Lincicome: For Nagy, stumbling, bumbling is no way to go through a season
It seems so simple. Play Justin Fields and get on with it, get on not only with the future, but with the present. Accept the pain, enjoy the promise. It is going to work, or it is not.
It can't get worse. Or maybe it can. Sooner you know, the better. A show of hands. Who thought it would be this bad? I'm putting my hand up, but only just to pinch my nose, phew!
This could be the worst game the Bears ever played. The worst game any Bears quarterback ever played. The Bears did the impossible. They made you feel sorry for them.
"It's only the third game," said running back David Montgomery. "There's a lot of season to go. It's not like the world is over."
Depends on which world he means. On the private little planet of the Bears, it is apocalypse now. Or to quote Colonel Kurtz, "The horror. The horror."
The Bears think they can put this behind them. Well, why not? That's where you usually put ... ah, let's not get indelicate. Fix it and go forward seems to be the attitude, and maybe they even believe it themselves.
Except that is Matt Nagy with the tools of ignorance, otherwise known as his game plans, doing the fixing. And that is young Fields, as out of place in an NFL backfield as a fish in a furnace.
No one knows how good Fields can be, but everyone now knows how bad he can be. He can't be worse than he was on Sunday. Impractical optimism demands he prove he can't be that bad.
This is the happy advantage of being a fan, or of being a second-guesser in the newspaper. No advice is binding. Play Fields and if he thrives, we told you so. Play anyone else and he bombs and the coach is an idiot.
Nagy, being a keeper of his own counsel, will do what he will do, and that is to do whatever will let him keep his job.
If sanity mattered, and it has not since Fields arrived, apologies would be in order. He isn't who we thought he was, Nagy would be saying. But no. "Justin handled everything pretty well," said Nagy, meaning maybe that after nine sacks he was still willing to go for 10.
After the horror, nothing has changed. This is Fields' job to lose, Fields' job to improve, Fields' job to finish. If the moment comes when Nagy no longer sees what he has talked himself into believing, any regrets are pushed aside for a more desperate solution.
For now Fields will be allowed to progress, to build on accomplishments and to eliminate faults, but, honestly, there must be a lot more of the first and a lot fewer of the second.
Fields has not been given a Bears team in shambles, if not one finished and fulfilled. But neither should Fields be allowed to simply not mess things up. He is going to have to matter, not just maintain.
Rookie quarterbacks are usually sent onto the field with a pat on the back from a hand with crossed fingers.
Lose and learn. Win and learn. Winning is better but learning is more important. Until it isn't.
Most Bears seasons begin uneasily, this one more than most, so cluttered, so uncertain of what to expect, so many changes everywhere but most prominently at the position that links loudly to both quarterback and to coach.
For better or worse, Fields and Nagy are in this together and tomorrow and tomorrow.
Fields has an unfortunate fondness for doing something exciting, making something out of nothing, not that Cleveland gave him much chance to, nor did whatever game plan Nagy concocted to make him a statue.
Nagy's instinct is to play a conservative offense, daring little, minimizing mistakes, the Bears not beating themselves, and if those are not at the top of any game plan for the Bears it is only because they are already indelibly tattooed into every Bear's head.
"I don't like feeling like this," Fields said. Neither do Bears fans, even though they've felt like this a lot longer.
Ideally, Fields will learn on the job, better than on the sideline, taking snaps, better than holding a clipboard, wearing a helmet instead of a head band.
No, this is how it is. For the Bears, the season is over. The classroom is open.