Nagy Ready To Be Defined By What Lies Ahead

Amid a 3-1 start, Nagy won't have to look far for a cautionary tale.

Chris Emma
October 10, 2018 - 3:39 pm
Bears coach Matt Nagy

Quinn Harris/USA Today Sports


LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- The cool comfort that Matt Nagy carries in every step of his young Bears coaching tenure is no coincidence. 

For these Bears players, it's a guiding light forward. For the 40-year-old Nagy, a rookie head coach, it's living and working the mantra he brought to this team: Be You. With that, early success has followed for the Bears (3-1), who currently occupy first place in the NFC North.

"Coach Nagy just seems like he's so in control," quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. "Everyone just vibes off his passion and energy that he brings throughout the building. He just knows exactly how he wants to run this thing, and we just keep building together as a team. 

"It's a good thing brewing. He's done an awesome job. We love playing for him."

Four games into this regular season, the Bears have received the instant boost they hoped from Nagy -- in the form of scheme and structure, plus the beginning of a budding culture. Whether it will last remains to be seen. It's up to the Bears in building from their young foundation.

The Bears used their season-opening loss to the Packers -- all the heartbreak in the postgame locker room after losing a 20-0 lead at Lambeau Field -- and responded from it the way that Nagy had hoped. He was ready for adversity early in his tenure, and it hit right away.

For a coach with big plans, Nagy found that he, too, had to grow from that. His play-calling deserved criticism in the same way cornerback Kyle Fuller did for dropping that interception late. Since then, the Bears have reeled off three straight wins and are trending the right way.

"It mentally toughened us up a little bit," Nagy said.

The challenge for a newcomer in Nagy's position is learning to be adaptable. Young position coaches become coordinators and find their place as a head coach by learning in a certain way, but the NFL never goes according to plan. Only the greats like Patriots coach Bill Belichick can get away with touches of arrogance.

Nagy's greatest adjustment came in September as the Bears were winning despite the play of their scuffling offense. He could sense the 24-year-old Trubisky was overwhelmed by the language, the assignments and the basics, and his play was affected. 

Nagy came back after three games ready to relate the offense in a more simplified manner, and everyone became more loose. Trubisky responded by throwing six touchdown passes in the 48-10 win over the Buccaneers on Sept. 30. The targets looked more comfortable in their routes, and Trubisky kept finding them. It all worked by Nagy catering to them.

"He comes with great energy every day, tries new things and just believes in the players that he has," center Cody Whitehair said of Nagy.

"He's obviously bringing what meets our needs." 

Nagy arrived in Chicago this past January prepared for this opportunity by Chiefs coach Andy Reid, a veteran of the peaks and valleys this business brings. An open mind was a hallmark of Nagy, who leans on his coaching staff and players along the way.

The prized coaching prospect of several years ago, Adam Gase has experienced plenty since leaving the role as Bears offensive coordinator in January 2016 and taking the job as Dolphins head coach. Gase's team started 1-4 in his first season but responded by finishing 10-6 and reaching the playoffs. 

Last season, the Dolphins lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and Gase was forced to move for a player he trusted in Jay Cutler. Early last October, his veteran offensive line coach, Chris Foerster, was found in a video snorting cocaine in the team's facilities. That team would finish 6-10.

Gase has seen everything from a video being released just before the NFL Draft of first-round pick in Laremy Tunsil wearing a gas mask and smoking to being uprooted from Miami to Los Angeles by a hurricane. Gase's fate may rest in maximizing Tannehill, a first-round pick in 2012. The challenges have been great, if not constant.

Gase, 40, got his start under the watchful eye of Nick Saban at Michigan State and LSU, oversaw the return of Peyton Manning in Denver and arrived in Miami by way of Chicago confident in his abilities. Then the adversity that all coaches encounter hit.

"You learn that you don’t know everything," Rams coach Sean McVay said this past offseason. "It’s always a consistent approach of trying to get better, listening and learning from everybody else, and then that will help you become a better leader. It’s all about the people, and we got great people around."

Added Gase: "The less things that are coming at you that you don't have to directly deal with and guys can handle on their own, that's a very helpful thing to have."

Gase turned to another trusted colleague from Chicago in Dowell Loggains as offensive coordinator after moving Clyde Christensen out of his position. He has continuity with third-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke and many others on his staff. That will all be of benefit as Gase operates on the hot seat in his third season.

Nagy's Bears have enjoyed their early success, sitting atop the division with a renewed vibe inside Halas Hall being felt each day. But they know adversity can strike at any turn, perhaps Sunday in Miami as the Bears meet Gase's Dolphins for a tough road test.

Just as it seems the Bears are trending upward, the expectations are rising too. Chicago believes it has a playoff team and wants to see this season through to January. Getting there will be difficult.

Progress is never linear, and it's something Nagy knows. 

"You can talk about it, you can say what you want to be, it can sound really good," Nagy said. "But then the belief starts happening and the trust starts happening when you play these games and the adversity strikes."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.​​