After a cursory background check, Ryan Pace saw a lot of himself in Matt Nagy.
“What caught my eye — what I liked about him — is how we came up in the business,” Pace said. “Nothing was given to us. You start at the bottom and the adversity you have to get over to go to the top. I really appreciated that about him — his humbleness, his work ethic.”
Digging a little deeper, Pace found further evidence that he and Nagy would be a match.
“What was kind of neat was that I have all these references,” Pace said, “a lot of them were coming from mutual friends in the business saying, ‘You guys just fit together. If I was going to match two guys together,’ it’d be Matt and I. That was part of it.”
And the compatibility between the Bears’ general manager and the prospective coach was all but clinched during their 4½-hour interview Sunday morning in Kansas City.
“These interviews are pretty extensive,” Pace said. “As it went on, I could feel a lot of shared beliefs; you feel similar personalities. It’s just someone that you can feel very strong about working together and it being collaborative. Neither one of us has a big ego, so it’s just whatever is best for the Bears. And I feel very comfortable with that.’’
Be that as it may, all we know right now is that Pace and Nagy are a match. They get along. They think alike. They have the same taste in quarterbacks and the same vision for building a football team.
If only it were that easy. Phil Emery and Marc Trestman were a perfect match, right down to their love for the TV show ‘‘Criminal Minds.’’ Unfortunately, their pairing as GM and coach was a disaster, creating a mess at Halas Hall that Pace has spent three years cleaning up.
Poor Emery’s mistake — choosing Trestman over Bruce Arians — was so egregious that he only was given one shot at it. Pace is on his second coach, and he knows he has to get this one right. He won’t get a third as part of the rebuild.
There’s risk in any choice, but hiring Nagy is the kind Pace seems to enjoy taking. Nagy is 39. He never has been a head coach. He wasn’t even a play-calling coordinator until Week 13 of this season. The last time the Bears were in the playoffs — the 2010 season — Nagy was a glorified gofer for the Eagles’ coordinators.
Now he’s the Bears’ head coach. How does Pace know that Nagy’s success as a quarterbacks coach and non-play-calling coordinator indicates he can become a successful head coach in the NFL? No matter how many references you find, that’s a leap of faith that Pace is taking without a net.
“It starts with his leadership qualities,” Pace said. “He’s a very natural leader. You’re talking about going from one side of the ball to the whole team. From the research and the interview, I felt very comfortable with him in front of the whole team, and that goes back to his quarterback days.
“He’s a leader. He’s highly intelligent, has outstanding character. He’s a great person. So it’s someone I thought I could collaboratively work together with, and it could be a strong relationship.”
This choice is not just about Pace’s homework. It’s about his intuition. Sometimes you just know. He thinks he does. We’ll see if he’s right.
“To me, it was very conclusive at the end,” Pace said. “And that was a great feeling, to have so much conviction in this decision because of everything we’ve done in the process. It’s just a really exciting moment.”
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.