Despite Chiefs DNA, Matt Nagy must embrace his inner 49er
Sunday’s Super Bowl is between the Ginger and Mary Ann of the NFL — the sexy passing team and the efficient run squad. What offensive coordinator wouldn’t rather be the Ginger? But the Bears’ personnel much closer matches the 49ers’.
AVENTURA, Fla. — When the clock hit zero, and the Chiefs clinched their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years, the first ping into general manager Brett Veach’s phone came from the man in the NFL he has known probably the longest: Bears coach Matt Nagy.
Veach caught passes from Nagy when they played at Delaware. He later helped Nagy get his first NFL job: a three-week training-camp internship with the Eagles in 2009. They were coworkers with the Eagles and Chiefs.
“He’s in Chicago now, and I’m in K.C., but we spent so many years together — not just at Delaware, but going through the grind — and knowing how hard it is to get here,” Veach told the Sun-Times on Thursday. “How many times we were breaking down tape during training camp and talking about overviews and offensive philosophy.
“Sometimes you catch yourself. We do it all the time in the offseason when we’re together — we talk about how crazy this whole thing is. A couple of kids from central Pennsylvania. And then a couple of kids at Delaware. And now a couple of kids in the NFL. It’s been a great ride.”
Nagy’s DNA is part of the Chiefs, and vice versa. His mentor, Andy Reid, is the coach. He incubated quarterback Patrick Mahomes during his redshirt rookie season and helped craft the offense — a spread scheme with West Coast principles and a dash of daring — that has since made Mahomes famous.
But mimicking the Chiefs isn’t the fastest path for the Bears to get to next year’s Super Bowl. Instead, Nagy should look across the field — to the 49ers. Because no team can be the Chiefs. Not even the one that took away their offensive coordinator.
Nagy would probably disagree. The Super Bowl on Sunday is between the Ginger and Mary Ann of the NFL — the sexy passing team and the efficient run squad. What offensive coordinator wouldn’t rather be the Ginger?
But the Bears’ personnel matches the defense-and-ball-control 49ers much closer than it does the Chiefs, who boast a generational talent at quarterback and the greatest assemblage of wide-receiver speed in the NFL.
Quarterback Mitch Trubisky will never be Mahomes. With work, he could be Jimmy Garoppolo, who threw only eight passes in the 49ers’ NFC title-game win. The old argument that the Bears should tailor their offense to their developing quarterback doesn’t make sense anymore. In his fourth year, Trubisky should hand the ball off more often. In 2019, he said scoring 19 points to win a game wasn’t good enough. Next season, it must be.
David Montgomery’s pedigree rivals that of any of the 49ers’ three running backs: Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman. The Bears’ offensive line, though, doesn’t compare to the NFC champions.
The 49ers’ defensive front looks a lot like the Bears’. Second-team All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and Defensive Rookie of the Year slam dunk Nick Bosa pose perhaps the best inside-outside threat in football — if it doesn’t exist in Chicago, with a healthy Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks.
The biggest obstacle, of course, would be getting Nagy to embrace his inner 49er.
He’ll never be a ground-and-pound coach, but he needs to show at least a passing interest in running the ball efficiently. Even if it’s against his every instinct, he must realize his defense has a better chance of winning him a game than his offense will.
Like they did with the Eagles, Nagy and Veach still talk about offensive philosophy and how to improve. It’s over the phone, though, and they have to make sure not to divulge team secrets.
But they understand, more than ever, just how difficult it is to win — and how sweet it feels when you do.
“This is what you sign up for,” Veach said. “This league is tough. It’s tough to win games week in and week out, let alone divisional titles and world titles.”