“Who is Matt Nagy?” A question many Bears fans are still asking themselves, just days after his hire was made official. Many people, myself included, scoured the internet and various medias to do research on a relatively new coach. Where his name was not as recognized as some of Andy Reid’s other disciples, he has carved himself a most interesting path for his career.
During his press conference, Nagy admitted to having a childhood dream of being a part of the NFL, in any capacity possible. He also admitted to having a desire to play as a professional QB, which is certainly no easy task to achieve. Despite not playing a single snap in the pros, he’s earned himself a key role at this point in his young career. That role, is non other than being the head coach of the Chicago Bears.
Let us take a journey through time, and see what Nagy has done to land himself a job with the NFL’s founding franchise.
Born in Dunellen, New Jersey, his life would eventually take him to Manheim, Pennsylvania. He attended and played football at Manheim Central High School under then head coach Mike Williams. While he grew into the star QB for the Barons, Nagy led his team to consecutive state semi-finals through the 1994 and 1995 seasons. He also transformed himself into a leader, and his former Head Coach had this to say about him in a recent interview with Lancasteronline.
Today, Williams says Nagy “could be the player I’m fondest of in my entire coaching career.” - Mike Williams
Dan Kreider, the former FB of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Super Bowl XL Champion, was one of Nagy’s teammates. He definitely believes that Matt Nagy has what it takes to be a successful coach, as from the same article, he was quoted with the following statements.
“Having a coach who can relate to a player well … you make connections quicker, you solve problems quicker, you coach him up quicker,” said Dan Kreider, a former Steelers fullback. “The business is about winning, and he’s going to take the steps necessary to put guys in the right positions, and that’s what it comes down to.”
From Kreider’s viewpoint, Nagy’s already shown such skills in his five years under Andy Reid in Kansas City. In fact, Nagy generated headlines over the last five weeks, after Reid gave him playcalling duties. The Chiefs won their last four games to finish 10-6, and entered Saturday’s wild-card game against Tennessee with a division title and a head of steam.
“That says a lot about Matt,” Kreider said, “to have a head coach who’s an offensive-minded guy say, ‘Here’s the plays.’ ” - Dan Kreider
Of course, Nagy brought his days from Manheim up in an interesting fashion, when he mentioned that Bears Chairman George McCaskey referenced McCaskey High as a member of their division. Yes, there is indeed a McCaskey High, J.P. McCaskey High to be exact. That institution was founded in Lancaster by John Piersol McCaskey in 1938, where it still exists to this day.
Following Matt’s time at Manheim, he was offered a full scholarship to play QB at the University of Delaware.
It almost seems befitting that a player like Nagy, who made plenty of magic happen at Manheim, would continue such a level of play with Delaware.
As the QB of the Fightin’ Blue Hens, he was coached by the legendary Tubby Reymond. Reymond is one of a few head coaches to ever reach 300 wins in their careers, having spent 36 years with Delaware. Nagy’s playing career began in 1997 after red-shirting his freshman season, a season that ended with an impressive 12-2 record. He would compile a record of 38-12 as their starting QB.
In addition to his rock-solid win/loss record, Matt Nagy owns several passing records for the Hens. During his final season at Delaware, Nagy was named an All-American, becoming the first player from UD since former NFL MVP Rich Gannon to receive such honors. If his play wasn’t enough, his former teammates loved him to death. He also played football with the current GM of the Kansas City Chiefs, Brett Veach. Delaware Online has a great article detailing his time with the program.
“He’s really one of the most fierce competitors I’ve ever been around. He’s gonna do what it takes. He’s gonna demand everyone around him to do their best. And he’s gonna want to win. What he has is contagious, and he’s fun. He’s gonna do a great job.” - Conti, as quoted by Kevin Tresolini
Alas, he was not destined to be drafted by the NFL as a player. Instead, he would pursue a career with the Arena Football League, where he’d continue to create a unique story for himself.
Arena Football League Madness
Dragons, Cobras, Destroyers; these are just some of the names for franchises within the former AFL. Like the Canadian Football League — home to one Marc Trestman — and the now-extinct NFL Europe, the Arena Football League certainly has a unique flavor of its own. Despite playing on a field half the size of a standard NFL surface, you will see some gaudy numbers with their QBs.
Nagy is no exception to this idea. From 2002 through 2008, he would play for the following teams: New York Dragons (2002); Carolina Cobras (2004); Georgia Force (2005-2006); and the Columbus Destroyers (2007-2008). His statline: 374 TDs to 55 Ints (an absurd 6-1 ratio); 18,866 yards; and a passer rating of 115.11. He led the Destroyers to ArenaBowl XXI in 2007, but lost to the San Jose SabreCats. The AFL closed it’s doors in 2009, but re-opened in 2010.
Given that the AFL played at a different time of the year than any of the other leagues, Nagy used this scheduling as an opportunity to begin a career with coaching. Sure enough, his efforts here would begin his final approach to his lifelong dreams.
Coaching Career - High School
Overall, his time at the high school level was very brief. He began his coaching career with Cedar Crest High School in 2002, which is located in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. From 2002 through 2003, he served as their QB coach and as their JV head coach.
Matt would also return for a brief stint as an assistant at Manheim High, the very place his story would take off.
After his final season with the Destroyers in 2008, Matt received his long-awaited opportunity. Andy Reid hired Nagy as an intern to his staff, and the rest is history.
Coaching Career - NFL
Finally, his moment has arrived. He’s earned his ticket into the National Football League. His first season as an intern in the pros was spent as a quality control coach for, wait for it: offense, defense, AND special teams. I, personally, felt interning as an assistant to any side of the ball was plenty of work by itself. Yet Nagy handled responsibilities for all three of Reid’s coordinators.
In 2009, he was promoted as an assistant to Marty Mornhinweg, before he was signed to the practice squad at QB. He was signed because Kevin Kolb was injured during practice. However, the NFL voided the contract since Nagy was also under contract as a player with the AFL. He returned to his duties as an intern-assistant, and he focused on the QB position.
2010 arrived, and with it another promotion. All his hard work earned him a spot with the permanent staff for the Eagles as a coaching assistant before becoming a full-time assistant on offense in 2011. He would serve with the Eagle’s staff until 2012 when Andy Reid was dismissed following a 4-12 season.
He wouldn’t be out of work for long. Immediately after Reid was introduced as the Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach in the 2013 offseason, he hired Nagy as his QB coach. His primary responsibility, was to help maximize “his guy” Alex Smith’s talents to reforming his career. Efforts paid off instantly, with Smith earning his first career nomination to the Pro Bowl in 2013. He continued his role as the QB coach until the end of the 2015 season.
Once again, Nagy found himself promoted by Andy Reid. This time, he earned himself the title as Co-Offensive Coordinator alongside the veteran Brad Childress. Where neither of them called plays during the 2016 season, Nagy was instrumental in organizing the daily meetings for his players on offense. He continued to monitor the QB position closely, and Alex Smith was named to another Pro Bowl following the 2016 season.
After assuming sole ownership of the OC title for the Chiefs, they would start the 2017 season off in a blazing fashion. Kareem Hunt began his rookie season with a pace headed towards 2,000 rushing yards. Travis Kelce continued his emergence in the NFL as an elite TE. Alex Smith looked fantastic, and former kick returner Tyreek Hill started to develop as a top receiver. Yet, the Chiefs would begin to stall out midway through the regular season. Up to that point, Nagy still hadn’t called plays.
In the 2017 season, he would experience a potentially career-defining moment.
The Chiefs fell to 6-5 after eleven weeks into the regular season. They went from scoring a whopping 32.8 points in the first five games, to just 18 per game through the next six weeks. Meanwhile, the rest of the AFC West began to battle back, and suddenly they were in jeopardy of losing control of their destiny. A decision was made; Andy Reid delegated all playcalling responsibilities to Matt Nagy. He is the only OC in Andy Reid’s career to have confirmed playcalling responsibilities.
From that moment forward, the Chiefs regained their footing on offense. Scoring jumped from 18 points a game, to over 28 points a game. They would finish with a record of 4-1 while Nagy was calling plays.
The Chiefs also became just the second team in NFL history to feature the following: 4,000+ yard QB (Alex Smith); 1,000+ yard RB (Kareem Hunt); 1,000+ yard WR (Tyreek Hill); and a 1,000+ yard TE (Travis Kelce) in the same season. Their total stats would finish ranked 6th in points per game; 5th in total yards per game; 7th in passing yards per game; and 9th in rushing yards per game. Needless to say, Nagy had a ton of success in his first opportunity as a playcaller.
Unfortunately, the Chiefs saw an early end to their run for the Super Bowl. An 18-point lead was blown in last weekend’s playoff loss to the Titans, the second such loss in Reid’s career. Plenty of fans were infuriated with the loss, and Nagy admitted to feeling numb.
Times looked uncertain for Matt Nagy, but a rare opportunity arrived. Prior to their playoff game, Bears GM Ryan Pace had taken notice of Nagy’s performance this season. The Bears scheduled an interview with Matt Nagy on January 7th, the earliest possible date given the NFL’s interviews-related policy.
After watching the playoff game from their hotel rooms, the contingent of Pace, Bears Team President Ted Phillips, and George McCaskey reached out to Nagy. They offered him time for himself, and an opportunity to reschedule the interview after such a tough loss. When Matt Nagy received that message through his agent, he felt that was his sign to take the interview ASAP.
Emboldened, he pressed forward with the scheduled interview. With 15 pages of questions and over 25 references in hand, Ryan Pace met with Matt Nagy to discuss the head coaching position of the Chicago Bears. As Nagy mentioned in the opening to his presser, this was meant to be.
On January 8th, 2018, Matt Nagy was hired as the Bears’ 16th head coach in franchise history. This comes off the heals of yet another disappointing hire in John Fox, who was fired New Years Day following a 14-34 career in Chicago. People demanded a change, and in one short week Pace made his choice. It’s widely believed that Nagy was the top choice for the Indianapolis Colts’ job. Knowing this, Pace made an effort to put pen-to-paper before Jim Irsay could wave the dollar bills in person.
Right away, Matt Nagy distinguished himself from his predecessors. It wasn’t just John Fox, he truly shined over Marc Trestman, and even came out of Lovie Smith’s shadow with his debut to the Chicago media. I’m sure he was absolutely excited to finally get his chance, and he displayed himself as a natural guy in a professional setting. No more awkwardness and grunting behind the mike. No more dancing around certain questions or comments. He welcomed all, and greeted all, with candid motivation and grace.
Expectations are immediate and big. He will be tasked with developing one Mitchell Trubisky into the Bears’ franchise QB. He will be challenged to transform the offense, and win games in short order. He will be confronted with questions about his methods, to which he’s already answered in full honesty. When asked about the debacle this past weekend, he didn’t sugar coat anything. He didn’t dodge or fluff up the story; he accepted full accountability for his actions. And that, quite frankly, is perhaps the most refreshing change in Chicago.
What happens between now, and three years later, is anyone’s guess. As a fan of the game and a person of similar aspirations myself, I salute Nagy for all his efforts to reach this point. He’s already inspired and won me over, and I’m sure fans are quickly falling-in to support their new coach. If it’s worth anything, this endorsement from Andy Reid might be the biggest reason to be excited.
“Andy Reid told me that Matt Nagy is the best head-coaching candidate he’s ever had,” Caplan said. “He told me that at the owner’s meetings. I just happened to ask him who some candidates are on his roster of coaches and he loves Matt Nagy, who he had in Philly.” - Adam Caplan
The Matt Nagy era has officially begun in Chicago. Let us all watch, and see where this football life of his advances in the near future.