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Bears GM convinced Nagy is right coach
Ultimately, it mattered more to Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace how Matt Nagy could make the team more competitive than how Nagy's former team failed to hang onto a 21-3 lead in the NFL playoffs.
Pace made Nagy the 16th Chicago Bears head coach after a whirlwind, weeklong search, and Nagy came to Halas Hall on Tuesday for the first time.
"To me, it was very conclusive at the end," Pace said. "And that was a great feeling, to be able to have so much conviction in this decision because of everything that we've done and the process that we've gone through.
"It's just a really exciting moment."
On Saturday, the 39-year-old Nagy went through the disappointment of a 22-21 playoff loss to Tennessee, then interviewed from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday with Pace and Bears officials before having dinner later with them.
A strong bond between Pace and Nagy quickly developed after the Bears had already interviewed Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator George Edwards, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.
"We just had a conversation amongst the two of us, and you just kind of knew that this could be really good," Nagy said. "Again, I'm going to be right there by his hip. I got his back. I'm going to support him in every way possible.
"And it was mutual. It was reciprocated; that's what was reciprocated to me. And when you have that it's a beautiful thing."
While still with Kansas City, Nagy also built a strong connection with Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky during the predraft process. He met with Trubisky for six hours then, and during his interview for the Bears job he brought out notes of that meeting.
"Just because he had a connection with Mitch or he valued Mitch, it was bigger than that," Pace said about the hiring. "It was more about him as leader and visualizing him in front of our entire organization, which was pretty easy to do as we got into it."
A real estate salesman only nine years ago and an NFL offensive coordinator for only one season, Nagy has called plays in only six games. One of those games was Saturday's playoff loss when the Chiefs suffered their second-half meltdown.
"I called every single play in the second half," Nagy said. "Again, that there was a learning situation for me. I've gone back and looked at it. There are scenarios where I wish I would've made some different choices with the play-call. For me, that was a failure in my book.
"But I'll grow from it, and I'll learn from it, I promise you that, and I'll use it as a strength here for me with the Chicago Bears."
Nagy's lack of experience seemed to be no obstacle for Pace, who was inexperienced himself when he was hired in 2015. Nagy called it all just part of the process.
"I never knew how being an offensive coordinator was going to go until I did it and I never knew how being a quarterbacks coach was going to go until I did it," Nagy said. "So, this will be a new opportunity for me and it'll be a challenge."
Pace liked certain aspects of Kansas City's offense, and said he could see them occurring in Chicago.
"I think when you watch Kansas City a lot of the creative things they did that were a little outside the box how they used their personnel, how they would change up their tempo, things like that," Pace said. "There were a number of things that caught my eye.
"They were balanced, for the most part. And you could feel his aggressiveness, I think. Those were all positive traits."
Nagy plans to call plays himself for the Bears, so his first big decision will be on whether they can persuade Fangio to return to Chicago as defensive coordinator. The Bears were ninth in scoring defense under Fangio and 10th overall, but Fangio also has interest from Green Bay, and his contract expired on Tuesday.
"We all are aware of that situation and that's a very important hire for me, but there's a lot of things that go into that decision," Nagy said. "And Vic and I have talked. We understand that. We understand the situation."
Meanwhile, Nagy called his new job a "dream" during his official introduction as the head coach of the Bears.
"I'm still pinching myself. Everything happened really fast," said Nagy, who was named the 16th head coach in franchise history one day earlier, succeeding John Fox.
The 39-year-old Nagy arrives in the Windy City after spending five years with the Kansas City Chiefs, serving as offensive coordinator this past season.
A former Arena Football League player who previously served as an assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles from 2008-2012, Nagy said he plans to call the plays himself in his first head coaching job.
"I'm so fired up, when this is done, to get into football and dig into it and just start attacking it," said Nagy.
While the Chiefs finished sixth in points (25.9) and fifth in total offense (375.4 yards) in 2017, Nagy inherits a Chicago offense that ranked 29th in points (16.5) and 30th in total offense (287.4).
Nagy said he is eager to work with young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, but he said that wasn't the only factor in taking the job.
"This is a team game and everyone on this team is just as important as the quarterback. That was just a part," said Nagy.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace acknowledged that his belief in Nagy was reinforced by the feelings of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who also had Nagy on his staff in Philadelphia.
"We set out to find the best leader for our franchise. Period," said Pace. "We knew exactly what we were looking for in our head coach."
Chicago posted marks of 6-10, 3-13 and 5-11 in Fox's three seasons. In 2017, the Bears were 0-6 vs. the NFC North, marking the franchise's first winless season in their division in nearly 50 years.
So Nagy knows what he is up against, but said he is both capable and ready to embrace the challenge.
"I have a command, I feel like, in the room. You never know exactly how it's going to go until you do it," Nagy said. "I'm going to grow."
It was supposed to be Mike Glennon's year at quarterback for the Bears.
Instead, it became a year of development for rookie Mitchell Trubisky, and one of losing for former head coach John Fox - first games and then his job.
The Bears move into the offseason focused on finding more talent to complement their young passer after hiring former Kansas Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy as head coach.
"I think we have a lot of attractive things about our job, and I think it starts with a 23-year-old quarterback that we all feel good about," general manager Ryan Pace said.
Trubisky finished his first season with a 77.5 passer rating and more passing yards (2,193) than any rookie quarterback in Bears history. They are hoping Trubisky makes a jump like Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who had a 63.6 rookie passer rating and 100.5 rating this season.
Playing without injured receivers Cameron Meredith and Kevin White, and for half the season without tight end Zach Miller. held back Trubisky.
The league's worst passing attack and an offense ranked No. 30 dragged down a stout defense in a 5-11 season.
"I feel good that I just got more comfortable," Trubisky said. "More comfortable as the weeks went on to play my game, and be a leader of this team, and help our offense grow and get better."
It was comfort gained through experience, after he made only 13 collegiate starts. In the future, they will need more than learning.
"We're looking for success right now," Pace said. "We need to win more games."
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Bears never attained the status of an elite defense, but they were very good. Only the lack of interceptions kept them from being dominant. They had only eight interceptions for a third straight year, matching a team-record low. But they still finished ninth in points allowed as Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman shut down rushing attacks even when linebacker Danny Trevathan was out injured or suspended. The pass rush had 42 sacks, their most since 2001, and did it despite going without their top three outside pass rushers for extended periods. Running back Tarik Cohen's addition to the offense provided another dimension and a counter punch to Jordan Howard, although it seemed there wasn't always a solid plan for using this new weapon. Finally, Trubisky's rookie season led to mixed results. But he did make 12 more starts than management and coaches expected. As a result, he is ahead of the original plan.
WHAT WENT WRONG: The passing game never recovered after it was geared entirely to Glennon and then changed to a different type of quarterback after four games. A familiar scenario bogged down the Bears when 16 players wound up on injured reserve. They had lost 19 the previous year. Digging deep into the bench prevented big plays on offense. On defense, it led to long drives by opponents. The injuries affected their offense most, as Trubisky not only had to overcome his inexperience, but also a lack of timing with receivers. The end result was few big gainers. The Bears had only 13 passes for 25 yards or longer to 22 by opponents. They couldn't adjust when trailing, as they went 0-9 when opponents scored first this season, and 1-16 in offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains' two seasons. When they lost the turnover battle the last two seasons, they couldn't compensate and went 1-16. Injuries contributed greatly to the running game's inconsistency. They had more negative runs than any team, yet finished 16th in rushing.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: In four starts, Glennon generated nearly as much frustration as predecessor Jay Cutler did over nine seasons. Glennon reacted slowly, moved slower and was way too quick to dump off the ball underneath coverage. Over a three-game stretch he became a turnover machine even while he was refusing to push the ball downfield. So Trubisky faced a good situation when he took over at quarterback, simply because it was going to be difficult to look more overmatched than Glennon. It's hard to see what Pace ever saw in Glennon.
MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Cornerback Kyle Fuller was all but out the Halas Hall door after a knee injury sidelined him all last season. Considering that and an unimpressive second season in 2015, the Bears didn't pick up Fuller's fifth-year option and now it's going to backfire as he will be a free agent. Fuller had the classic breakthrough year. Offenses tried to avoid Prince Amukamara to attack Fuller and rarely succeeded. Fuller finished with 22 passes defended, 15 more than any other Bear. He tied for the team high with two interceptions and showed a physical side never before seen, as he tied for the team high with 60 unassisted tackles.
ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Vic Fangio can pretty much name his defensive coordinator job after his group's production this season, and it ended up that new head coach Matt Nagy brought him back. Fangio guided the Bears to 10th in yardage allowed and ninth in scoring even though they were on the field longer than all but four other defenses. They plugged in reserves after injuries, and rarely saw a big dropoff. It was like what Pat Shurmur did with Minnesota's offense. Their low three-year total of 24 interceptions under Fangio reflected talent shortage more than scheme.
On the day of head coach John Fox's firing, Bears ownership doubled down on general manager Ryan Pace with a contract extension through 2021.
"We've seen some results in terms of player development and relying primarily on the draft for that development," Bears board chairman George McCaskey said. "We just hadn't seen those results on the field in wins."
A record of 14-34 and three straight last-place finishes under Fox led to the coaching decision, which Pace said he made on Sunday night following the season-ending 23-10 loss to the Vikings.
"(Fox) helped set the foundation for this organization to go to new heights," Pace said. "However, in the end, where we stand today the results on the field over the last three seasons simply isn't good enough."
Pace acknowledged his part in the team's dismal on-field record.
"I need to point the finger at myself, as well," Pace said. "Our record is a reflection on me, as well.
"But I feel good about where we're at right now. I feel much better with where we're at right now than this time last year and that starts with the quarterback position."
It was Pace who signed veteran Mike Glennon and paid him $16 million in guaranteed money before last season while also trading up to second in the draft to take Mitchell Trubisky. Pace's plan wasn't to play Trubisky, but when Glennon bombed completely it became necessary to use the rookie.
"With the quarterback position, I have no regrets in us being aggressive in attacking that position," Pace said. "It's that important. We all felt confident in Mike and sometimes in our business, things don't work out. There's a lot of factors involved.
"But fortunately for us, being aggressive at that position, in essence we took two swings. Not just Mike, but the progress of Mitch and how well he played. We felt he was ready to take on the challenge, he did and I think he'll benefit from that."
The Bears won four games in Trubisky's 12 starts while he posted a 77.5 passer rating. The desire is to build more around Trubisky in terms of talent and the coaching staff.
Fox was not available at Halas Hall and the team released a statement they said he made: "Thank you to all the players, coaches, the city of Chicago and Bears fans everywhere, your passion for the game and this team is unmatched in the NFL. Today is the tough part of our results-oriented business but I wish the Bears organization the best for years to come."
Players called it an emotional day. They pointed to circumstances beyond Fox's control to explain the losing record over the past three seasons. Key among them were injuries, particularly this year to wide receivers Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, and pass rushers Willie Young and Leonard Floyd.
"If you don't have your first core of guys, even though we were in games this year without our core guys when I say core guys I mean like our starting lineup, like Kevin and Cam and Willie got hurt and then Leonard got hurt, we were still in games, we were able to compete," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "But anytime you don't have your initial starters it is tough to win."
Fox was always considered a players' coach, and his players continue to find value in three seasons regardless of the record.
"I think he built a foundation," linebacker Sam Acho said. "I think the success that he had here, we're not going to see until later."