Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace wasted no time after interviewing Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy before hiring him as the 16th head coach in franchise history.
“We set out to find the best leader for our franchise, period,” Pace said. “Our research, preparation and the interview process led us to Matt Nagy.”
The 4½-hour interview began Sunday morning, the day after the Chiefs’ 22-21 wild-card playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans, and it resumed with dinner. By the next morning, Nagy was hired.
“The longer we dug in, the more we knew he was special, and he was the right fit for us,” Pace said. “It’s a really great feeling when you meet a person and everything clicks, and everything comes together.
“Matt’s a proven leader. He’s a winner, he’s intelligent, he’s innovative, he has strong character, he’s got a great family, and he shares the same passion for the game that I have.”
If those qualities don’t translate into wins and playoff appearances, Pace probably won’t get another crack at hiring a head coach — at least not in Chicago.
The biggest single factor in future success is the maturation of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. He showed promise in an up-and-down rookie season, but will have to continue making strides if the Bears are to complete a rebuilding process entering its fourth year.
A lot more went into Pace’s second head-coaching hire than finding a quarterback whisperer, though.
“This is about more than the quarterback,” Pace said. “Yes, that’s the most important position on our team. But this is about 53 players, and it’s about leading a group of men, and it’s about winning in all three phases.”
After Nagy’s Sunday morning sit-down with the Bears, he immediately went to an interview with the Indianapolis Colts.
Pace moved quickly to lock up Nagy, the sixth of six NFL assistants he interviewed. So while the Bears were able to get their man, four other NFL teams still are searching.
But Pace says it was not a rush to judgment.
“It started with the research, and it allowed us to be decisive and accurate when we were going through the process,” he said.
“It’s a competitive market right now, and I just thought, ‘When you have conviction … we’re going to be aggressive and get it done.”
Pace had extensive dossiers on each of his six candidates, along with resumes and background material. But it was some word-of-mouth feedback he received from mutual friends of his and Nagy’s throughout the league that also carried weight.
“I have all these references, but a lot of (feedback) was coming from mutual friends in the business saying, ‘You guys just fit together.’ If they were going to match two guys together, it’d be Matt and I. I think that was part of it, too.”
Nagy is 23 years younger than John Fox, the coach he’s replacing after a 14-34 record in three years. Nagy’s relative lack of experience was a consideration for Pace but not a concern.
“It’s something you weigh, and that’s why these interviews are important,” Pace said. “The more research you do, you find out about the person, find out about his makeup and his work ethic and all those things.
“At the end of the day, it wasn’t a concern. I like his energy, and I like how creative he is and how innovative he is. He’s willing to think outside the box. Those are intriguing traits.”
Pace also identified with Nagy’s modest beginnings in the league. Both started near the bottom but ascended rapidly.
Ten years ago, Nagy was selling real estate and working as an intern with the Philadelphia Eagles. Fifteen years ago, Pace was a scouting assistant with the New Orleans Saints.
“What caught my eye, and what I liked about him,” Pace said, “is there (are) some parallels to me, how we came up in the business.
“I really appreciated that about him, his humbleness, his work ethic. Nothing was given to us. You start at the bottom, and (there’s) adversity you have to get over to go to the top.”
The Bears are a long way from the top on the heels of four straight seasons of double-digit losses, but Pace and Nagy seem to agree on the path to get there.
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