Gary Fencik won a Super Bowl for his hometown team and had a clause written into his final contract that gave him the option of buying four Bears season tickets after he retired. Few have the perspective Fencik does, then, as a former player and now a fan.
And Fencik, the fan, appreciates a specific aspect of how Matt Nagy carries himself.
“What I find refreshing — and I liked John Fox — but John Fox didn’t treat fans with respect,” Fencik said. “And I’m a fan, and I’m a season ticket holder. And it was kind of like this, hey, you don’t deserve to know, or I’m not going to give you a lot of information.
“And what I really like about Matt is, I think he recognizes and respects that the fans are not idiots. And that he’s giving very respectful responses — thoughtful, not trying to give away secrets — but I also, when you read the paper or hear or see on TV, he’s trying to keep it light. It’s a long, grueling season.”
Fox had a reputation as a personable guy away from the cameras, but in front of them he was intentionally evasive, bland and, at times, condescending (he’s now a TV analyst for ESPN). It was striking how different Nagy’s approach is to addressing the media — and, through it, the fanbase — from his first press conference in Chicago, in which he was open, honest, thoughtful and insightful only a few days after he suffered a crushing playoff loss as the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.
Nagy, of course, isn’t going to reveal any trade secrets or playbook specifics in public, nor is he going to throw players under the bus. But his approach to press conferences and casual interactions with media and fans is refreshing — he comes across as engaging, respectful and genuine, qualities which fans (like Fencik) have come to appreciate.
And Fencik, the former player, sees those qualities translate to how he manages his team and calls plays, even when they’re as outlandish at “Santa’s Sleigh” or “Willy Wonka.”
“They’re trying to be as imaginative and creative as they can be with respect,” Fencik said. “There are a lot of great defenses that they’re facing. I’ve been impressed just seeing the variety of different plays. Sometimes you’re like ‘wow, really, you really went for that.’ But I think that’s it. It’s a level of seriousness. You know the challenge, you know the frustration of the fans. There’s respect. And yet, (he) was above and beyond anyone’s expectations last year.”