Ryan Pace is sitting down with another candidate for the Bears' head-coaching job.
The team announced Sunday morning that Pace is interviewing Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy in the ongoing search for John Fox's successor.
The timing of the interview isn't great, coming a day after the Chiefs blew an 18-point halftime lead and were eliminated from the playoffs by the Tennessee Titans. The Chiefs' offense struggled mightily after halftime, totaling just 61 yards and zero points in the second half. Quarterback Alex Smith completed just five passes in the second half for 33 yards.
There's reason, though, for the 39-year-old Nagy to be on Pace's list of candidates. The Chiefs ranked fifth in the NFL this season in total offense, averaging 375.4 yards per game. For comparison, the Bears ranked 30th out of 32 teams, averaging 287.4 yards a game. The Chiefs were the NFL's No. 7 passing team (256.5 pass yards a game) and the No. 6 scoring team (25.9 points a game).
2017 marked Nagy's second season as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator. He was the team's quarterbacks coach for the three seasons prior, from 2013 to 2015. He was a Philadelphia Eagles assistant from 2008 to 2012.
Nagy is the sixth coaching candidate to be interviewed by Pace, per the team's announcements. The team previously announced interviews with Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards and Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
There's a lot of optimism about the Chicago Bears in 2018 largely because of the incredible offseason had by GM Ryan Pace. It started in free agency with several big-name additions on offense and continued in the NFL Draft with the selection of Roquan Smith, arguably the top all-around defender in the class.
Pace now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He's entering a season with actual expectations. While those expectations vary, one thing is consistent: Improvement is expected.
According to Pro Football Focus, Chicago should end up challenging for a playoff spot.
No less than five additions on offense this offseason could make key impacts for the Bears, including wide receiver Allen Robinson who was one of the NFL’s best in 2015 before a down year in 2016 and essentially missing all of 2017 through injury. He’s joined at the position by Taylor Gabriel, who had three touchdowns on throws 20 yards or further downfield in 2016 and rookie Anthony Miller, who was tied for fourth among wide receivers in this draft class with 19 missed tackles forced on receptions. Add in tight end Trey Burton, who had three touchdowns from just 16 targets when lined up in the slot and rookie offensive lineman James Daniels from Iowa and it’s easy to see why this offense led by Mitchell Trubisky has the potential to trend upwards big time in 2018.
The Bears were one of five teams PFF listed as a surprise Wild Card candidate. The road to the post-season will be challenging, however. Not only do all of the new pieces have to gel, but they have to do it while playing in one of the toughest divisions in football.
The NFC North could have three teams -- not including the Bears -- playing in January. The Vikings may be the most talented club in the NFC and the Packers will always be a contender with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The Lions have some vulnerability, but they've had more success than Chicago in recent seasons.
Still, Pace deserves credit for winning the offseason.
NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.
Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:
With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.
Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.
The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team.
For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.