The Chicago Bears fired coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace on Monday after the team finished with a 6-11 record this season.
Nagy was named NFL Coach of the Year after his first season in 2018, when he led the Bears to a 12-4 record and they reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years. He earned praise that season for his offensive wrinkles and humble disposition, but the Bears couldn't sustain that success over the ensuing three seasons.
They finished 8-8 in 2019 and then again in 2020, when the league's expanded playoff field put them into the wild-card round. Nagy was never able to duplicate his first season, in part because the quarterback he inherited -- Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 draft -- never made the necessary improvement.
Trubisky departed via free agency last spring, after the Bears traded up to draft quarterback Justin Fields. The Bears were 2-8 in Fields' 10 starts, and he finished the season ranked last in the league in Total QBR (26.0). In four seasons, the Bears were 34-31 under Nagy in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoffs.
Monday's news has been brewing since the end of November, when a local report emerged that Nagy would be fired after the Bears' Thanksgiving Day game at the Detroit Lions. Nagy said at the time that he was unaware of his impending firing, but no member of the Bears' front office or ownership immediately stepped forward to publicly deny the report.
A day later, owner George McCaskey told players during a team meeting that Nagy would not be fired after the game. The Bears beat the Lions 16-14, but it was their only win amid a 1-8 streak that ran from Week 6 through Week 15.
In a statement issued Monday evening, Nagy said that "it was an honor to serve" as the Bears' head coach and he thanked the team's ownership, Pace and his players, coaches and support staff.
Pace also issued a statement Monday evening and also thanked the team's ownership, Nagy, the team's players, the football operations staff and the Bears fans.
"Bears fans, your passion is palpable daily. Through the wins and losses, it was our constant goal to deliver the championship you deserve. Thank you for making this city the best 'home field advantage' in the NFL," Pace said in his statement. "Our family is from Illinois, went to college in Illinois and as Bears fans for life, we are proud to say that we are confident the future is bright for this team going forward."
With the help of former NFL executive Bill Polian leading their search committee, the Bears will cast a wide net for a new GM and head coach. McCaskey indicated that it's possible the team could even hire a coach before the GM.
"With Bill's guidance, we're going to be able to find a partnership of GM and coach that will work," McCaskey said. "We prefer to hire the GM first."
One team high on the Bears' radar for this search appears to be the Buffalo Bills. Chicago is interested in talking to Buffalo defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and has requested permission to interview him, a source told ESPN's Dan Graziano. Later Monday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Chicago has also requested permission to interview Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for the open position. The Bills won the AFC East this season and will take on the New England Patriots in the wild-card round of the playoffs Saturday night.
Under a revamped structure, the new GM will report directly to ownership, bypassing team president Ted Phillips, who will spend his time working on the potential of the Bears building a new stadium in suburban Arlington Heights. Phillips will still be part of the search committee. McCaskey rejected the idea of needing a president of football operations between ownership and the GM.
"In our structure, it's the GM who has ultimate football authority and oversight over the entire football operation," he said. "Different structures work for different teams in different sports. We think this is the structure that will work best for us."
McCaskey was asked whether the team will consult with Fields in its decision-making process. Under several different head coaches over the past decade, the Bears have struggled to score points.
"Justin will not be an active part of the search process, but we will be very interested to hear from both general manager and head-coach candidates what their plan is to get the most out of the quarterback position for us," McCaskey responded.
Nagy, 43, joined the Bears after eight years working for longtime head coach Andy Reid, including five with the Kansas City Chiefs and three more with the Philadelphia Eagles. Reid promoted him to offensive coordinator in 2017, one year before the Bears hired him.
Pace spent seven seasons with the Bears, hiring two coaches and trading up to draft two quarterbacks during his tenure. His teams made two playoff appearances but did not win a postseason game. The Bears last won a playoff game in 2010 and are 1-3 in the postseason since appearing in Super Bowl XLI after the 2007 season.
"They took a chance on me," Bears running back David Montgomery said. "They took a chance on a poor kid from Cincinnati who people looked at as if he wasn't going to be good enough to even get a chance to play. That's why it's emotional for me. Because they stuck their neck out on the line for me. And I appreciate them for that. Just sitting and waiting to see what's going to happen next."
Nagy was the second coach Pace hired. Predecessor John Fox spent three seasons with the team as it transitioned away from quarterback Jay Cutler. Pace proved to be an aggressive trader, acquiring pass-rusher Khalil Mack in 2018 in addition to making deals to draft Trubisky and Fields.
But those deals continued a trend of giving up first-round picks that had begun with the Bears' deal to acquire Cutler in 2009. The organization traded away its first-round picks in 2009, 2010, 2019 and 2020 and do not have one for 2022, either. Of the four first-round picks that Pace did make in his tenure -- receiver Kevin White (2015), linebacker Leonard Floyd (2016), Trubisky, linebacker Roquan Smith (2018) and Fields -- only Smith has proved a long-term answer.
Pace did have some success in free agency, hitting on receiver Allen Robinson II and defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, among others, and he also drafted impressive receiver Darnell Mooney. But it was not enough to make the Bears annual playoff contenders.
ESPN staff writer Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.