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Ten days after ripping Bears offense, Matt Nagy takes new tack

The Bears coach uttered the team’s record six times in a 17-minute interview Monday. He said some version of the word “excited,” often with the record attached — “The exciting part is being 5-1,” for example — five more times.

In case you hadn’t heard, Matt Nagy and the Bears are 5-1 this season.
In case you hadn’t heard, Matt Nagy and the Bears are 5-1 this season.
Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

The Bears are 5-1, and coach Matt Nagy is excited.

How do we know? He mentioned their record six times in a 17-minute interview Monday. Five times he used some version of the word “excited,” often with the record attached.

If Nagy’s goal after the Bears’ victory over the Buccaneers in Week 5 was to let the offense know it still wasn’t good enough — “Darn it, when you play in this offense, you’d better be freaking detailed,” he said Oct. 9 — then Monday’s evaluation of their 23-16 victory against the Panthers was full “Mr. Brightside.”

Nagy, very intentionally, wanted to send a reminder that he’s the coach of a first-place team — and one of five teams to have five victories entering Monday night.

He put on a smile, praised his defense and echoed quarterback Nick Foles, who said he’d rather win ugly than lose pretty. He talked about how the Bears were “so fired up” and “rocking and rolling” on the charter flight back to Chicago.

Asked to elaborate about the plane ride, Nagy smiled.

“You guys are into the rock-and-roll thing,” he said. “I’m sure there will be headlines tomorrow, huh? ‘Rockin’ and Rollin’.’ There will be some picture or something.”

He seemed a little too eager to write that headline. He’s the coach of a 5-1 team but the coordinator of an offense that ranks in the bottom six in points, yards and rushing yards per game.

It must be killing him.

And, if Monday was any indication, those struggles have him searching for ways to publicly motivate his offense. Asked why his tone Monday was different than it was 10 days ago, Nagy borrowed a line from Foles — that conversations with offensive players after Sunday’s game made him realize how much they want to improve.

“Right now with the offense struggling, we completely know that, we understand that, and we want what everybody else wants — so how are we going to get to that point?” Nagy said. “And it feels like there’s frustration because it’s not happening right away, and we know that, but we’ve got to make sure that we continue to just keep plugging away, we communicate, we talk through that.

“And then we’re excited that, hey, being 5-1 and having it be that way on offense, that gives us a lot of excitement for what happens when we do get this offense going. And that’s kind of where it’s at. So that’s why my vibe is the way it is, because I love where we’re at right now as a team.”

He clearly doesn’t love where his team is at on one side of the ball. After the win over the Bucs, he hoped a public airing-out would motivate the offense. On Monday, he chose a gentler tack. Outside of a few generalities, he chose to save his offensive criticisms for Zoom meetings directly with players.

His most flowery descriptions involved the flight home. Some players nap, others read. Everyone is exhausted. The ones who stay awake, Nagy said, “talk about how much it is to win and how hard it is to win.”

That doesn’t mean the Bears are content, Nagy said. But he’s going with positivity, on purpose.

“You just build this bond, and it becomes stronger and stronger, and then, as you start getting later and later in the season, you have this culture that is, like, unbreakable,” he said. “And you do it together. And you do it with positivity. You do it with happiness. You do it with a culture that’s hard to break.

“And it doesn’t matter how you do it — you do it. And that’s kind of where we’re at right now. And it’s hard to hold that down.”