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CHICAGO — Matt Nagy has faced questions about his job security with the Chicago Bears before, but never quite like Tuesday morning at Halas Hall.
As the Bears were in the middle of preparing for Thursday’s game against the Detroit Lions, Patch.com reporter Mark Konkol, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011 while at the Chicago Sun-Times, published a report that Nagy had been informed the game would be his last as Bears coach.
After nearly three hours of silence from his Bears bosses, Nagy entered the Halas Hall media room at 12:01 p.m. and refuted the report himself. He said he had not yet spoken to Bears Chairman George McCaskey, President and CEO Ted Phillips or general manager Ryan Pace this week and hadn’t been told he would be fired.
“That (report) is not accurate,” Nagy said. “I have great communication with ownership, with George and Ted and Ryan, but I have not had any discussions.”
Nagy’s denial during a 10-minute news conference was just one piece of a strange day in Lake Forest as the Bears try to dig themselves out from a five-game losing streak — and all the rumors and speculation that go with it.
Here’s how the day unfolded.
9:13 a.m.: Konkol posts his story on Twitter.
There has been plenty of speculation over the last several weeks about whether Nagy will be fired, but this was an actual news story.
Konkol’s tweet read: “Matt Nagy will coach his last @ChicagoBears game on Thanksgiving in Detroit, a top source tells Patch.”
That much has yet to be refuted by the Bears, but the story also said Nagy was informed Monday that Thursday would be his last game as coach, something Nagy later said was not accurate.
9:32 a.m.: High school issues a statement after ‘Fire Nagy’ chant breaks out at a football game.
Before Konkol’s story, the big social media Bears debate of the morning was about Cary-Grove students on Saturday chanting “Fire Nagy!” during Nagy’s son’s playoff football game between Lake Forest and Cary-Grove. This was before fans chanted the same thing during the Bears loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday and during the Bulls game Monday night.
After video surfaced on social media, Cary-Grove tweeted a statement Tuesday morning saying “the chant was not acceptable nor appropriate and was immediately addressed by administration at the game.”
Nagy said Tuesday he didn’t hear the chant and complimented the politeness of some of the school’s players he interacted with at the game.
“When I’m in the role I’m in, you have to be able to understand where people are coming from and how they react or don’t react,” Nagy said. “I was there to watch my son play a football game. I was there to be a dad. It was a pretty cool time.”
9:40 a.m.: Konkol goes on ESPN radio.
Konkol went on WMVP-AM 1000 to talk about his Patch.com story and was asked how confident he was that Thursday will be Nagy’s last game.
“I’m not like you guys,” Konkol said. “I’m not in the mix every day. But I’m just going to tell you I’ve got a really good source on this, and I’m pretty confident this is going to be his last game. … He’s lost the locker room. He’s lost five games in a row. I kind of was surprised this morning when I got a call about it. It looks like this is going to happen.”
10:57 a.m.: Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor addresses media members.
Tabor met with reporters first, at his regularly scheduled time, and said he did not know about the report.
“Reports are just reports to me,” he said. “I have a job to do. So I’m going to stick to that job. That’s not coachspeak. And I’m not trying to get fired up about the question. But we’re going to do our job.”
Tabor said he had not spoken to Nagy about his job status nor had Nagy addressed the team about anything related to that.
Tabor closed his 10-minute question-and-answer session with his endorsement for Nagy.
“Coach Nagy is our head coach,” he said. “I want to work for this guy now. OK? Love him to death. And he’s the head football coach of the Chicago Bears. And he’s going to help lead us to a win on Thursday. I believe that deep down in my heart. So to me, there’s no story at all. Fair enough?”
12:01 p.m. Nagy won’t say if he has been given assurances he will coach the rest of the season.
After refuting the Patch.com report, Nagy sidestepped several questions about whether McCaskey, Phillips or Pace have told him he will coach through the end of the season. He said that is not his focus at the moment.
“That’s a distraction,” Nagy said. “I’m completely concerned about our players, our team, our coaches, our staff, everybody. Really, honestly, focusing on this game. Anything else is a distraction.”
Nagy didn’t have meetings with his bosses this week because of the short week, but he said they likely would talk after they get through the Thursday game.
Nagy said he hadn’t addressed his team about the report, noting a packed Tuesday morning schedule with installs and walk-throughs.
“That is up to (the players) as to how they want to view that or what they think,” Nagy said. “The players have been awesome. They’ve been great, honestly. We’re in there going over the game plan, and we’re on a short week. That’s been the focus all morning long.”
Nagy also emphasized that he couldn’t let the report interfere with his preparations for the game.
“I understand how the media world goes,” he said. “I get it. But at the same point in time, if I get to a point where it distracts me from being the best leader I can be to this team, I’m not going to let that happen. These guys know every day they’re getting my best, and the players have been great. It’s as simple as that.”
12:28 p.m.-1:12 p.m.: Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and Bears players talk about tuning out the noise.
Lazor is a longtime NFL and college coach, so he has been through coaching rumors before.
“I’ve been in the locker room before a game when a very well known national insider announced our coach was not going to be back,” Lazor said. “And players were on their phones getting messages, and I’m not saying that’s the only reason we lost that day. But we played like crap that day. And at the end of the year, not only was he not fired, but he got a new contract. And we’re still waiting for the apology from that national insider. So the No. 1 thing I can do is my job, which is beat the Lions, period.
“We can’t let a news article affect how we do our job because every day we’d be affected up and down. You’ve just got to be strong and be focused and be a pro. I’ve been through a bunch of different things good and bad, so hopefully it’s easy for me to help show people that’s what we do.”
Bears quarterback Andy Dalton noted players need to stay focused and tune out the outside noise.
“You’re going to see some things (on social media) even though you’re not trying to,” Dalton said. “But maybe don’t click on things that you shouldn’t click on.”
1:02 p.m. Allen Robinson addresses a tweet from his podcast partner saying ‘an overwhelming number of Bears players want Matt Nagy gone’
Jordan Schultz, who hosts an NBA podcast called “The Playoff Pod” with Robinson, tweeted Monday about Nagy losing the locker room, citing league sources.
Robinson said he didn’t give any input that led to that tweet, which put him “in a very vulnerable situation” since people know of his connection to Schultz.
Robinson said he wouldn’t need to hide behind someone else to say something he felt.
“Everything that we had from a podcast standpoint, a relationship standpoint, had been based on covering basketball and based on talking about basketball,” Robinson said. “You guys know me. Anything that I wanted to get across has come from me, and it’ll always be that way. It’ll never change. Anything I want to get accomplished, I want to say, I’m a grown-ass man. I can get stuff done myself.”
Robinson said he thinks the players remain professional as they navigate a 3-7 season.
3:30 p.m.: Bears leaders had not yet issued a response to Konkol’s report.
The Bears did not respond to a request for an interview with McCaskey, Phillips and Pace.
Nagy was asked during his news conference if he would like his bosses to give him assurances about his job.
“We all have our own decisions as to how we do things,” Nagy said. “And I just think this whole entire time for me and for ownership, we’ve had great communication. And again, it’s focus on Detroit. That’s what it is.”