Two big things Matt Nagy can learn from Bill Belichick's coaching career

Two big things Matt Nagy can learn from Bill Belichick's coaching career

Bill Belichick coached just one team with a winning record over his first six seasons as a coach. He had a 41-55 record after five years with the Browns and one with the Patriots. Nothing in that top-of-the-resume .427 winning percentage suggested Belichick was going to be a good coach, let alone the greatest NFL coach of all time.

Yet two decades later, Belichick has 400 regular season wins and six Super Bowls to his name.

The latest episode of the Sports Uncovered Podcast gets into Belichick’s behind-the-scenes personality, and does a fascinating job exploring who he really is as a person and coach. Listen to it below or wherever you get your podcasts:


But in listening to this week’s episode, it got me thinking: What could Matt Nagy learn from Belichick’s career?

Nagy made his way through the coaching ranks with a great mentor in Andy Reid – and members of Reid’s coaching tree, by the way, have had much more success than those who learned under Belichick. Maybe that’s because it’s impossible to replicate Belichick’s coaching style, and the things that’ve made him arguably the best football coach in history. Reid is a great coach, but his ideology might be easier to apply.

But what Nagy could learn from Belichick are two larger ideas: Adaptability and persistence.

It always feels Belichick’s Patriots have been one step ahead of the NFL’s curve over the last 20 years. His team in 2007 has been credited for building the modern NFL, even if that near-perfect team didn’t win the Super Bowl. The Patriots’ offense adapted as Tom Brady aged, winning three Super Bowls with a great, yet late 30’s/early 40’s, quarterback.

Belichick’s defense nearly was beat back by football’s passing explosion in 2017, then held the Los Angeles Rams to three points in Super Bowl LIII a year later. The Patriots have toggled between 3-4 and 4-3 defenses quite a bit during the last two decades, with Belichick’s schematic malleability allowing New England to thrive as the game changed around them.

But let’s go back to Belichick’s days with the Browns. Longtime Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot told ESPN in 2008 the Browns “were his training camp, his boot camp for success."

"There were mistakes he made here on players, personnel, staff, public relations," Cabot said. "But he's the master of adjustments. He learned how to do it right by everything he did wrong here.''

Belichick was given a decent amount of leeway to make those mistakes in Cleveland, even as he alienated fans (and his own players) by releasing popular quarterback Bernie Kosar in the middle of the 1993 season. Belichick went 6-10, 7-9 and 7-9 in his first three years with the Browns before breaking through into the playoffs in Year 4.

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Coaches in 2020 have much less time to make and learn from mistakes than they did back in the early ‘90s. Nagy isn’t on the hot seat in 2020, but another disappointing year on offense could land him on it a year from now – even though, to date, he hasn’t coached a losing season yet.

(Nagy, also, is much, much better at the public relations game than Belichick ever was – or is.)

So if Nagy can pick up anything from looking into Belichick’s career, it’s to learn from your mistakes and don’t make them again. Here in Chicago, that probably means not having another game where your No. 1 running back gets seven or so carries again.



Here's where Allen Robinson ranks on list of 2021 NFL free agents

Here's where Allen Robinson ranks on list of 2021 NFL free agents

Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson still doesn't have his contract extension. The COVID-19 pandemic is an obvious explanation for the delay in re-signing Chicago's most important offensive weapon to a multi-year deal, but as the calendar inches closer to the start of the 2020 regular season, the odds of inking A-Rob to a new contract get worse.

At some point, Robinson might decide it's better to play out the final year of his contract and improve his open-market value in 2021. The addition of Nick Foles should be a boon to Robinson's production, assuming he takes the field at some point this season. Robinson had nearly 100 catches and more than 1,100 yards catching passes from a devolved Mitch Trubisky and duck-and-chuck backup, Chase Daniel. Just imagine the kind of numbers Robinson would put up with steady quarterback play.

And with more production comes more cash.

READ: Todd McShay has Bears taking a QB in latest NFL Mock Draft

The Bears have to be very careful with their handling of Robinson. If they allow him to hit the open market, he won't be back. Teams will line up for his services and the bidding will get out of control. In fact, Robinson would command a contract that would put him at or near the top of the wide receiver market.

And this isn't just a Bears-biased opinion of Robinson. He's already regarded as one of the top players scheduled to hit free agency next winter, according to

7. Allen Robinson 

Robinson, who turns 27 later this month, would be known as one of the 10 best receivers in football if he played with better quarterbacks.

Ryan Pace has proven during his tenure in Chicago that he isn't afraid to pay his own players. He already did it this offseason with Eddie Jackson when he signed the Pro Bowl safety to a four-year, $58.4 million deal.

It isn't time to panic yet. Pace tends to take his time with these transactions and is infamous for getting big-money extensions signed by his guys on the eve of the regular season. Maybe Robinson will be the next guy in line.

He better be.



NFL Mock Draft 2021: Todd McShay has Bears taking a quarterback

NFL Mock Draft 2021: Todd McShay has Bears taking a quarterback

ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay published his first mock draft of the 2021 NFL draft cycle on Wednesday, which is exactly what all football fans need after the Big 10 and Pac 12 conferences announced they're delaying football until the spring. The remaining Power 5 conferences could follow suit in the coming days. Draft season is already here, folks.

McShay's mock draft was a mix of chalk and surprises. Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson) was the first pick to the Jaguars, which almost every draft analyst assumes is a lock at this point. Lawrence is a franchise-changing quarterback prospect and whoever owns the first overall pick is going to take him. You can safely move on to the second pick, which is where McShay's first major curveball came.

At No. 2 overall, McShay has the Washington Football Team selecting Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II. 

Surtain is a surefire first-round pick but it isn't a slamdunk that he's the top cornerback in this year's draft class, let alone a top-five player overall. Instead, that distinction should go to Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who McShay has off the board at the third and fourth overall picks to the Bengals and Panthers respectively.

READ: 4 reasons to feel optimistic about the Bears in 2020

As for the Bears, McShay is one of many who are buying into the quarterback narrative. Chicago is expected to be one of the teams on the shortlist of clubs targeting a passer in Round 1 next April (assuming the draft is in April). In this mock, McShay sends the Bears Trey Lance, the North Dakota State star who enjoyed a 41-touchdown, zero-turnover season as a passer and runner in 2019.

"Lance is big, athletic and tough, and he absolutely dominated the FCS last season," McShay wrote of the Bears' pick at No. 14 overall. "He threw zero interceptions on nearly 300 pass attempts in 2019 and offered dual-threat production, rushing for 50-plus yards in nine of his 16 games. The Bears need a guy they can build around, and they can't afford to whiff this time around.

"Chicago's thoughts on Mitchell Trubisky were made clear when it didn't give him his fifth-year option and signed a soon-to-be 32-year-old Foles who is coming off an injury-plagued, poor 2019 season. Lance is a third-year sophomore with some questions still to be answered -- including whether he'd want to declare for the draft at all -- but the Bears would love to get this talented signal-caller in the middle of the first round based on his ceiling."

Lance will be a fascinating player to monitor over the next few months. He, unlike some of the other top prospects from bigger programs, needs another season of tape to solidify his grade as an early first-round pick. It doesn't look like he's going to get it.

RELATED: Is Mitch Trubisky the Bears' biggest liability this season?

Lance is making a jump from a lower level of competition at the game's most complex position. He only has 288 pass attempts on his collegiate resume. Compare that to Trubisky, who entered the NFL with 386 college pass attempts and was considered inexperienced and raw during the 2017 draft cycle.

Can Ryan Pace (or whoever is the Bears' general manager during the 2021 draft)  roll the dice on another quarterback who has just one season as a starter? It seems like an easy answer (which is 'No' in case you're wondering). 

Buckle up. It's going to be an extremely long draft season with dozens and dozens of mock drafts between now and April. Players like Lance will move up and down the first round, and pundits will cycle through names for the Bears' first-rounder like Chicago's gone through kickers in recent years.