Bears

Matt Nagy the offensive mind needs to match Matt Nagy the leader

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USA Today

Matt Nagy the offensive mind needs to match Matt Nagy the leader

The Bears’ decision to put Kyle Long on injured reserve was not arrived upon lightly. 

This was a former three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman who played for quite a few bad teams, only to have his body fail him once the Bears became playoff contenders. He’s now been on injured reserve in four consecutive seasons, and this time, it might end his career in Chicago. 

The conversation from management to player could not have been easy. But having Matt Nagy around to deliver it probably made things a little less difficult. 

“I feel like personally, that’s one of my strengths is dealing with these players and where they’re at and how they feel,” Nagy said. “There’s a connection there that you need to have. The part of it that makes it easier is when you run into these situations, you want to be able to have strong relationships with your players so when there are tough decision that have to be made, it’s natural and it doesn’t feel scripted — it doesn’t feel like this is the first time I’m talking to you in months.”

Nagy’s genuine ability to be the leader and tone-setter inside Halas Hall helps when such a tough decision has to be made. The same may go for the IR-or-no-IR decision awaiting the Bears with defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, who suffered a significant elbow injury in London against the Oakland Raiders. 

But those leadership qualities extend well beyond dealing with injured players or setting next-man-up expectations. When the Bears re-convened in Lake Forest for practice on Monday, they did so with positive vibes — which aren’t necessarily a given for a team that’s encountered more issues than expected through the first five games of 2019. 

And those begin with Nagy. 

“We know this isn’t just some regular head coach that’s here just because he’s the head coach of an NFL football team,” outside linebacker Aaron Lynch said. “Like, he’s here, he’s got a purpose and he’s giving that message to us that we can buy into.

“… Because he’s genuine, we know everything he says comes from his heart. It’s so much easier to buy into something like that when you know what he’s saying, he means and he’s not just saying it because there’s cameras around.”

Nagy’s leadership abilities are unquestioned. But what about his ability to scheme and call an offense?

Those haven’t matched the success he’s had as a leader. Consider there to be two different versions of Nagy, the head coach: Nagy the leader, and Nagy the offensive mind. 

Nagy’s scheme hasn’t yielded the sort of fruits expected from a branch of Andy Reid’s Kansas City offense, with the sixth-lowest points per game average (17.7) in the NFL. His playcalling — be it a tepid commitment to the run, or being too predictable in certain situations — has come under scrutiny, and a larger observation has been he’s had fewer answers in Year 2, when the rest of the league has a full season of tape on his offense. 

Nagy needs the players within his offense to play better, but he also needs to coach better, as he admitted after the Bears’ Week 5 loss at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. So part of the time he spent during the Bears’ off week was on self-scouting himself, from play design to playcalling tendencies. 

“There’s some things that just aren’t going to change, but then there’s some that are pretty glaring,” Nagy said. “And I think those are the ones where you say, okay, how do I maybe break that just a little bit, so that the defenses can’t always just say every time they’re doing this or that, to help us.”

What’s clear is that the Bears will be competitive in every game they play because of Nagy’s leadership. But for this team to deliver on its sky-high preseason expectations, it needs Nagy the offensive mind to match Nagy the leader. 

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell releases statement on death of George Floyd

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USA TODAY

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell releases statement on death of George Floyd

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell released a statement Saturday evening regarding the tragic death of George Floyd.

"The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country," Goodell's statement reads. "The protesters' reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.

"Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Mr. George Floyd and to those who have lost loved ones, including the families of Ms. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and Mr. Ahmaud Arbery, the cousin of Tracy Walker of the Detroit Lions."

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As protests break out nationwide, Goodell said "there remains much more to do as a country and league," to combat racial inequality.

"These tragedies inform the NFL's commitment and our ongoing efforts. There remains an urgent need for action," he said. "We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners."

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Leadership lessons Ryan Pace learned from time with Sean Payton, Saints

Leadership lessons Ryan Pace learned from time with Sean Payton, Saints

Every organization in the NFL is working hard to adapt their workflows while under COVID-19 restrictions. Rookie minicamps have already been missed. Organizations are still unable to meet as a full team, and that’s obviously a challenge. But Bears GM Ryan Pace may have a leg up due to the lessons he learned while working in the New Orleans Saints’ front office.

Pace joined Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk’s podcast “PFT PM” to explain exactly how that time in New Orleans helped to shape him as a leader, both in “normal” times and times of crisis.

“There’s no excuses in our league,” Pace said on the podcast. “That happened in New Orleans during Katrina-- really every time a hurricane came towards that city, we adapted.

“What I felt from the leadership from (Saints head coach) Sean (Payton) and (Saints GM) Mickey (Loomis) is there was never an excuse. It was: let’s adapt and let’s adjust, and that’s what we did. From 2005 to 2006, I mean that was a major shift in that team under trying times.”

Pace is referring to the Saints firing Jim Haslett and hiring Sean Payton, and installing Payton’s new systems, all while recovering from Hurricane Katrina. The Saints were incredibly successful working through those hard times too, improving from 3-13 in 2005 to 10-6 and NFC South winners in 2006.

Beyond learning to not let hard times affect his team’s success on the field, Pace says he learned a lot about how to run a team from Payton and Loomis.

“First of all, (Payton’s) very aggressive, he's not afraid to make hard decisions. He’s decisive and Mickey’s the same way: aggressive and decisive, no regrets, never looks back, not afraid to think outside the box, but also very conscious of the culture of that team.

“I think any time you drift away from that-- and it’s easy to do, and enticing to do-- but usually when you do that, once you realize you’ve done that to the locker room, the damage is already done. You try to correct yourself or police a player, the damage is already done in the locker room. So I think it’s being aggressive with the moves you make, not looking back, operating with decisiveness, but then being very conscious of the culture in the locker room.

“It’s a fine line. 12-4 to 8-8, it’s a fine line I think, because the people, the staff, the people in your building are conscious of that.”

Pace has certainly acted decisively when building his roster, trading up to draft Mitchell Trubisky, Leonard Floyd, Anthony Miller and David Montgomery.

But he later says, there’s more nuance than simply acting decisively to become an effective leader.

“When you’re making a hard decision, what’s best for the organization?” Pace said. “Not letting your ego get in the way because ‘Hey, this was your idea,’ ‘You selected this player,’ whatever it is, what’s best for the team? And sometimes those are decisions when you have to remove emotions.”

Pace has shown the ability to set aside his ego to make those hard decisions too. Most recently he opted not to pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option. He already cut Leonard Floyd. And after he didn’t offer Kyle Fuller a fifth-year option, he paid even more to keep Fuller since the cornerback proved he deserved to stay.

“For me, to be honest, I think that’s come pretty natural and pretty easy, and I think it’s because of my experience in New Orleans.”

RELATED: Why Ryan Pace ultimately decided to trade for Nick Foles

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