BOURBONNAIS — Before the Bears’ final practice this year at Olivet Nazarene University on Sunday, coach Matt Nagy reminded his players of what they’ve already been through in training camp.
“We’ve been here 27 days right now,” Nagy told them. “There’s been 18 full practices, a couple of preseason games, and we still have a ways to go. We still have three more weeks left.”
That’s three more weeks for Nagy to get his message across, install his offense and work with quarterback Mitch Trubisky before their preparations for the opener against the Packers kick into another gear.
“The No. 1 thing that we wanted to do coming out of this camp was come together with physical practices, but yet be smart in the way we do it,” Nagy said. “We as coaches get to see who the tough guys are and [which] guys aren’t tough. And then how do we respond to adversity is always the biggest thing.”
Several weeks in Bourbonnais provided everyone — from media to fans to players and new assistant coaches — with a look at who Nagy is as a coach.
Nagy showed a tough side. He’s not afraid to publicly criticize his offense or young quarterback for being “sloppy.” Those are messages that Nagy directly relays to his players, too.
He even described the energy of the Bears’ final open practice Saturday night as “decent” and that it “could’ve been a little better.” It’s a direct approach to accountability that former coach Marc Trestman lacked.
Nagy also showed a fun side at camp, particularly on offense. It starts with his creativity and his aggressive mentality — in other words, the exact opposite of former coach John Fox’s offensive plans.
There was more, too. It was Nagy throwing to his receivers in one-on-one drills or seeing whether he could hit the uprights first with a pass from 30 yards out before one of his quarterbacks or offensive assistants did. It was Nagy enjoying some trash talk with his defensive starters during full-team drills and vice versa.
Nagy’s youthful exuberance appeared to matter plenty in Bourbonnais, where players often said they were having fun. While Trestman struggled to win over “Lovie Smith guys,” Nagy is having no such issues with players who loved Fox.
“[Nagy’s] himself, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “It’s fun out here. I don’t feel like it’s just work, which it is in a sense, but I feel like I’m having fun and I’m growing. I’m being myself.
“I’m playing with my swag; it’s dripping everywhere. I just feel a sense of the team sticking to him and taking on his characteristics.”
When Trevathan said that “I’m being myself,” he’s essentially quoting Nagy’s own “Be you” message. Every player also has shirts with Nagy’s “obsessed” mantra on it.
“His mindset is going to help us further on,” Trevathan said.
So are Nagy’s offensive philosophies. He’s here to ensure that Trubisky plays up to his draft selection and becomes a franchise-changing quarterback.
The Bears rightfully haven’t shown much in their exhibition games, but they packed up and left Bourbonnais feeling encouraged about what’s being built offensively and ultimately what will be accomplished once the games do matter.
Receiver Allen Robinson said that Nagy is extremely detailed on the field and with their film work when it comes to his offense.
“When you feel prepared on what you have to do, where you have to be at and how you have to do it, it makes your job easy,” Robinson said.
Better yet, Robinson said he was having “the most fun” with it.
“It’s an offense you want to play in,” Robinson said. “There’s nothing like it.”
Again, that starts with Nagy on and off the field. Because of him, the players seemingly enjoyed most of their dog days in Bourbonnais.