With a record of 3-6 going into the bye week, the Chicago Bears are in search of many things, and it's almost easier to list what they do have rather than what they don't. Let's start there.
The Bears, for the minimal success they have had this season, can be confident that they have their quarterback in rookie Justin Fields, a running back duo of David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, and some pass-catching options in Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, and Cole Kmet. With injuries hampering the offensive line, there's no true chemistry among the unit. That lack of chemistry has put their rookie quarterback under an incredible amount of pressure to begin his career, as he is the most sacked quarterback in the league through Week 9.
On defense, the names are there. Khalil Mack, Eddie Jackson, Jaylon Johnson, Roquan Smith, and Robert Quinn are all stellar players. However, if the weapons are there, why is there such a lack of production on all sides of the ball? It starts with a lack of discipline, which points to the lack of accountability with the head coach, Matt Nagy.
Monday's Lack of Discipline
In Monday night's 29-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Bears were flagged for 12 penalties, which accounted for 115 yards. Some calls were very questionable, including a low block from James Daniels that wiped away a touchdown, a missed roughing the passer call on Justin Fields, and the now-infamous phantom taunting call that ultimately seemed to cost the Bears the game.
Included in those penalties were multiple offside calls on the final Pittsburgh drive which would put them in a better position to ultimately kick the game-winning field goal. Questionable calls by the referees are one thing, but multiple offside calls on the final drive of the game is an inexcusable look on a defense that needed to bend, not break. The game ended as it did, and all the talks were about the taunting call on Cassius Marsh and the referee hip-checking him while throwing the flag on the taunting call.
The largest dark cloud over the Bears is a lack of discipline. What was apparent in the first half of Monday's game was a lack of emotion and being bought in, and a lack of awareness and accountability by Nagy.
Showing emotion on the sideline is one thing, but there comes a point where the cameras don't tell all. Nagy needs to bring his team together and hold each and every individual accountable for their actions on the field. One way to negate questionable calls from the referees is to have discipline and accountability on all sides of the ball.
A prime example of a lack of accountability can point to defensive lineman Mario Edwards Jr., who nearly every game seems to have a personal foul call that hurts the team time and time again. Why does Matt Nagy continue to run Edwards out there? Where is the benching? Where is the anger when talking to the media and calling out players who need a reality check? Nagy is more satisfied with the "effort" and "fight" his team shows to not get beat by 30 points every game.
A Call for Discipline
Following Monday night's game, ESPN Chicago's David Kaplan was on Football Aftershow on NBC Sports Chicago and simply asked the same question: where is the discipline by Matt Nagy? Penalties matter, they can cost a game, and to continue to ignore repeat offenders while not changing the atmosphere around the team, falls squarely on the fourth-year head coach.
It wasn't until Justin Fields injected energy and changed the atmosphere in the second half, with two touchdowns that led to a near comeback win, that Bears fans had any reason to feel hopeful. Fields, whether directly or indirectly as the new kid in town, is not allowing himself to fall into a bad culture. He doesn't seem phased by turnovers while acknowledging they can't happen. He doesn't let the scoreboard determine his effort, and he continues to grow each and every week. If Matt Nagy is not going to lead and control this team, which it appears he won't be doing, Fields has shown to be the team's leader both by his play and his demeanor.
Many were surprised when Matt Nagy returned for the 2021 season, but after the front office went all-in to acquire Fields in this year's draft, they will be doing the franchise and their quarterback of the future a huge disservice if they allow him to return for another season. There were calls for his departure before the season and now during this season.
A lack of discipline by this team means he either doesn't have complete control of the locker room, his players do not respect him, or they are no longer bought into his system. The talent is there, the future of certain players feels appropriate and promising, but the head coach can't keep this team together. He can't gel the team together, and even more importantly, he doesn't have a winning game plan.
With a sub .500 record more than halfway through the season, the front office should consider a change at head coach sooner than later. If not, all fans will have to look forward to is the hopeful week-to-week growth of their rookie quarterback, and more undisciplined football overall.