Matt Nagy’s first rookie minicamp as the Chicago Bears’ head coach is underway and the new boss has a lot more on his plate now than he did when he was a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Nagy touched on a variety of topics on Friday, going in depth to provide some perspective on everything from Roquan Smith’s stolen iPad incident to the positives of having waves of players out there on the practice field.
You can watch Nagy’s full press conference here and check out the highlights below.
On Giving Everyone a Fair Shot:
Sometimes in life, the first impression is the only one you get to make. So, yeah, making a strong first impression is one way to catch a coach’s eyes. But what might be more important than that is how Nagy views this weekend as an opportunity to give everyone a fair chance at an evaluation. He even dropped an anecdote sharing what GM Ryan Pace gave to the players as a kick-starter.
“It can be so easy to overlook guys just because they’re undrafted, or they didn’t come from a big school. Last night at our dinner, Ryan gave a little note to the players of how many guys have made it as undrafted free agents as a little bit of motivation. There’s some of us coaches that know these type of players and where they come from and how they can make it. We’re crazy if we overlook them, so we won’t do that.”
On Honesty Being the Best Policy:
Every player comes with their share of baggage. No one is perfect. So I found it really interesting how Nagy explained how he will approach players like this moving forward by being honest with them out of the gate.
“If you’re honest with the person and you shoot them straight between the eyes and you tell them this is the deal, right, you’ve got a couple of strikes on you, you really have no room for error. And if you tell them that, then they have ownership and they respect it. And if they blow their opportunity, they blow their opportunity, and that’s not on us. No matter who it is, we’re going to let them know you have a clean slate and we’re going to give them every opportunity to shine. We want success stories, we want happy stories, we want steals of the draft. That’s what we want.”
On Cornerback Kevin Toliver, Who Could Be One of those “Steals” of this Rookie Class:
“He made some nice plays. Here’s a kid that’s very talented, and you can see that … he’s got good size. So for him, it’s just going to be a matter of just understanding what we’re looking for in him and knowing that it’s a great opportunity with us on this team. But again, you’ve got to earn it. You got to come in and make plays. When you make plays like he did today, it does nothing but help.”
On Roquan Smith, Who Had Himself A Week:
Whether you’re an undrafted free agent or a first-round pick, Nagy made it clear that roster spots and roles are going to be earned and not given. That goes for a player like Toliver, who was a five-star recruit coming out of high school who went undrafted, and someone like Smith, the eighth overall pick in the draft.
As for Smith, Nagy said he wanted to see Smith command the huddle and show off his leadership skills. But that’s just the start.
“We know he’s a good football player, but how does he take to this defense? He’s a quick study, he’s a quick learner, so just being able to see him play fast. At any position, you want to make sure that these guys understand it so they can play fast. If they don’t understand it, they play a little slower and they can’t shine. He’s going to eventually 100 percent get it, it’s just how quick will he get there.”
Nagy also expressed his pleasure in how Smith handled what was a tough week with his car getting broken into and his team-issued iPad getting stolen.
“It’s a wake up call to all the guys that you always want to take care of your stuff as much as you can. Some stuff is out of your control. I thought he did a great job handling the situation and thanking people for helping him. It’s unfortunately a part of life, but he handled it the right way, he’s a great kid, and hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”
On What Nagy Looks For In Non-Rookie Tryouts:
It’s not all about draft picks and undrafted rookies who are trying to make the team. Nagy explained what he was looking for in the players in camp on a tryout basis.
“You’re just trying to make sure that you see through everything and you don’t let anything sip through the cracks and so that’s what we’re doing. There’s 70 guys out there, that’s a lot of numbers. But the good thing for us is that it allows us to be able to put things on tape, put plays on tape, give guys reps, and then we don’t have tow worry as much with the conditioning side because when you have limited numbers you can’t do all that. Ryan and his guys did a good job getting these guys in here. You never know when somebody jumps out at you and that’s an advantage we wanted to take.”
Having Strength in Numbers Actually Helps the Evaluation Process:
“There’s a lot of numbers out there right now, and that’s actually a good thing. Having numbers and not looking at who they are, there’s no judgment. You’re able to just say OK, this is what this player did today. I don’t care what school he went to, I don’t care how old he is, I don’t care where anything about him, when he got drafted, and that’s only fair for the kid.”
How to Catch the Coach’s Eye, Even Though Mistakes Were Made:
“There’ll be guys that catch your eye. And then when they do, then you really want to go back and watch the film and see was that real. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll watch it with the players, we’ll let them learn what we’re trying to teach them. Part of the evaluation process is, they come out – there’s going to be a lot of mistakes today, we get it, this is a new language. Now, tomorrow, what’s not comical do they come back and do they make the same mistake. If they go back and they fix their mistakes and they don’t make the same mistake, now you caught my attention.
On Being Reunited with Quarterback Aaron Murray, Who the Chiefs Drafted While Nagy Was QBs Coach:
“Aaron’s a great kid and he’s looking to get this thing back up and going again. Just him knowing the offense being able to get in and out of the huddle is a huge advantage. You get to see him come into the huddle and just give little nuances to the plays. Just little reminders and gadgets to the guys of “Hey, remember this and remember that” and then he says the play. So that’s a benefit to those guys that are there with him.”
On the Overall Feel After Day 1:
“That was a good day for our guys to get out there and learn what this is all about. They get to see that we can throw a lot at them, things are different learning a new language. Just getting them out of the huddle and to line up right is always a challenge, but I thought for the most part they did a pretty good job and they got a lot of reps out there. They got to make sure to take care of their bodies and understand that we’re back at it tomorrow.”