Bears GM Pace convinced he has right coach

The Sports Xchange

January 09, 2018 at 2:51 pm.

Jan 9, 2018; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy speaks during the press conference at Halas Hall. Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 9, 2018; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy speaks during the press conference at Halas Hall. Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Ultimately, it mattered more to Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace how Matt Nagy could make the team more competitive than how Nagy’s former team failed to hang onto a 21-3 lead in the NFL playoffs.

Pace made Nagy the 16th Chicago Bears head coach after a whirlwind, weeklong search, and Nagy came to Halas Hall on Tuesday for the first time.

“To me, it was very conclusive at the end,” Pace said. “And that was a great feeling, to be able to have so much conviction in this decision because of everything that we’ve done and the process that we’ve gone through.

“It’s just a really exciting moment.”

On Saturday, the 39-year-old Nagy went through the disappointment of a 22-21 playoff loss to Tennessee, then interviewed from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday with Pace and Bears officials before having dinner later with them.

A strong bond between Pace and Nagy quickly developed after the Bears had already interviewed Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator George Edwards, New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo.

“We just had a conversation amongst the two of us, and you just kind of knew that this could be really good,” Nagy said. “Again, I’m going to be right there by his hip. I got his back. I’m going to support him in every way possible.

“And it was mutual. It was reciprocated; that’s what was reciprocated to me. And when you have that it’s a beautiful thing.”

While still with Kansas City, Nagy also built a strong connection with Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky during the predraft process. He met with Trubisky for six hours then, and during his interview for the Bears job he brought out notes of that meeting.

“Just because he had a connection with Mitch or he valued Mitch, it was bigger than that,” Pace said about the hiring. “It was more about him as leader and visualizing him in front of our entire organization, which was pretty easy to do as we got into it.”

A real estate salesman only nine years ago and an NFL offensive coordinator for only one season, Nagy has called plays in only six games. One of those games was Saturday’s playoff loss when the Chiefs suffered their second-half meltdown.

“I called every single play in the second half,” Nagy said. “Again, that there was a learning situation for me. I’ve gone back and looked at it. There are scenarios where I wish I would’ve made some different choices with the play call. For me, that was a failure in my book.

“But I’ll grow from it, and I’ll learn from it, I promise you that, and I’ll use it as a strength here for me with the Chicago Bears.”

Nagy’s lack of experience seemed to be no obstacle for Pace, who was inexperienced himself when he was hired in 2015. Nagy called it all just part of the process.

“I never knew how being an offensive coordinator was going to go until I did it and I never knew how being a quarterbacks coach was going to go until I did it,” Nagy said. “So, this will be a new opportunity for me and it’ll be a challenge.”

Pace liked certain aspects of Kansas City’s offense, and said he could see them occurring in Chicago.

“I think when you watch Kansas City — a lot of the creative things they did that were a little outside the box — how they used their personnel, how they would change up their tempo, things like that,” Pace said. “There were a number of things that caught my eye.

“They were balanced, for the most part. And you could feel his aggressiveness, I think. Those were all positive traits.”

Nagy plans to call plays himself for the Bears, so his first big decision will be on whether they can persuade Fangio to return to Chicago as defensive coordinator. The Bears were ninth in scoring defense under Fangio and 10th overall, but Fangio also has interest from Green Bay, and his contract expired on Tuesday.

“We all are aware of that situation and that’s a very important hire for me, but there’s a lot of things that go into that decision,” Nagy said. “And Vic and I have talked. We understand that. We understand the situation.”