15 different men have roamed the sidelines for the Bears in their almost century of existence. 15 different personalities, football ideologies, and backgrounds. 15 different eras, short and drawn out, successful and forgettable, of Bears football. From “Papa Bear” George Halas on four separate occasions, to the old school (for his time) John Fox, it’s been a wild juxtaposition for this organization when it comes to it’s leader over the years.
As the Bears officially announced on Monday, former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy is now set to become the 16th head coach in franchise history. The latest in a line of names over decades looking to take Chicago back to the mountaintop, this time to hopeful avail. A fresh perspective, a modern framework, Nagy comes along looking to add luster as Bears head coach and eventually be revered as a legend: not universally admonished.
After the general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears officially introduce Nagy as the new head coach on Tuesday, there’s no wasting time for the 39-year-old. The framework and foundation of finishing a Bears contender begins immediately. Perhaps even as soon as he sets the tone with his opening statements to the gathered media, and by extension, a football city.
The work ahead for Nagy as Bears head coach won’t be easy in nature. A head coach is the face of a football organization and captain of not only 53 players but an overall Halas Hall attempting return to it’s esteemed charter standard.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid called Nagy the best head coaching prospect he’s ever had, which is quite the comparison when considering that high bar names such as John Harbaugh and Ron Rivera have also been Reid assistants in the past. Here are the immediate questions and (major) keys Nagy must account for in order to live up to lofty expectations as the Bears’ head man.
Mitchell Trubisky’s development
It doesn’t matter who the Bears would’ve hired as head coach. This organization’s immediate and long-term future is all tied to whatever ceiling Trubisky reaches as a quarterback. If the 23-year-old flames out as a bust or is average, anything else Nagy, Pace, and company will do will be forgotten. This team needs Trubisky to be a superstar. They need him to be the quarterback that can carry a franchise on his back and make up for roster deficiencies when they come along They need him to be tied to Nagy as a successful passer-head coach relationship for years.
In that respect, Chicago is off to a good start. By all reported accounts, Nagy was enamored with Trubisky during the 2017 NFL Draft process. The innovative offensive mind believed Trubisky was an elite talent that needed to be refined. The first step to any successful relationship is a mutual admiration.
During Nagy’s time in Kansas City, the Chiefs employed one of the more innovative professional offenses in football. This was an attack based on a lot of run-pass options, play action passes, and easy reads designed to get explosive players such as Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in space. All of out spread concepts.
This is what will allow Nagy to ideally get the best out of his young budding quarterback. It isn’t entirely the offense Trubisky once ran with North Carolina in college, but it does put his athleticism and accuracy constantly on display. Pieces such as Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, and Adam Shaheen should fit in seamlessly in comparison to such Chiefs’ dynamos such as Hill, Kelce, and Kareem Hunt. Familiarity breeds rejuvenation and a flourish of comfort that may serve Trubisky well under Nagy.
Nagy also once played quarterback, albeit at mostly an Arena Football League level, which is the relationship you want for coaches and quarterbacks. Helping a passer make the leap is understandably accelerated when the lead coach played the position and sees where he’s coming from.
It’s crucial both guys in Nagy and Trubisky get on the same page to implement this offense from the get-go. The future of the Bears hangs in the balance. No big deal.
An established coaching staff
Aside from Trubisky’s malleability, the other concern with Nagy and other younger coaching prospects was what kind of staff he’d put together. Who are his connections in the league? Who will he pick as quarterback coach and bring to set the defense into place?
The staff Nagy pieces in Chicago is arguably on level of importance of his own individual hire.
Luckily, his mentor Reid - he of the expansive coaching tree across the NFL - has been around enough to help some of his former understudies in this regard. Reid, someone who is known to assist guys who have coached under him in their first head coaching opportunities, most recently helped the Eagles’ Doug Pedersen create his dynamic staff in Philadelphia. Initial word is that Nagy will receive the same helping hand to go along with his own initiative in creating a similar pillar of leadership and tutelage with the Bears. No one can ever say Reid doesn’t do his part to grow the game.
Now, the elephant in the room is obviously genius defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s status. Fangio is one of the game’s best defensive minds and his employment with the Bears has been rumored to be up in the air for awhile.
For most of this coaching search process conducted by Pace, however, there has been belief that the 59-year-old is indeed open to returning to Chicago. It’s also been stated that Nagy would love to bring back Fangio, for continuity’s sake. The Bears have a talented defensive core that is seemingly one year away from truly being an elite, winning unit. A lot of that credit goes to Fangio.
And in that light, retaining someone like Fangio clearly makes a first time head coach’s job that much easier, as he only has to worry about his offensive ideals.
This will come down to whatever Fangio wants, though, as he’ll be 60 by the start of next season, and may now entrench himself as a career defensive coordinator with whom he chooses. He would be a hot commodity should he hit the open market for quick defensive turnarounds (hello Green Bay!). At any rate, keeping Fangio would do wonders to alleviate pressure on Nagy, but the Bears must be ready to jump with whatever their Plan B is.
Needless to say, these are only the starting points of concerns for Nagy as Bears head coach. As the off-season unfolds and we get to the season opener in September, plenty more will come onto the heavy plate of the bright offensive mind. Staring franchise history in the face, he better be prepared.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron, and contributor to The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.