Back in November, when then-Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy’s name was getting bandied about as a potential head coaching candidate, Kansas City’s head coach Andy Reid paid him the ultimate compliment.
Reid called Nagy the “best head coaching prospect,” he’s ever had.
That’s saying something, since Reid already had seen five former assistants become NFL head coaches — the Ravens’ John Harbaugh, the Panthers’ Ron Rivera, the Jets’ Todd Bowles, the Eagles’ Doug Pederson, and the Bills’ Sean McDermott.
So, at his introductory news conference as the 16th head coach in Bears history, the 39-year-old Nagy was asked how difficult it would be living up to that praise.
“How difficult do you think it is,” Nagy said with a laugh. “I love him to death, but whoooo. That’s a challenge, though, right? That’s a challenge. He gave me an opportunity in this league. In 2010, he gave me an opportunity, and I told him: ‘I’m not going to let him down.’
“When I hugged him (Monday), I told him I loved him. I said, ‘I’m not going to let you down.’ And I’m going to stick to that.”
In his 10 years in the NFL, Nagy has only worked for Reid, who has been a head coach in the league for 19 seasons. Reid’s teams have won 10 or more regular-season games 13 times, and he’s had just three losing seasons.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach Reid,” said Bears general manager Ryan Pace, who had the final say on hiring Nagy. “Coach Reid believes in Matt Nagy, and so do I. I’m proud to be able to pair with Matt and attack our plan for success together.”
Nagy is enthusiastic about the prospect of working closely with the 40-year-old Pace, who is his senior by just a few months.
“The direction of this team and this organization, you see it, you feel it,” Nagy said. “There’s a want there to be great. One of the things I noticed right off the bat with Ryan is understanding how easy it’s going to be for us to have a partnership. It’s going to be strong.
“I told him, ‘I got you. This is something we’re going to do together. No egos involved. Right? I’m going to help you with any questions you have and you do the same to me. You criticize me, and I’ll criticize you.’ We may agree to disagree, but guess what? We’re going to build a competitive team. And in the end, we’ll be able to look each in the eyes, respect each other and smile.”
One of the first, and probably the most important, decisions Nagy will face involves possibly rehiring defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, whose contract expired on Tuesday. Fangio, who was the first candidate to interview for the Bears head coaching position, is one of the league’s most respected coordinators. He will have multiple offers in addition to remaining with a Bears defense that he has molded into a top-10 unit.
“That’s a very important hire for me,” Nagy said. “But there’s a lot of things that go into that decision. Vic and I have talked. We understand that. That’s something we’re going to attack here (shortly). We’re going to attack that full-steam ahead, and we’re going to make a clear decision about what’s best for Vic and what’s best for this organization.”
What’s best on the other side of the ball is for Nagy and his staff to get the most from promising quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The thinking all along was that the Bears would select a head coach who could mentor and develop Trubisky into a franchise quarterback. Both Pace and Nagy said there was much more involved in the hiring process, but neither denied Trubisky was and is a key.
“It’s certainly a part of it, but that’s not the reason why I’m here,” Nagy said of Trubisky, whom he was enamored with in the pre-draft process. “I’m here because of the organization and the direction. I could feel that from the moment I was in that interview process. That’s a benefit to have Mitch Trubisky (though). I knew a lot about him because in the (Scouting) Combine, we spent some time with him.
“But this is a team game, and everyone on this team is just as important as the quarterback. But that was certainly a part of it.”