Appearing on the Bears All-Access radio show Wednesday night, general manager Ryan Pace revealed that about halfway through his interview with Matt Nagy last Sunday, “I got a pretty strong feeling that this was going to be our next head coach.”
After finalizing the decision Monday, Pace detailed the qualities that led to that conclusion at Tuesday’s introductory press conference, citing Nagy’s leadership, intelligence, humility, character and passion for the game.
But another huge factor in choosing Nagy as the 16th head coach in Bears history was the 39-year-old’s unique background both as a quarterback in the Arena Football League and as a coach for 10 seasons under Andy Reid with the Eagles and Chiefs.
An All-American who set several school records at Delaware, Nagy starred in the Arena Football League, playing for the New York Dragons, Carolina Cobras, Georgia Force and Columbus Destroyers from 2002-08, passing for 374 touchdowns and 18,866 yards.
“When I was in New Orleans, the Saints also owned an Arena League team, so I was at a lot of those games and actually saw Matt play in some of those games,” Pace said on the Bears All-Access show. “I was able to talk to a lot of the people that were affiliated with that league and talk to them about Matt, even back to Matt as a player.
“They talked about his leadership and his intelligence as a player and all those traits. I think there are things even today that I’m sure Matt takes from those experiences, even as a play-caller and what he does on offense. The fact that he played quarterback and was a highly successful quarterback in college and in the AFL, that says something too.”
Nagy’s experience working for Reid in Philadelphia and Kansas City was also very enticing to Pace.
“When you talk to a coach like Andy Reid—obviously a highly-respected, highly-successful coach—it’s powerful to know how he feels about Matt,” Pace said. “He’s had a lot of head coaches come out of his staff and some of the things he says really resonate; they carry a lot of weight.
“I like the fact that it’s a mentor for Matt and Matt leans on him. He’s leaned on him throughout his career and obviously he’s influenced him. And I think that’s powerful to have somebody like that. You’ve got to have a blueprint coming into your job as a head coach.”
Six NFL head coaches have led their teams to the playoffs after serving as assistants under Reid: Brad Childress (Vikings), John Harbaugh (Ravens), Ron Rivera (Panthers), Leslie Frazier (Vikings), Doug Pederson (Eagles) and Sean McDermott (Bills).
“They’re so detailed in their preparation,” Pace said. “How they practice, how they execute, everything is dialed in, it’s really detailed, how they utilize all their personnel. When I think about Andy Reid and a lot of the coaches that have come out of there, it’s how adaptable they are.”
Pace appreciates Nagy’s willingness to tap into the knowledge of not only an experienced coach like Reid but others at various levels of the sport.
“What’s great about Matt is that he’s confident, but he’s also humble,” Pace said. “He’s willing to get ideas from anybody and always listening and always looking for ways to improve. And the one thing with Matt that stood out right from the beginning is the word authentic comes up a lot. He’s just going to be himself. I know I felt that right from the beginning. He doesn’t have a big ego. He’s very collaborative. And I feel like I’m the same way, so I think that works really well together.
“[He will] reach out for different ideas; reach in to college football for creative ideas, the Arena League for ideas. There are a lot of neat things you can do offensively and scheme things and maximize your personnel and that’s what Matt’s really good at.”