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Bears HC Matt Nagy wins AP NFL Coach of the Year

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This marks the second consecutive season where a first-year head coach has won the award.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Matt Nagy led the Bears to a 12-4 season in his first year as a head coach, earning him AP NFL Coach of the Year honors.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

This season, Matt Nagy did something that had not been done in years: he made the Chicago Bears dangerous again.

The first-year head coach of the Bears was named the 2018 AP NFL Coach of the Year at the NFL Honors award show on Saturday. He received 24 of 50 votes to win the award, with other notable vote-getters including Anthony Lynn of the Chargers (10), Frank Reich of the Colts (8) and Nagy’s mentor, Andy Reid of the Chiefs (5). Nagy now joins the likes of George Halas, Mike Ditka, Dick Jauron and Lovie Smith as Bears coaches who have won the award.

Nagy, 40, was hired by the Bears on January 8, 2018 after the franchise suffered its fourth consecutive last-place finish in the NFC North. With an aggressive offseason that filled nearly every one of their needs to perfection, Chicago underwent a transformation, both on and off the field.

The Bears finished the 2018 season with a 12-4 record, winning nine of their last 10 regular season games en route to their first division title since 2010. Under Nagy’s watch, they went 5-1 in NFC North matchups, their first winning season against divisional rivals in eight years.

Chicago’s offense saw a major turnaround with Nagy at the helm. After finishing 30th in the league in points per game in 2017, they placed ninth this past season. Mitchell Trubisky made considerable improvements in his sophomore season, improving his completion percentage, passer rating, yardage total and touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The likes of Taylor Gabriel, Tarik Cohen and Trey Burton all had the most productive seasons of their respective careers, while players like Allen Robinson, Jordan Howard and Anthony Miller all made sizable contributions to the team. The Bears’ offensive line also had a great season, allowing just 33 sacks and finishing as Football Outsiders’ seventh-best pass blocking offensive line. Cody Whitehair and Charles Leno Jr. both made Pro Bowl appearances as alternates, Bobby Massie had the best season of his tenure with the Bears, and James Daniels put together an impressive rookie campaign.

Defensively, the Bears were nearly unstoppable. They led the league in takeaways (36) and allowed the fewest points per game (17.7), and allowed the third-fewest yards per game (299.7). Football Outsiders ranked them as their best defense in the league, finishing first as a pass defense and second as a run defense.

Chicago had eight players named to the Pro Bowl and four named All-Pros, a testament as to how good they were in 2018. But it wasn’t just their on-the-field success that defined Nagy’s first year as their head coach; rather, the positive culture and attitude established in the locker room shows how big of an impact he made this year.

From their viral ‘Club Dub’ post-victory celebrations to their numerous touchdown celebrations, the Bears established an identity for the first time in years. Nagy’s post-game speeches - often ending in his trademark ‘boom!’ - displayed his passion and energy for the game of football, and that vibe was contagious, as made evident by his players’ attitudes.

Though their season ended prematurely with a loss in the wild card round to the Philadelphia Eagles, what Nagy did in his first year as the Bears’ head coach was remarkable. With the level of talent and camaraderie they have, the future is bright in Chicago.