PHOENIX -- Matt Nagy has spent the past year watching and learning from Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. After being fired by the Bears, Nagy returned to Kansas City as the quarterback coach for the Chiefs.
While Nagy has been busy focusing on helping the Chiefs get to Super Bowl XVII, he has kept tabs on quarterback Justin Fields and his Year 2 growth under the new staff in Chicago. As Nagy helps prepare Patrick Mahomes to face Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, the former Bears head coach is certain Fields will find himself on the big stage at some point during his career.
“Without a doubt," Nagy said Monday night at Super Bowl Opening Night when asked if Fields will play in a Super Bowl. "You all saw it this year, what he can do. He’s going to continue to keep growing. However, you want to say it, whatever part of his game. To do what he did from his rookie year to this past year, it’s only going to get better from here. He’s wired the right way. I got to see him firsthand – how he studies, how he practices, his passion for the game. He hates to lose. He’s always been that way."
Fields' second season got off to a rocky start as the Bears asked him to drop back behind a leaky offensive line and make pinpoint passes to receivers who struggled to get open.
The mini-bye week re-evaluation by head coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy helped unlock Fields and start his Year 2 ascent. The implementation of designed quarterback runs saw Fields get more comfortable as a passer and become the most dangerous runner in the NFL.
When the dust settled, Fields rushed for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns. He became just the third quarterback in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Fields likely would have broken Lamar Jackson's single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback had a hip injury not kept him out of the Bears' Week 18 game vs. the Minnesota Vikings.
Nagy watched Fields' rise from afar. As the man who played a pivotal role in bringing Fields to Chicago, Nagy loved seeing the second-year quarterback fight through adversity and come out the other side.
“I absolutely paid attention to him, and I was so proud of the way he grew this year as a quarterback," Nagy said. "A lot of credit to their coaches, what they did with him and the schemes they put around him, just the way that he took on to that. You watch him – again, we were a big part of drafting him and getting him to Chicago. We were all-in with Justin and unfortunately didn’t get an opportunity to see where he could get to.
"But again, that’s part of this process, part of the NFL. Those guys in Chicago, those coaches, have done a phenomenal job of working with him. He’s one hell of a player, he has a very bright future in Chicago. I’m proud of him. He’s a good kid, he cares immensely about the game, he’s passionate and he’s going to keep growing.”
Nagy and then-general manager Ryan Pace had a plan to develop Fields. Circumstances forced them to alter course during Fields' rookie season.
Nagy regrets how things played out during his final year in Chicago, including the situation he put Fields in during a disastrous Week 3 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
But Nagy also believes it would have been difficult for Fields to flash during his rookie season as he did in Year 2. It takes time for quarterbacks to become the players they can be.
“You have a plan when you go into this," Nagy said. "Again, Ryan Pace and myself and everybody in our organization, we were all-in on drafting Justin. We all were committed to him. We had a plan. Obviously, it didn’t work out for us. We also had a plan to develop him and to see him grow and work to his strengths. It’s hard to do that right away in the months and summer and one year. In fairness to every quarterback that is in this league, it is hard to be what you think they are going to be in one year. It is hard. Guys need time to develop. There’s plenty of instances across this league of that being true. At the same time, it’s hard. It’s stressful for these young guys. They know time is of the essence.
“We are all in on rooting for Justin, want nothing but good things for him and he’s a hell of a player.”
Nagy will continue to watch Fields grow with the Bears. He believes greatness is in the future for the Bears' young quarterback. He always has.