One week after the Bears fired head coach John Fox, general manager Ryan Pace found his replacement. Pace interviewed six candidates to fill the head coaching vacancy, one of whom was Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy.
One day after the Chiefs lost to the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the 2017 NFL playoffs, Nagy interviewed for the Bears’ head coaching gig. And one day after that, the Pace-Nagy marriage was underway.
In short, here’s what you need to know about the Bears’ next coach: he is young (39), he is offensive-minded, he is credited with developing quarterbacks, and he has experience calling plays, albeit to a minimal degree.
That’s exactly the skill set that most Bears fans were hoping for in their new head coach, and the kind of characteristics Pace clearly was targeting while being coy with his intentions at last week’s season-ending press conference.
There is much reason to be optimistic about Nagy taking the reigns of the Bears’ offense and it starts with his experience. Nagy is a disciple of Andy Reid, under whom he worked as offensive coordinator in Kansas City and to whom he was an assistant in Philadelphia.
Reid’s coaching tree has been very successful over the years. Notable disciples include Bills head coach Sean McDermott, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, Jets head coach Todd Bowles, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur (who also interviewed for the Bears’ head coaching job), Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, and Ravens head coach John Harbaugh.
If that resume isn’t impressive enough, perhaps Reid’s own words can help lend insight to what kind of head coach Nagy might become. According to a November tweet from NFL.com’s Chris Wesseling, Reid told NFL Insider Adam Caplan that Nagy “is the best head coaching prospect he’s ever had.”
— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) November 18, 2017
Obviously bold declarations like that can often fizzle and fall flat, and Nagy has to prove Reid’s confidence is justified. Still, it’s an encouraging endorsement to say the least.
Other reasons to be excited about the Nagy hire include the performance of Chiefs’ caretaker quarterback Alex Smith. Under Nagy’s tutelage (and Reid’s, to be fair), Smith posted career highs in passer rating (104.7) and passing yards (4,042) while also posting an impressive 26-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Smith was even an MVP candidate early in the season before the offense started to sputter.
That “sputtering” might give some Bears fans pause, until you realize that it was Reid, not Nagy, calling the plays during that stretch. In early December, Reid handed over the play calling duties to Nagy and the Chiefs went on to close the regular season on a four-game win streak while averaging 28.6 points per game in that month.
Obviously, it’s clear that Nagy was Pace’s guy from the get-go. He had to wait until the Chiefs were eliminated from the playoffs to interview Nagy, but the speed at which Pace operated to bring in his guy was astounding.
One thing to consider in Pace’s swiftness is the fact that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is set to be a free agent on Tuesday and free to talk with other organizations about job openings. The Bears would love to keep Fangio on board to continue molding this ascending defense, but he will be a hot commodity if and when he hits the open market. The Bears have denied other teams permission to interview him this past week, and that could be an indication that the Bears are hoping Nagy will make a play to keep the gang all together on the defensive side of the ball.
Almost as important as it is to keep the defensive continuity going is keeping Fangio away from the rival Green Bay Packers, who fired defensive coordinator Dom Capers and are reportedly interested in Fangio.
In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be watching closely to see how Nagy assembles the rest of his staff. Even though he’ll be Mitch Trubisky’s primary coach and developer, who Nagy hires as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach will be just as important to Trubisky’s growth. And while Nagy’s primary focus will be on calling plays and helping the offense succeed, he’ll need a strong defensive coordinator — like Fangio — to take command of the other side of the ball.