Double Vision: Pace & Nagy’s Journey Begins

As discussed in my previous article, the primary thing that John Fox had going for him upon his hiring was that he was not Marc Trestman.  He never really evolved past that point.

Matt Nagy (næg-gēē) isn’t John Fox, and his press conference yesterday proved as much.  He was unabashedly emotional regarding his family and how thrilled he was with the opportunity.  Difficult questions were answered with an air of open ease and businesslike resolve.  He was equal parts human and competitor.  He was open enough to absolve any doubts about his humanity and candid enough to win over the Fox-fatigued Chicago media.

This in and of itself means nothing, as Nagy may indeed be a failure as head coach of the Bears, and as a Bears fan going on nearly 20 years, it’s extremely difficult to dredge up scrapings from the well of optimism, but I can’t help but give the man a chance.  What I’ve read has helped.

Being a young coach is hard. The pressure is 50 times greater than being a coordinator. Having an even-keel mindset is important.  This is essential in the NFL, especially for young coaches. You can’t get too high or too low. It about staying in the middle. He learned that under Reid the last eight-plus years, the only way to make it is to be consistent every day. That doesn’t mean he won’t be hard on guys, especially if he learned by watching Reid. Just because you are not a yeller and screamer, doesn’t mean you don’t demand a lot. I’ve seen it with Shanahan. He doesn’t scream a lot at practice, but it’s clear the standard that is demanded. I see a lot of that in Nagy. – John Middlekauff, former NFL scout

You have my attention.

Nagy is a proponent of the RPO (run-pass option), a system that Trubisky thrived in as a Tar Heel, where the offense can read a defense’s gaps and attack appropriately via adaptive draw or pass plays.  Essentially diagnosing a weak spot, RPO schemes benefit from smart, athletic quarterbacks.  Dowell Loggains ran very little RPO, and his reward was playing lickspittle to Adam Gase once again, only this time in Miami instead of Chicago.

Scheme isn’t everything, nor is Trubisky all that matters.  This isn’t at all comparable to Trestman’s hiring where a desperate franchise went beyond the membrane of logic to hire a faux-warlock which spoke the rare Cutlerian tongue.  It’s not remotely similar to the hiring of John Fox, supposedly the NFL’s grumpy equivalent of Bob Vila, contracted to fix This Old House.

Fox was a “player’s coach,” so the question:  Does Nagy command a locker room?

“When he got to be up in the room in front of everybody as a coordinator, you never know how guys are going to handle that. I think the thing all of us appreciate is that he didn’t even blink.  A lot of guys get up there and puff their chest or something and change. But (here) you’re just like, ‘Same old Nags.’ Still laid back and having fun, loves what he’s doing, loves ball, loves joking with the guys. You can see that and I think guys really appreciate that, and I think that’s only carried on even more.”- Alex Smith

Asked and answered?  Possibly, but I’m encouraged.

So Nagy is not the quarterback whisperer nor the crusty veteran here to establish order.

Nagy is here because he’s Ryan Pace’s diamond in the rough, and his perhaps final opportunity to restore a crestfallen franchise to a place of esteem.

Following the mysteries of the Sahara, Pace, Ted Phillips, and George McCaskey spent just over a week sifting through candidate after candidate, and it wasn’t until Sunday that Nagy, stinging from a dismal playoff collapse, expedited his interview time.  The group spoke for several hours, and the words “Super Bowl” or “playoffs” were allegedly never mentioned.

 

Nagy was outnumbered at the Raphael Hotel but still felt relaxed. He didn’t have to diagnose plays on a dry-erase board. They just talked. Nagy said the Bears allowed him to be himself.

“We just let it flow,” Nagy said. “That’s the part that I liked. It was very natural.”

That was Pace’s goal. He had a list of questions that was 15 pages long. But he wanted the conversation to flow organically, not robotically. Pace heard what he wanted to hear. He saw a leader with a grasp on accountability and a young, humble coach who saw failure as an opportunity to grow. – Adam Jahns, Sun-Times


One of the chief (no pun intended) concerns over finding the next Bears head coach was having confidence in an offensive playcaller.  Nagy’s finesse running an offense may have very little in the way of résumé, but the results we do have on him is inspiring.

After Doug Pederson departed for Philadelphia, Nagy was named offensive coordinator for the 2017 season, leading an offense that ranked sixth in scoring at 25.9 points per game. While calling plays for the Chiefs during December, Nagy’s offense averaged 28.6 points per game as the Chiefs went 4-1, and he maximized the abilities of playmakers like Kareem Hunt, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.  Veteran Alex Smith enjoyed the best season of his career, throwing for 4,042 yards and 26 touchdowns.  – Chris Emma


Nagy will make mistakes, whether it’s play-calling, clock management or timeout usage. All coaches do, and he hasn’t experienced it yet, but Pace believes Nagy’s background as a play-caller on offense should help his ability as a head coach on Sundays.

When you are calling the plays, you have to be able to delegate, you gotta be able to have a good staff around you,” Pace said. “And we talk about this, there’s a skill set to calling plays that is innate. And I know that Matt has that.” – Kevin Fishbain, Sun-Times


There was a lot of outrage, including from yours truly, about how team president Ted Phillips and CEO George McCaskey were so heavily involved in the interviewing process, but they insisted – this is Ryan Pace’s hire.

It’s so weird to type this statement, but….they were right.  Ryan Pace has no strings.

And let’s be fair to them, for once:  Their presence expedited this hiring, and maybe going forward we shouldn’t be so hasty in harpooning the organization’s front men with terms like “incompetent” or “meddling.”

But perhaps (hiring Nagy) wouldn’t have come to fruition if it wasn’t for a fast-paced search aided by Bears chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips, whom Pace credited for expediting the process that lasted one week after John Fox’s firing on Jan. 1.

With McCaskey and Phillips accompanying Pace on his interviews, the Bears were able to skip second interviews because the team’s top bosses could sign off on the spot. If not for that, the Colts — who also interviewed Nagy on Sunday — could’ve followed through and taken the candidate Pace believed best suited his team.

“Having George and Ted by my side was valuable,” Pace said. “Because it allowed us in that moment, when we did come to that conclusion (to hire Nagy to say), ‘Hey, let’s go.’” – Mark Potash, Sun-Times

That said, it wasn’t until Pace and Nagy, their spouses in tow, went to dinner that night and confirmed what so many had told them:  They would make a great team.

The bond between Pace and Fox was very barren of details, with only vague rumors insinuating that there was a tension there from the beginning.  The very circumstances under which Fox was hired were awash in speculation over Ernie Accorsi’s recommendation.

With the hire of Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace is staking his claim, for good and all.

After a cursory background check, Ryan Pace saw a lot of himself in Matt Nagy.

“What caught my eye — what I liked about him — is how we came up in the business,” Pace said. “Nothing was given to us. You start at the bottom and the adversity you have to get over to go to the top. I really appreciated that about him — his humbleness, his work ethic.”

Digging a little deeper, Pace found further evidence that he and Nagy would be a match.

“What was kind of neat was that I have all these references,” Pace said, “a lot of them were coming from mutual friends in the business saying, ‘You guys just fit together. If I was going to match two guys together,’ it’d be Matt and I. That was part of it.” – Mark Potash, Sun-Times


We’re still, as time of posting, waiting to hear if Vic Fangio will return as defensive coordinator and who else Nagy will fill out his staff with, but there’s hope to be had.

Even if you’re a long-time crusty asshat like me, this is encouraging.  It’s okay to be excited.

 

At least until half the roster gets injured again.  Dammit, there I go again.

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