LAKE FOREST – Have you ever stopped to consider how you might like having your job security, career and future all judged by one or two days at the office?
It happened to Matt Nagy on Sunday night after the Bears lost for the second time in the past 10 months a game it appeared they would win before a field-goal attempt just outside of 40 yards failed in the end.
Immediately after the Bears’ 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers to drop them to 3-4 on the season, a large chorus of Bears fans began screaming for the job of the head coach.
Nagy is safe right now, not only because he’s the reigning NFL Coach of the Year, or because you can probably count in single digits the number of NFL head coaches who’ve gone 15-8 or better in their first 23 games on the job.
He’s safe because even allowing for a very tough day against the Chargers, he’s still done a lot more good than bad in Chicago.
Beyond his record, which always will be the ultimate measuring stick, you remember all that buzz around his team until a few weeks ago?
Nagy’s the guy mostly responsible for it.
While he specializes in offense, his seeming complete lack of ego thst has allowed him to give free hands to Vic Fangio and Chuck Pagano on defense, and what is looking like a fairly seamless transition from Vic to Chuck, also are big blue ribbons on his head-coaching résumé.
Other boxes Nagy already has checked: His players love playing for him, he has radically improved the culture around his team and raised the expectations of its fans, and his assistants appear to hold him in high regard.
His also is very creative and, even more than that, innovative in his approaches to both offense and the head-coaching job.
What Nagy is not is perfect, and as most young coaches do, he has hit a rut these past few weeks from which he is struggling to escape.
Perhaps things were just too good too soon for him, as he won 15 of his first 20 and his club escaped its only other losing streak before the current three-game skid by winning five straight and nine of its next 10.
Nagy showed again Monday why he appears to be a great fit for the Bears.
He arrived in the media room at Halas Hall determined to hash things out, explain his side of the story and listen to your concerns.
Most importantly, he does appear to understand how much your voices matter.
To be clear, he remains defiant with doubters who believe he should have tried to score seven, or at least shorten that failed game-winning field-goal attempt rather than setting it up with a victory-formation knee that cost him another yard and a half, and he only singled out one of the half-dozen or so shaky playcalls he made on 11 tries inside the Chargers’ 10-yard line in the first half.
And I still believe he is wrong on both counts, but these aren’t issues with clear right and wrong answers.
We know the solid head-coaching chops are there from the way he stunned the Chargers with his I-formation running game, unseen prior to this Sunday and in answer to what had been his offense’s biggest problem.
Of course, why it was missing during all those red-zone failures still is an unsolved mystery.
NFL head coaches can’t air their laundry in public, even if they want to.
I’m guessing we still don’t know the real reasons he took that knee before the kick, and he can’t tell us without throwing someone under the bus.
Nagy is more than worth our patience, but he is at a crossroads.
Whether or not he is willing to stop now and listen – not so much to us but to the coaches and players around him – and learn from and fix his mistakes, will determine whether he takes the Bears to the next level, or at the end of next season finds himself precariously seeking balance atop the coaching bubble.