By Greg Gabriel–
(670 The Score) Six weeks ago, the name Matt Nagy was one few Bears fans knew. On Monday, he was named the 16th head coach in franchise history.
So just who is Nagy?
Nagy, 39, has only been a full-time coach in the NFL for eight seasons, which isn’t long at all for someone becoming a head coach. There’s a reason for that, as Nagy had a long, successful career in the Arena Football League throwing for more than 18,000 yards and 374 touchdowns.
By the nature, quarterback is a leadership-driven position. Throughout his career, Nagy has shown excellent leadership traits. When his playing career ended, he spent time as both a high school coach and then as an intern for the Philadelphia Eagles. His work as a coaching intern earned him a spot on Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia, first an offensive assistant and then a quality control coach.
When Reid left left for Kansas City in 2013, Nagy followed and was named the quarterback coach, a position he held through the 2015 season. In 2016, he was named co-offensive coordinator along with Brad Childress before taking over that role full-time in 2017.
The Chiefs were sixth in the NFL in total offense, averaging 375.4 yards per game, which was 88 more than the Bears averaged. One tactic Kansas City used was incorporating run-pass options into its offense. RPOs have been successful in the spread game of college football for several years, but few NFL were using them before 2017.
For an RPO-reliant offense to work in the NFL, a team must have an athletic quarterback. The Chiefs had that in Alex Smith. The Bears also have that in Mitchell Trubisky, who has experience in an RPO-based offense at North Carolina.
One of the reasons that the Bears hired Nagy was his vision for what Trubisky could be. Nagy did extensive scouting work on Trubisky ahead of the draft last April and came away believing Trubisky had franchise quarterback talent. Now he has the opportunity to develop Trubisky into just that.
Beyond his vision for Trubisky, Nagy’s work in Kansas City was strong. Most of Smith’s best numbers came after he started working with Nagy. Smith threw for an average of 3, 521 yards annually over the last five seasons, with 102 touchdowns, 33 interceptions and 65.1 completion percentage. He had a career-best 104.7 passer rating in 2017.
Reid has long been the primary play-caller for his teams, but he put more trust in Nagy than anyone else. After 11 games in 2017, he gave Nagy full-time play-calling duties, and the Chiefs took off in averaging 28.6 and going 4-1 in December. Those were much better numbers than they’d registered earlier in the season.
Much is made every year in the coach hiring cycle about those from the Bill Belichick tree. But seldom has a Belichick disciple had sustained success as a head coach. On the flip side, Reid’s disciples have often had great success, including the likes of Ravens coach John Harbaugh, Panthers coach Ron Rivera, Bills coach Sean McDermott and Eagles coach Doug Pederson.
Harbaugh has won a Super Bowl in Baltimore, and Rivera has taken Carolina there. McDermott just led Buffalo to the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season, and Philadelphia has the No. 1 seed in the NFC. It all goes to show how well coaches brought up under Reid prepare.
Will Nagy be a successful coach in Chicago? No one knows that answer right now. His first order of business is to assemble a coaching staff, and his initial success or lack thereof could well be tied to how strong of a staff he builds. So we’ll watch that closely in the coming weeks.
Until then, there’s reason for optimism for Bears with a bright young mind leading the way.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who’s an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.