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NFL Notebook

Chicago Bears elect to stay with coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace

Matt Nagy has posted a 28-20 regular-season record in his three seasons coaching the Chicago Bears.
Matt Nagy has posted a 28-20 regular-season record in his three seasons coaching the Chicago Bears.Kamil Krzaczynski/Associated Press

Chairman George McCaskey insisted the Chicago Bears have the right culture to become a winning franchise. So the team is sticking with general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy for at least another season.

What helped convince him to stay the course rather than make sweeping changes? A six-game losing streak — and how the team responded to it.

“The leadership, the collaboration, the adaptability, the ability to handle adversity,” McCaskey said. ’'Listen, we all want things to get better, and a lot of times you have to go through tough times before they get better. The way they handled success in 2018 and the way they’ve handled adversity the last two seasons lead us to the conclusion that they’re the best people to lead us in 2021.”

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The decision might not be popular in Chicago, where the Bears are coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons after winning the NFC North at 12-4 in 2018. The Bears have just six playoff appearances in the past 20 years and haven’t won a postseason game since the 2010 team played for the NFC championship.

They bounced back from that six-game losing streak — their worst since 2002 — to make the playoffs for the second time in three years, albeit as the seventh and final seed in an expanded field. The Bears then got knocked out by New Orleans in their wild-card matchup on Sunday, giving them eight losses in their final 11 games, counting the postseason.

“The popular opinion is to make a change because we hit adversity,” team president Ted Phillips said. “I get it. But holding people accountable is much more than just starting over. Other teams looking for new football leadership, they point to the ability to overcome adversity, the need to adapt to challenges, the need to have a collaborative working environment between the head coach and the general manager.”

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He said the Bears have the sort of “football culture all teams strive for.” But they also have a 42-54 regular-season record with two playoff appearances and no postseason wins in Pace’s six years. Nagy is 28-20 in three seasons.

“I get the frustration,” Pace said. “Trust me, I understand. I get it — 8-8, it’s not good enough.”

McCaskey said Pace and Nagy are “growing in their roles.” But should that still be the case, particularly with Pace?

“As far as whether six years is the right amount of time for a general manager to grow into his position, I think it depends on the situation,” McCaskey said. “I don’t think there’s any magic number. Like I said, we take the approach that the person’s entire body of work is considered to decide whether the employment relationship should continue.”

Ryan Pace will be sticking around Chicago.
Ryan Pace will be sticking around Chicago.Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Pace staked his reputation on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky when he drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017 instead of Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. The decision remains a sore spot in Chicago.

The question is what Pace learned from that miscalculation as he tries again to find a quarterback.

“I get the question,” he said before sidestepping it.

One difference this time is he’ll be working with Nagy, who was an assistant in Kansas City when the Chiefs drafted Mahomes.

Pace didn’t rule out trying to re-sign Trubisky, who has an expiring contract after the Bears declined their fifth-year option for 2021. “Everything’s on the table,” Pace said.

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The same goes for possibly using the franchise tag on Allen Robinson. The star receiver expressed frustration that they were unable to agree to an extension.

“When I think about the list of things we need to talk about this offseason, obviously that’s a big decision and a big part of it,” Pace said. “You know how we feel about Allen, how respected he is in the building.”

One person who won’t be back is defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano. He is retiring after two years in Chicago and more than 3½ decades coaching at the college and NFL levels.

Stefanski close to return

Browns rookie coach Kevin Stefanski said he’s on track to return to the team Thursday for playoff preparations after missing Sunday’s wild-card win in Pittsburgh with COVID-19. Stefanski jokingly called himself “probable” when asked if he’ll be back as the Browns get ready to face the Super Bowl champion Chiefs Sunday. Cleveland activated cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson from the COVID-19 list. Pro Bowl left guard Joel Bitonio remains in isolation, and the Browns are hoping to get him back in the next day or two.

Chiefs getting healthy

Could Clyde Edwards-Helaire be back sooner rather than later?
Could Clyde Edwards-Helaire be back sooner rather than later?Tyler Kaufman/Associated Press

Chiefs running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire practiced for the first time since getting hurt against New Orleans in Week 15, raising hopes the first-round pick can play against the Browns. Edwards-Helaire had been out with a high ankle sprain, causing him to miss the Chiefs’ final two regular-season games . . . The Packers placed offensive tackle Jared Veldheer on the reserve/COVID-19 list one day after announcing they had signed him off the Colts’ practice squad.

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Elway tabs successor

John Elway’s hand-picked successor as Broncos general manager is Vikings executive George Paton. Paton spent the last 14 seasons with Minnesota, including the last six as vice president of player personnel. Paton will be in charge of the draft, free agency, and roster, but Elway will have a say in bigger franchise decisions . . . The Jets’ search for a new coach continues after they completed an in-person interview with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh without apparently reaching a deal.