Halfway through his first news conference as the Bears’ coach, Matt Nagy laughed. He had to after being asked what it meant for Chiefs coach Andy Reid, his mentor, to call him the best head-coaching candidate he ever had on his coaching staff.
‘‘How difficult do you think it is [to live up to]? Yeah,’’ Nagy, 39, said before giving a hearty laugh. ‘‘No, I love him to death, but whoooooo.’’
Then the young, eager coach inside him spoke up.
‘‘But, hey, that’s a challenge, though, right?’’ Nagy said. ‘‘That’s a challenge. He gave me an opportunity in this league. In 2010, he gave me an opportunity, and I told him I’m not going to let him down.
‘‘And when I hugged him [Monday], I told him I loved him. I said, ‘I’m not going to let you down.’ And I’m going to stick to that.’’
Outside Halas Hall, observers will stick to comparing the Bears to the 2017 Rams and their quick turnaround under coach Sean McVay. The Bears’ ability to retain defensive coordinator Vic Fangio only enhances those comparisons.
Nagy is to quarterback Mitch Trubisky what McVay is to quarterback Jared Goff, the first overall pick in the 2016 draft. Keeping Fangio in charge of the defense is similar to the Rams’ decision to hire longtime defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Keeping Fangio allows Nagy to focus more on Trubisky and the locker room in his first season, much like McVay was able to do in his.
But Reid’s praise of Nagy and Nagy’s response to it are worth remembering when considering what the expectations for the Bears should be. The Rams are merely a starting point; Reid is the standard Nagy should be held to.
We still don’t know what the Rams are. They went from 4-12 last season to 11-5 this season, but their success might be a flash in the pan. Plenty of coaches have had success early in the tenures, only to be fired before their contracts expired.
Chip Kelly replaced Reid with the Eagles, went 10-6 in each of his first two seasons, then didn’t make it through his third after a number of baffling personnel decisions.
The Bears went after quick success under former general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman with a veteran-laden team, and we all know how that ended.
It’s important to build toward something, to have a vision past the immediate season. Bears GM Ryan Pace has that, and Nagy apparently has it, too. It’s partly why Pace and Nagy connected.
When Reid transformed the Eagles into a perennial contender, Nagy was playing in college at Delaware and in the Arena Football League. But he was part of Reid’s staff when the Eagles transitioned away from franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Better yet, Nagy was an integral part of the turnaround and transformation Reid orchestrated with the Chiefs. It started with a plan at quarterback, and they traded for Alex Smith.
The Chiefs improved from 2-14 in 2012 to 11-5 in 2013. Reid hasn’t won a Super Bowl, but the Chiefs have made the playoffs in four of his five seasons after making them only three times in a 15-year span before he arrived.
‘‘Passion and positive energy,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘It’s creating a culture.’’
He said he got chills saying that.
‘‘It’s talk, but we’ve got to make it happen,’’ Nagy said. “And, fortunately for me, I was part of a program and an organization in Kansas City where we kind of came into that — that same type of deal in 2013 — and I got to witness it under coach Reid on how you do that.’’
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.