Fans of the Chicago Bears are in an uproar today with the news that the consistently underachieving flagship franchise of the NFL will bring back both coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace even though the team finished with a non-winning record for a second year in a row. It appears, then, the only scapegoats will be defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, who has retired, and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. SportsLine offers NFL odds on Chicago's 2021 quarterback situation.
Pagano called it a career Tuesday, but he was likely going to be fired regardless after two years with the franchise. His unit was excellent in 2019 and pretty good this season but faded big-time down the stretch.
Chicago snuck into the playoffs at 8-8 this season only because there was an additional wild-card spot added in each conference, but the Bears were meekly one-and-done in a 21-9 loss in New Orleans. Just getting to the playoffs likely saved the jobs of both Nagy and Pace despite the Bears closing the regular season losing seven of 10 after starting 5-1. Including that Saints loss last Sunday, the Bears were 1-7 this season vs. playoff teams. Three teams had at least a six-game losing streak this season: the Bears, Jets and Jaguars. New York and Jacksonville fired their coaches.
Bears chairman George McCaskey did say that neither Nagy nor Pace will receive contract extensions, and Nagy will certainly open the 2021 season among the favorites in "first coach to be fired" odds.
That Pace still has a job is frankly remarkable considering he made one of the biggest draft blunders in NFL history by trading up one spot to No. 2 overall in 2017 to take Trubisky over the likes of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson – both of whom were much more accomplished in college.
During Wednesday's press conference, Pace said this regarding Chicago's quarterback situation but was noncommittal on Trubisky: "We definitely need more out of the [QB] position. We know that. What does that entail? That's what this whole offseason is about."
Nagy was supposed to be the next head coaching success from the Andy Reid tree as he was Reid's former offensive coordinator in Kansas City, but the Bears offense has scored one or fewer touchdowns in 18 of 50 games under Nagy, including playoffs. Nagy did give up play-calling eventually this past season and Chicago's offense was a bit better for a stretch. It was clear watching the Chicago offense, though, that Nagy simply didn't trust Trubisky to throw downfield.
Trubisky's fifth-year rookie option was declined by the Bears back in May, meaning he can hit free agency. In theory, Chicago could slap the franchise tag on him, but that's nearly certain not to happen. The team also could re-sign him to a contract.
"I think I can definitely see myself back here next year," Trubisky said after the playoff loss. "Obviously, a lot of that is out of my control, but it feels like home and it feels like we have unfinished business."
Trubisky has a solid 29-21 record as a regular-season starter – 26-20-4 against the spread – but the vast majority of his wins and good stats have come against lousy teams. Chicago has lost both his playoff starts and totaled just 24 points in them.
Pace traded a fourth-round pick (yet another blunder) for quarterback Nick Foles last offseason, but Foles was a disaster in his seven starts with a 2-5 record -- Nagy's decision to bench Trubisky coming in Week 3 -- before getting hurt and losing the job back to Trubisky. The Bears for financial reasons are stuck with Foles through next season. The team is tight up against the salary cap and can't afford Foles' nearly $15 million dead cap hit if he were to be released. No team is trading for Foles.
The Bears haven't had a first-round pick the past two years because of the Khalil Mack trade, but they are set to pick 20th overall this spring. A quarterback such as Alabama's Mac Jones or Florida's Kyle Trask likely would be available at that spot. Then again, Pace has a terrible history with his first-round picks, including Trubisky (2017), Leonard Floyd (2016) and Kevin White (2015). Only linebacker Roquan Smith in 2018 was a good selection.
Considering Pace's job is clearly on the line in 2021 as is Nagy's, it seems rather unlikely they throw a rookie (although a QB certainly will be drafted at some point, if not Round 1) right to the wolves and find someone via free agency or trade to be the Week 1 starter in 2021 with Foles as the backup/competition.
Potential free-agent options could be Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Taylor Heinicke, Dwayne Haskins, Jacoby Brissett, Tyrod Taylor and Andy Dalton, whom the Bears could have had for no draft compensation unlike Foles last offseason.
Trade possibilities include Sam Darnold, Derek Carr, Carson Wentz/Jalen Hurts and perhaps Teddy Bridgewater, whom Chicago was interested in last offseason. Watson isn't included because the Bears simply don't have enough to entice Houston (on the long-shot chance it would trade Watson) and right that 2017 draft wrong.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who will be the Bears' starting QB Week 1 of the 2021 season?
- Another current NFL QB/free agent -200
- Nick Foles +300
- 2021 draft pick +750
- Mitchell Trubisky +1000
The SportsLine Projection Model, which simulates every NFL game 10,000 times, is up almost $7,900 for $100 players on top-rated NFL picks since its inception five-plus years ago. It is a sizzling 24-14 on top-rated NFL picks this season, returning well over $800. The model also enters the Divisional Round of the 2021 NFL Playoffs on an incredible 120-78 run on top-rated NFL picks that dates back to the 2017 season.