a tough sell for a franchise rooted in family. After that, the Bears have only two games to go, with the window to talk to assistants already open.

Nagy can take a deep breath this weekend, though. He’s still here — with questions about his future standing right beside him.

“The personal side of it, for me, was yeah, it was a different 24-48 hours,” he said. “But the emotional side for me was in that locker room celebrating with the team, because they showed me how much they cared. And told me. And it was just pretty neat.”

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