By Chris Emma—
(670 The Score) Bears general manager Ryan Pace refused to tip his hand at Halas Hall last Monday, holding his cards tight while addressing the team’s impending coaching search.
What followed was a decisive process that brought six coaching interviews in the span of five days and the hiring of 39-year-old Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as the next leader of the Chicago Bears.
Throughout the brief endeavor, it became clear that Pace sought a young offensive mind to mold Mitchell Trubisky into a franchise quarterback. It was just a matter of which candidate could present him with the best plan. Who could be the Sean McVay to Trubisky’s Jared Goff?
While Bears chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips accompanied Pace on his interviews, he was leading the charge and presenting his vision to each candidate, according to a source. The presence of McCaskey and Phillips allowed Pace’s bosses to sign off on Nagy immediately, which expedited the process to lock in the Bears’ next coach.
After creating a confusing picture with McCaskey and Phillips on Black Monday, the Bears were careful in their wording – accurately announcing that it was Pace leading the interviews. The official team statement Monday began with “Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace today (Jan. 8) announced the hiring of Matt Nagy as the club’s 16th head coach in franchise history.”
Pace has been empowered by the organization that doubled down on his future with a two-year contract extension the same day John Fox was fired. He would take his bosses for two days in the bitter Minnesota cold and then flew them into a Bomb Cyclone for two more days on the East Coast before meeting with Nagy on Sunday.
The interview with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio last Wednesday could be viewed as a showing of goodwill – despite the team’s plans to hire an offensive coach – and could work to their advantage in retaining him as defensive coordinator, should Nagy so desire.
Meeting with Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards in Minneapolis on Thursday evening allowed the Bears to satisfy the Rooney Rule of interviewing a minority candidate while possily gaining some insight on the reigning NFC North champions and their top-ranked defense.
Ultimately, the Bears’ next coach would come from the grouping of Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and Nagy – whichever could blow away Pace in their interview. Shurmur would be considered the safest of the four, while there was risk with McDaniels, DeFilippo and Nagy.
But Pace has never been afraid to take risks in his role – look no further than the bold trade to draft Mitchell Trubisky second overall last April.
“If we want to be great, you just can’t sit on your hands,” Pace said shortly after sending three picks to San Francisco to ensure Trubisky would be his. “There are times when you’ve got to be aggressive, and when you have conviction on a guy, you can’t sit on your hands. I just don’t want to be average around here — I want to be great, and these are the moves you have to make.
“The most important position in all of sports is quarterback, and I don’t think you’re ever a great team until you address the position and you address it right. I think everybody should respect that. We’re addressing the quarterback position, we’re being aggressive with that position because it’s the most important position in sports.”
The same convictions led Pace to Nagy, pairing him with Trubisky to define the Bears’ future to come.
Nagy has enjoyed a unique football background, playing six seasons in the Arena Football League before joining Andy Reid’s coaching staff in Philadelphia as an intern in 2008. He was promoted twice with the Eagles before joining Reid in Kansas City as quarterbacks coach in 2013. 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. Rookie quarterback Patrick Mahomes, whom the Chiefs drafted eight slots after Trubisky, revealed his growth in a win at Denver in the season finale, a credit to the work of Nagy. Veteran Alex Smith enjoyed the best season of his career, throwing for 4,042 yards and 26 touchdowns.
There are many reasons why Nagy was considered a qualified head coaching candidate. The likes of John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera and Doug Pederson have been successful in hailing from Reid’s coaching tree. Hunt led the NFL in rushing while Hill and Kelce thrived as vertical threats. The growth of Smith and Mahomes was vital and came under Nagy’s watch.
What separated Nagy from the likes of Shurmur, McDaniels and DeFilippo remains to be seen, with Pace and the Bears set to unveil their next head coach at Halas Hall on Tuesday and put their cards on the table.
Pace wasted no time in a coaching search that was his to own, and he came away with Nagy as the Bears’ next leader.