Matt Nagy must make sure the Bears don't unravel amid mounting frustration
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Matt Nagy must make sure the Bears don't unravel amid mounting frustration

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CHICAGO — Matt Nagy doesn't ask the Bears to bury their frustration.

That would be a pointless exercise at this stage of a 3-3 season. After the worst loss of the Nagy era Sunday against the Saints, the frustration is real, even if it hasn't surfaced in exasperated hands in the air or pointed postgame comments.

Matt Nagy head shot 2019

Nagy

It is lurking underneath when a quarterback misses open receivers by several feet. When a running back gets stuffed again because of a missed block by an offensive lineman -- or when he doesn't get the carry at all. When an exhausted defense gets only moments of rest because of another miscue or three-and-out drive by the offense.

So Nagy allows for the emotion. But the reigning NFL coach of the year also is tasked this week with making sure it doesn't unravel his team before they have time to fix what's broken on the field.

"I have ultimate trust, I really do, in who our players are as people, how they handle this," Nagy said at his Monday news conference. "They're allowed to have frustration after the game. If they don't have frustration, it means they don't care. And so there's frustration, but there's ways for them to help each other out, and I'm curious to see as we go here who are going to be the leaders that step up and take this thing over. I know it'll happen. But I'll be curious to see who those people are."

The players won't be available to talk to media again until Tuesday morning, but there were signs the way they lost Sunday wasn't sitting well.

Several skipped out on media availability after the game, including outside linebacker Khalil Mack for the second straight game. Wide receiver Allen Robinson jawed with critics on Twitter on Sunday night and Monday morning, though his tone seemed to be increasingly more light-hearted as the hours wore on. Robinson told WMVP-AM 1000 Monday afternoon that it wasn't outside the norm of his usual Twitter interactions. And safety Eddie Jackson said on WSCR-AM 670 the Bears needed a players-only meeting to address the team's missing swagger, pride and energy.

After Sunday's game, Nagy talked about asking his players to wear "horse blinders and earmuffs" to tune out any "Negative Nelly" who might try to bring the team down.

Nagy denied Monday he was trying to create and "us versus them" mentality within his team. But he maintained it was the best policy to tune out the outside world as angry rants filled up hours of radio time.

"All I'm saying is that there is so much other stuff out there that can affect you in a negative way," Nagy said. "That's just the world we're in. There's a lot of negativity in this world. So what we can do when we're in these walls is just completely shut that out. That's why I say that. And control what we can control. And then stay off the Twitter and all that other stuff. And if you're going to do something like that, just wish somebody happy birthday."

Nagy pointed to a couple of examples he will use to motivate his players this week, including the 2018 Bears going on a five-game winning streak after a 3-3 start.

He also was the quarterbacks coach under Andy Reid in 2015 when the Chiefs started the season 1-5 but went on an 11-game winning streak behind quarterback Alex Smith, including a playoff victory.

That's not to say this Bears team, with the offense in its current incompetent state, is capable of even a three-game winning streak. But Nagy at least has witnessed how to make sure a team doesn't fall apart when falling well short of expectations to start a season.

"Forget all the other stuff -- how did (Reid) handle it with the people in the building?" Nagy said. "And the one thing is, you stay the course, you never panic. Because right now everybody else wants to panic. That's not what we do. If you panic, you've got no shot. That's when people start prying at you. They start pulling away, right? Because of who we are and the culture that we've built, this is where you'll see some teams, they'll separate. And others don't."

A prime example of a team that went the other direction is not that far off in Chicago. Stories still float around Halas Hall about the dysfunction that led to the collapse of the 2014 Bears and Marc Trestman's firing.

So how does Nagy ensure this Bears team is more 2015 Chiefs than 2014 Bears in terms of composure?

He starts with shoring up communication in meetings, demanding proper energy in practice and maintaining "good vibes" despite the recent results.

"Some of that just happens organically and naturally through the players -- the way they handle themselves in practice," Nagy said. "They listen to me; they listen to our position coaches. I make sure our position coaches understand, how do we get better?

"But it's a vibe. It's an energy. Every team is a little bit different. But the core of the person is what to me matters when you go through times like this. We're being tested right now, and I kind of like it. We'll see how we end up with this."

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