Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy and All-Pro safety Eddie Jackson are currently sending Bears fans two very different messages.
While turning in a stinker of a performance opening night at home against their biggest rival, the Green Bay Packers, Bears players and television audiences alike heard the dissatisfied boos of Bears fans in attendance. One player, in particular, didn’t care for all the booing.
Eddie Jackson went on the McNeil and Parkins Show Friday and voiced his displeasure with fans:
“For them to start booing, that’s something that we don’t take kindly, we don’t accept, we don’t like. I just want to speak to the fans on that part. All the booing, we need to cut that out. It’s football, we get it. Trust me, we’re more frustrated than you guys are and we don’t boo our teammates. It’s just a fact that they’ll boo us now and cheer for us later. I feel like if you’re going to ride, you’re going to ride all the way. You’re going to ride through the ups and the downs.”
While it can never feel good to receive boos at your home stadium, Jackson was way off base in many ways in his response. Here’s what he’s failing to understand:
Most Bears Fans Are Die Hards
What Jackson failed to acknowledge here is that the great majority of fans have already, as he said, been riding “all the way.” Many of these same fans have been through everything from the days of Vince Evans to the single-season of Rick Mirer to the Era of Rex Grossman, so they may be more ride or die than he realizes.
They also lived through Jay Cutler, who holds the majority of Bears quarterback records while also going 2-11 against Green Bay and compiling exactly one playoff win in his tenure with Chicago. They’re beyond sick of losing to Green Bay, and they’re ready for a contender. Matt Nagy seems to understand some of this.
Head Coach Matt Nagy Understands Fan Response:
After the game Thursday, Nagy said: “For our fans, they have every right to boo — every right to boo.” He also noted that Bears fans “should be upset” with the performance his team turned in Thursday night. Nagy called the Bears debut performance “unacceptable,” and also noted: “this is not who we are.”
So, following Nagy’s logic, Bears fans were likely responding to seeing a team they didn’t recognize giving an unacceptable performance. Perhaps Bears fans booed their team at their home stadium because they have grown tired of watching the Bears lose home openers. Chicago is currently tied with the Colts for a league-leading six straight losses in week one games played at home.
Bears fans could have also been upset about their team’s unusually poor showing. The Bears haven’t scored three points or fewer in a season opener since 2007, and according to Marc Silverman on Friday’s Waddle And Silvy podcast, the Bears have never scored so few points at home to start the season–ever.
It seems as though Nagy gets where the fan response is coming from. He gets that thousands of fans shelled out hundreds of dollars for the privilege of watching their favorite team in the NFL’s 100th season kickoff game. What they got felt like a kick in the gut. But this also wasn’t the first time Bears players have gotten upset with the team’s fans for booing.
In 2014, Bears offensive lineman Kyle Long complained about Bears fans booing too much and not cheering enough after a bad loss to Miami: “To be getting booed at home when you’re walking off the field down two possessions is unacceptable — especially when there is not a lot of noise being made on third down,” Long said after the game.
Former Bears tight end and Long’s teammate at the time, Martellus Bennett, had this to say when he was asked about those same boo birds:
“It’s an entertainment business. We are all entertainers. If you go to a bad show, most people boo. I think they had the right to do that. If I want to boo at fans, I can boo at fans, or whoever it may be. They pay for their tickets, and the show wasn’t up to their liking. If I go to a movie, I walk out if I don’t like the movie. Like Transformers 3 — it was terrible. I didn’t stay for the whole film and walked out.”
Long ended up apologizing to Bears fans the day after he criticized them for booing, but Jackson has offered no such apology. An apology may not be necessary here, but Nagy needs to explain the intricacies of fandom to his team. Jackson criticizing Bears fans for alternately booing and cheering seems ridiculous–that’s what all fans do. His comments also suggest that he doesn’t understand his fan base. Bears fans are extremely loyal. They’re also entirely unafraid to let their team know when they’re upset. It’s part of their charm.
This Was a Mild Fan Reaction
This response by Bears fans wasn’t similar to the recent incident where Indianapolis Colts fans booed their retiring quarterback Andrew Luck as he left the field in a tacky display of bad sportsmanship. This was a frustrated fan base that has had a rough 20-30 years, and just when they thought they had a Super Bowl contender to root for, they got an offense that came out and looked like it did in the John Fox era.
Had Bears fans chose to throw beer bottles on the field a la Cleveland Browns fans in the early 2000s, that would be one thing. But they were merely responding to what they were seeing. It’s absurd for Jackson to suggest that Bears fans should have responded to their team’s awful performance with cheers–that’s not how fandom works.
Unfortunately, the reality is that for most sports fans, cheering and booing are some of the only forms of communication afforded to them. Matt Nagy seems to understand this, but he also needs to make sure his players get it, as well. These fans have been through more ups and downs than most franchises in the league, and they’ve been with the team longer than any tenured player has. They deserve some consideration, too.
Besides, if Nagy and his team can be upset about their performance, why can’t their fans?