Bears

Bears hoping Matt Nagy is latest success story from Andy Reid's coaching tree

Bears hoping Matt Nagy is latest success story from Andy Reid's coaching tree

The Andy Reid coaching tree grew another branch Monday.

The Bears hired Matt Nagy as their new head coach, hoping he can bring the same kind of offensive success to Chicago as he displayed in Kansas City as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator.

While general manager Ryan Pace surely had more important criteria on his mind than being part of an NFL trend, hiring Reid assistants has paid off for numerous teams across the league in recent seasons. The Bears are hoping they're next up in that category.

Perhaps of most relevance here in the early days of 2018 is the success Doug Pederson is having with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reid's former team. Pederson's Eagles flew to the No. 1 seed on the NFC side of the playoff bracket this season, all while Carson Wentz has rapidly developed into one of the league's top young quarterbacks. There's no doubt that Pace sees Nagy as able to develop Mitch Trubisky into something similar, and if the Nagy-Trubisky pair can follow the Pederson-Wentz blueprint, then that will mean a great hire by Pace.

But it's not just Pederson. Should the Eagles reach the Super Bowl this season — and they'd have to win two playoff games without Wentz and with Nick Foles to do so — it'll be the third time in the last six seasons that a former Reid assistant reaches the championship round.

John Harbaugh won the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens to cap the 2012 season. Harbaugh has obviously had a great run in Maryland, going to six postseasons. Ron Rivera — the former Bears defensive coordinator who in some alternate reality became the head coach in Chicago — had his Carolina Panthers in the Super Bowl just two seasons ago. He just made his third postseason appearance with the Panthers this past weekend.

Those are three pretty overwhelming success stories from former Reid assistants, and it shows a strong track record for Reid's guys.

Other former Reid assistants include current Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott, who just took the Bills to their first postseason in nearly two decades. Pat Shurmur, the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator and former Cleveland Browns head coach who Pace interviewed for the Bears' job, is also a former Reid assistant. So is Brad Childress, who Bears fans might remember as the five-year coach of the Vikings who took the division rivals to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2008 and 2009.

So there's plenty of precedent for a Reid disciple to do well as a head coach. Will Nagy be next?

Reid thinks so:

Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

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Even without practicing, Allen Robinson is making a strong first impression with the Bears

Before Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey met with the media on Wednesday, Allen Robinson was curious what his position coach would say about him in public. 

“I just told him, I don’t know you,” Furrey quipped. “Who’s Allen Robinson?”

Furrey, of course, knows who Robinson is. But the point behind that joke is that Furrey, the Bears’ court wide receivers coach in four years, is still getting to know all of his receivers — let alone the one who hasn’t participated in a practice yet. For all the positivity that's easy to find around Halas Hall these days, the Bears' biggest offseason acquisition hasn't taken a rep yet. 

The good news for the Bears, of course, is that Robinson’s past play speaks for itself. He combined for 153 catches, 2,883 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2015 and 2016, and has been adamant he’ll return to that high level of play when he’s cleared to practice. The Bears were confident enough in Robinson’s medicals to guarantee him a little over $25 million in March, per Spotrac, about a month before they let Cameron Meredith sign with the New Orleans Saints largely over medical concerns (Meredith’s torn ACL was viewed as more serious than Robinson’s, in short). 

So the getting-to-know-you phase for Furrey and Robinson is largely taking place off the field in the meeting rooms of Halas Hall. 

“What a great young man,” Furrey said. “He’s come in here, obviously, rehabbing and doing all those things. But he’s alert, he comes to meetings, he’s ready to go. Really, really smart, you can tell that from the beginning and he’s a professional.”

What Furrey, in particular, likes about Robinson is that he’s an “alpha,” but is far more than all talk and no action. 

“And a lot of times that alpha talks a lot and they don’t really put it out there,” Furrey said. “He kind of has that alpha quietness to him. He understands what’s going on, you can look at him and you just kind of get that feel of he has a great understanding of how to approach this game at this level. Obviously he’s been highly successful for a couple years with some big numbers, but he doesn’t act like that. He’s still hungry, he wants to learn, and I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder, which is a good trait to have too. So we’re excited about that.”

The expectation all along has been for Robinson to be cleared to fully participate in training camp practices. So while coach Matt Nagy said last week Robinson is “ahead of the game,” that may not mean he takes part in the final round of OTAs next week or veteran minicamp the first week of June. 

But while Robinson can’t prove himself to his new coaches on the field yet, he’s doing the right things off the field to make a positive first impression. 

“He knows you gotta come in early, he knows you gotta be the last one to leave, he knows you gotta study,” Furrey said. “It doesn’t matter five years in, six years in, you gotta take notes. It doesn’t matter if you hear it 10 times, you just gotta keep taking notes. He’s been really good at that, and I’ve been really impressed with that. I’ve been able to get on the field with him a little bit, just kind of throwing some balls to him, and I didn’t know he was that big. But obviously we’re excited for it to happen out there.” 

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Protection Issues: Bears O-line ranked 21st in NFL

Mitch Trubisky has been set up for a huge season in 2018 with all the firepower the Chicago Bears added on offense. Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller and Trey Burton will give the second-year quarterback a variety of explosive targets to generate points in bunches.

None of the headline-grabbing moves will matter, however, if the offensive line doesn't do its job. 

According to Numberfire.com, the Bears' starting five could be the offense's Achilles heel. They were ranked 21st in the NFL and described as poor in pass protection.

Last year, the Bears ranked 26th in Sack NEP per drop back and 23rd in sack rate. These issues were especially apparent after Trubisky took over. In the games that [Kyle] Long played, their sack rate was 8.2%. It was actually 7.2% in the games that he missed. They struggled even when Long was healthy.

The Bears added Iowa's James Daniels in the second round of April's draft and he's expected to start at guard alongside Long. Cody Whitehair will resume his role as the starting center, with Charles Leno, Jr. and Bobby Massie at offensive tackle.

If Long comes back healthy and Daniels lives up to his draft cost, they should be a good run-blocking team from the jump. But Long has played just 18 games the past two years and is entering his age-30 season, so that's far from a lock. On top of that, the pass blocking was suspect last year and remains a mystery entering 2018.

The biggest addition to the offensive line is Harry Hiestand, the accomplished position coach who returns to Chicago after once serving in the same role under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. He most recently coached at Notre Dame and helped develop multiple first-round picks. He's going to have a huge impact.

The good news for the Bears is they weren't the lowest-ranked offensive line in the NFC North. The Vikings came in at No. 25. The Packers checked-in at No. 13, while the Lions were 16th.