Bears

Colts losing Josh McDaniels a replay of Bears ’99 saga with Dave McGinnis? Not exactly

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USA TODAY

Colts losing Josh McDaniels a replay of Bears ’99 saga with Dave McGinnis? Not exactly

The news that Josh McDaniels had stiffed the Indianapolis Colts on the head coaching job and opted to remain as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, even after the Colts had gone so far as to issue a press release for the formal announcement of McDaniels’ hiring, sparked a spectrum of observations, some involving the Bears and their own top field job.

Does anybody really feel sorry for the Colts, who slunk out of Baltimore under cover of darkness (and ahead of a move by Maryland to exercise eminent domain and make the team stay) and jilted that city for Indianapolis? John Elway had refused to play for the Colts in ’83 due in large part because of concerns about management; only McDaniels knows what part the overall Indianapolis situation played in his change of heart.

The Colts didn’t lose McDaniels because of a premature press release, one that was put out before they had a signed contract with McDaniels, and the Bears did not blow up their hiring of Dave McGinnis back in ’99 because of a premature press release, either, as is sometimes mistakenly reported.

Then-Chairman Michael McCaskey did have a release sent out before a deal had been reached (actually, before negotiations had even started), and McGinnis was highly upset. But he did come in to Halas Hall that day and the two sides reached agreement on a four-year deal. But McGinnis walked away from the Bears for good the next day because of being asked to conceal from potential assistant coaches (which would have included Leslie Frazier and Mike Martz as his coordinators) that there was two-year buyout language in McGinnis’ contract, potentially making the deal just a two-year gig, something McGinnis believed his staff deserved to know before they took jobs and moved families to Chicago.

McDaniels’ reported reasons have included concerns about again uprooting his family, as he’d done to take jobs in Denver for two years and St. Louis for one before returning to the Patriots.

The Patriots aggressively sought to keep McDaniels over the past couple of weeks with contract improvements. Could John Fox and the Bears have held onto Adam Gase as offensive coordinator in 2016 with a similar push?

Not likely. Gase had a chance to be a head coach for the first time in his career, which comes with more of a pay bump than coordinators command. But Gase had been five years in Detroit, six years in Denver, and with three young kids, the prospect of not moving his family might’ve been appealing.

Still, no contest, Miami vs. Chicago? Not so fast. Gase is from Ypsilanti, Mich., and coached in Detroit. He can function with cold.

At this point 25 percent of the Bears’ games in 2018 will be against teams with new head coaches: Detroit (two games) hired New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia; Arizona hired Carolina DC Steve Wilks; and the Giants will play under former Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

The Colts could be something of an unofficial tiebreaker, but maybe not. No clear NFL offensive-or-defensive trend unfolded in this year’s hires. Arizona, Detroit and Tennessee (Mike Vrabel) went for coaches from a defense base; the Giants, Raiders (John Gruden) and Bears (Matt Nagy) went offense. The Colts, tba. Maybe former Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.