Arkush: If Bears fire Nagy, which assistants might not become collateral damage?

  • Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy, center, greets an assistant coach as the Bears warm up before an NFL football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Chicago.

    Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy, center, greets an assistant coach as the Bears warm up before an NFL football game against the New York Giants Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, in Chicago. Associated Press

Updated 1/4/2022 6:33 PM

If Matt Nagy does lose his job following the Bears-Vikings game Sunday, once the sting recedes he will at least know he has no one else to blame.

But the thing that frosts me the most about the callous manner in which so many media and fans approach these moments is their complete disregard for the collateral damage they create.


Nagy currently has 24 assistant and quality control coaches. Many, if not most, have families and most, if not all, will be out of jobs too.

Yes, that's the life assistant coaches choose, but the clear difference from the head guy is that almost none of them will even get an evaluation, and their latest scarlet letter will have almost nothing to do with their own performance.

When new head coaches take over football teams, it is with the guarantee they can choose their own staffs -- put their own people around them to give them the most control -- 99% of the time.

Do all 24 of Nagy's assistants deserve to be fired if he gets the ax? Clearly not, but almost all will be.

A select few probably would be retained for continuity, with quarterbacks coach John DeFillipo probably having the best shot for obvious reasons.

Yes, Nagy kept Vic Fangio and several of his assistants when he took over, but that was because everyone knew it was one of the best defensive staffs in the league.

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Space doesn't allow me to detail all 24 of these assistants, but a couple guys clearly deserve close looks.

One is rookie running backs coach Michael Pitre for his work with Khalil Herbert and his group when David Montgomery was lost for four weeks.

Rookie D-Line coach Chris Rumph who had to work without Akiem Hicks and Mario Edwards Jr. for extended periods and develop Khyiris Tonga, and outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey lost Khalil Mack early and oversaw the resurgence of Robert Quinn and continued development of Trevis Gipson.

Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor is one of the more respected in the business and would find work quickly, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is a lifer with 9 years of college experience, and 14 now in the NFL, including coordinating offenses in Miami and Cincinnati. He wouldn't lack opportunities.

Most interesting of all though is young defensive coordinator Sean Desai.

By any measure quite inexperienced when Nagy chose him, what kind of job has he actually done?


Asked Monday, Nagy offered, "Right from the very beginning I thought he's done a great job of adjusting and adapting to the NFL game.

"The thing I like about Sean is he is extremely calm. And he does a great job of making sure that the guys feel that. There's no panic.

"He's super smart, so he does a great job of scheming with those coaches and preparing. He has evolved this year. It has been neat to see."

Asked to evaluate himself Desai said, "Wow, that's a great question.

"I think I've grown in a lot of ways.

"I think one thing you always want to do is you always want to stay within the game and advance your knowledge of the game in the moment and when you're in this role, you've got to be able to do that at a fast pace, obviously from game-to-game, week-to-week, but within a game.

"And I think we've grown that way."

Some of the numbers support that growth. Desai's defense through 16 games is fifth in total defense, third against the pass, first in QB sack percentage and eighth on third down, all significant improvements over last season -- except for third down, where they were also eighth last year. Most importantly, their 23.5 points allowed per game, while not good enough, is only .4 off last year's 23.1.

Considering he's done it without Mack, Hicks, Danny Trevathan, Eddie Jackson and others for extended portions of the season Desai, will actually have a pretty good story to tell, but if he doesn't keep the job here the odds of his getting another coordinator job in the immediate future are pretty slim in spite of the good work he's done.

For most of these guys, even though it's the life they chose, there still isn't a lot that's fair about it.


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