As if you needed any more clarity on the Chicago Bears’ direction, Monday’s hiring of Matt Nagy as head coach confirmed what seems to be an obvious pattern.
- Young general manager with ties to a successful, quarterback-driven organization.
- Young head coach who has a background in developing quarterbacks under a coach who has long been successful in grooming players at the most important position in sports.
- Young quarterback who had just 13 college starts before his 12-start professional debut.
The Bears are making a commitment to getting it right at quarterback with pieces in place that are young and hungry with a ton of upside. Of course, with every high ceiling comes a floor, but that’s the cost of doing business in the NFL.
Let’s get to know the new guy.
- First, let’s sort through some important details. Nagy will assume play calling duties in 2018, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. If you’ll recall, Nagy was handed play calling responsibilities starting on December 3 when the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense was sputtering. After a 5-0 start, Kansas City went 1-5 during a six-game stretch in the middle of the season where the team averaged 18 points per game. Nagy’s first experience as a play caller came in a 38-31 loss to the Jets, but it started a run where the offense averaged 28.6 points per game and ended up clinching the AFC West with a season-ending four-game winning streak.
- I’m hesitant to give 100 percent credit to Nagy for his offense posting some pretty robust numbers, but the numbers are impressive enough to share with the audience:
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 8, 2018
- Minimize turnovers? Check. Balance in the offense with a top-10 ranking in passing and rushing yards? I’m digging it. Top-10 rankings in yards and points? Yes, please.
- OK, so this Bears offense doesn’t have Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill. But who’s to say Nagy doesn’t have ideas on how to better utilize Adam Shaheen between the 20s? Or that Tarik Cohen can’t find a better fit for his unique combination of speed and pass catching ability. If a common criticism of Josh McDaniels’ offensive success is because Tom Brady is running it, then should we be giving props to Nagy for making it work with the much maligned Alex Smith? Just some food for thought.
- Back in November, Chris Wesseling tweeted that Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid told NFL insider Adam Caplan that Nagy was the best head coaching prospect he’s ever had. That’s really saying something considering that Nagy is now one of seven NFL head coaches from Reid’s coaching tree.
- If you follow that thread, Wesseling links a piece by Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network from Week 8 when he was piecing together a list of assistant coaches on the rise who could become head coaching candidates. In the story, Pelissero writes about a potential reunion between Nagy and Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard. Prior to taking over the Colts, Ballard was Kansas City’s Director of Player Personnel (2013-14) and Director of Football Operations (2015-16). Ballard and Nagy are quite familiar with each other.
- A brief look at the strongest branches on the Reid coaching tree:
Here's a list of some former Andy Reid assistants who have gone on to have productive careers as NFL head coaches:
— Zach Zaidman (@ZachZaidman) January 8, 2018
- There’s some offense (Gruden, Pederson), defense (Rivera), and special teams (Harbaugh) represented here. I suppose that’s a testament to Reid’s eye for talent and ability to help coaches flourish no matter where they’re coaching.
- Nagy definitely caught the eye of NFL Network’s Peter Schrager, who seems to have a knack for these under-the-radar candidates before they break out:
— GMFB (@gmfb) November 17, 2017
- At age 39, Nagy has had quite the journey to get to this point. Chiefs.com reporter BJ Kissel’s long read detailing Nagy’s trek is something you should clear your schedule for as the Bears enter this new era. “The Six Conversations That Changed Matt Nagy’s Life” provides an in-depth look at the up-hill climb from an aspiring dream-chaser who tried so many different avenues to make it before the risks started to pay off. It wasn’t easy, but getting the best things in life hardly ever comes without overcoming adversity.
- ESPN’s Darren Rovell sums up the journey succinctly:
Matt Nagy is a case study in taking risks.
Eight years ago, he left his job in real estate to take a lesser paying job as assistant coach for quality control with the Eagles — helping the team build the playbook.
Today, he was named head coach of the Bears. pic.twitter.com/eHHVGvhEWS
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 8, 2018
- ESPN’s Adam Teicher runs through five things to know about Nagy as we jump right into what the new coach brings to the table. We’ve touched on his experience as an assistant, but among the lesser-known facts around the new Bears coach is that he was a successful Arena Football League quarterback. Nagy threw 374 touchdown passes and just 55 interceptions, which comes to a 6.8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. No matter what league we’re dissecting, that’s a darn good ratio.
- Ian Rapoport tweets Nagy was intrigued by North Carolina quarterback prospect Mitch Trubisky leading up to the draft and was a fan when he visited the team in the pre-draft process. That vibes with a David Kaplan report that we dove into a few days ago. Suddenly, I imagine Nagy and GM Ryan Pace sitting in a room going back-and-forth during the interview process gushing over who likes Trubisky more. In 2017, Pace entrusted his future to Trubisky’s talented right arm. Less than a calendar year later, the Bears GM has put his trust in a coach with a background in quarterback development to see through Trubisky’s rise into (hopefully) a franchise quarterback. With that being said, it made sense for this kind of hire to be the one moving forward.
- No experience? No problem! Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times notes that Nagy becomes the latest assistant coach to get the call from the Bears to become a head coach. John Fox was a history maker of sorts when he was hired because he became the first Bears hire to have previously worked as a head coach since Paddy Driscoll in 1956. Nagy joins a long list of assistants to make that leap with the league’s charter franchise. Some of them haven’t worked out well (most notably guys like Dick Jauron and Dave Wannstedt), but others have had varying levels of success. Lovie Smith ended his career as the third-winningest head coach in team history after coming over as a long-time successful defensive coordinator. And we’re all privy to Mike Ditka’s success as a head coach after leaving his post as the Dallas Cowboys’ Special Teams Coach.
- We still have a lot to unpack regarding the Nagy hire. Among them is an explanation (or at minimum, some clarity) regarding the second-half play calling. We’ll get to that, but first, a bit of a history lesson that suggests Nagy could learn from his mistakes. After another playoff loss, Doug Pederson – Kansas City’s OC in January 2016 – had to explain why the Chiefs were essentially playing keep-away while trailing the New England Patriots by two scores and trying to mount a comeback. In short, the explanation was less-than-satisfying. Shortly after the loss, Pederson would move on to become the Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach replacing Chip Kelly. You might best remember the Eagles as the team that stomped the Bears in Philadelphia in late November. The Eagles are the NFC’s top seed and would be favored to represent the conference in the Super Bowl had it not been for Carson Wentz’s untimely season-ending injury. So you could say things have worked out well for Pederson since.