Getting the obvious question out of the way first: Is this Matt Nagy guy any good? This observer has no idea other than conclusions drawn from Nagy’s resume. As with a draft evaluation, let’s see in a couple years. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.
Over the past nine months, ever since he traded up in the 2017 draft for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Ryan Pace has left no doubt that he understood that he was now squarely on the franchise clock. The spotlight on him just turned up a whole lot of watts on Monday when he went all-in on Nagy as his choice to replace John Fox as head coach.
It is a move with myriad aspects and elements, beginning with the fact that Nagy has zero experience as a head coach at any level and just two years as an NFL offensive coordinator, and one of those (2016) as co-coordinator with Brad Childress. How much of Nagy’s success and that of quarterback Alex Smith were due to Childress and head coach Andy Reid vs. Nagy will play out in part over the next couple years.
But he also was an assistant with Reid in Philadelphia from 2008 to 2012 and was brought to Kansas City by Reid when Reid went to coach the Chiefs in 2013. That was the year that Reid and the Chiefs traded for Smith, beginning a five-year stretch in which Smith became a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback and had four of the best five seasons of his 12-year career.
That — and Nagy’s known belief that Trubisky will be something special — as much as anything vaulted Nagy to the top of Pace’s list, which wasn’t entirely composed of coaches from backgrounds on offense but pretty clearly was going to be a plus for those candidates.
In a serious hurry
Pace and the Bears were aggressive from the outset, second only to the Raiders' hiring of Jon Gruden. It was the fastest hire of a Bears head coach since Jack Pardee on New Year’s Day 1975, with Pace viewing the market for what he considered top head coaches to be extremely competitive with a half-dozen teams looking for new field bosses.
The Bears clearly wanted to fast-track the search process in a competitive market, part of why chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips were uncharacteristically involved in the week-long road show of initial job interviews rather than waiting until Pace had arrived at his choice before beginning the next-level vetting. The organization’s withholding approval for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to interview for coordinator jobs elsewhere pointed to the Bears wanting him as an option to head the defense under the incoming head coach.
With the Nagy hire, Pace coincidentally brings the Bears back to their “customary” approach of going with first-time coaches after failed efforts with Fox and CFL head coach Marc Trestman (Neill Armstrong also was a CFL head coach). Nagy, like Mike Ditka and Lovie Smith — and Abe Gibron and Dick Jauron and Jim Dooley and Dave Wannstedt — becomes an NFL head coach for the first time, and what success the Bears have had in the post-George Halas Era has come from first-timers, who commonly bring a fresh approach to the job they’ve dreamed about since going into coaching.
Forgetting any residual rancor or whatever other emotions that involved Fox, a guess here is that the Ryan Pace of this process is not the exact same Ryan Pace that went through the process that produced Fox as his head coach. Pace was obviously in on every single interaction and assessment of these candidates; last time, the organization had oddly chosen to start interviewing candidates before Pace was even hired.
For better or worse, assume that this Pace had a considerably deeper understanding of what he was after to run the Bears on the field.
The QB curriculum vitae
Nagy’s prime directive will be the development of Trubisky, along with bringing together an offense that has been nothing short of erratic under a stream of coaches and coordinators ever since Ron Turner left after the 2009 season. He will be responsible for the defense and special teams, but his foundation is offense. Period.
If nothing else, Nagy knows what a successful NFL quarterback should look and play like. He was a coaching intern and assistant when the Eagles had the likes of Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick under center, and he has spent the past five seasons as either a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator while Smith has flourished in Kansas City.
Interesting but of less-than-marginal significance, Nagy was a college quarterback, from the same University of Delaware that produced Joe Flacco for the Baltimore Ravens. And he played quarterback in the Arena Football League, like New Orleans Saints coach and mentor Sean Payton. Now if that wasn’t a selling point to former Saints personnel guy Pace, then ...