We don’t know if Ryan Pace’s plan for the Bears is going to work, not less than one year after he drafted Mitchell Trubisky and less than two days after he hired Matt Nagy.
But we do know this: These next few years are going to be absolutely fascinating in Chicago. Pace, Nagy and Trubisky are tethered to each other now, and as a trio will either sink or swim for a franchise that's done a lot of sinking recently.
Pace and the Bears introduced Nagy as their 16th head coach on Tuesday, and with it came a pointed message: We didn’t hire this guy just because he’s a former quarterback who’s worked with quarterbacks in his coaching career. Pace believes Nagy has what it takes to lead an entire roster — not just an offense or quarterback room — out of the basement of the NFC North.
How a first-time coach will command respect of the locker room is a critical question to answer. But Pace is sold on the 39-year-old’s ability to connect with a team despite his lack of prior head coaching experience.
“The more research you do and the more people you talk to, different than me when I came in here, you find out about the person, find out about his makeup and his work ethic and all those things, and at the end of the day, it wasn't a concern,” Pace said. “I like his energy and I like how creative he is and how innovative he is. He's willing to think outside the box. Those are intriguing traits.”
But make no mistake, the Bears have to get the quarterback position right. Pace didn’t trade up a spot to draft Trubisky just to have him be “fine.” Pace didn’t take just eight days to decide on a coach for him to not work well with the franchise’s most important player. Not only did John Fox not win enough games in his three years with the Bears, his conservative approach to gameplanning just didn’t seem to mesh with a team that just drafted a quarterback in a quarterback-driven league.
Everything the Bears have done in the last 12 months lead up to this moment has been aggressive. The Indianapolis Colts also interviewed Nagy; their general manager, Chris Ballard, overlapped with him in Kansas City. Like with drafting Trubisky, Pace didn’t want to leave anything to chance once he had conviction that he had found his guy.
“It’s a competitive market right now,” Pace said. “… We’re going to be thorough in our research and when we have conviction, we’re going to be aggressive and get it done.”
So if “aggressive” is the key word here, it certainly seems to fit Nagy’s style.
“As far as being aggressive, that’s my nature,” Nagy said, in reference to his playcalling strategy. “I’m going to be aggressive, but it has to calculated. You need to understand the difference between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough. If you ask someone to cross the line on me being aggressive or not, they’re going to say aggressive, as a play caller and person.”
Not all of those aggressive moves have worked (see Glennon, Mike). Maybe Trubisky and/or Nagy won’t, either. If the Bears have to draft another quarterback or hire a different head coach in a few years, chances are Pace won't be the one making those decisions.
But this structure may work out, too. Trubisky could flourish under Nagy's tutelage and flourish in a modern NFL in which quarterback play is paramount to success. We'll see.
Either way, it’s going to be a hell of a ride as we watch this play out over the next few years.