Monday was a tough day for the Bears. Only two of their players, outside linebacker Khalil Mack and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, made the Pro Bowl. This was a blow to the true believers who see 10-4 talent instead of a 7-7 record. Not even receiver Allen Robinson, the apple of Mitch Trubisky’s eye, made it. As for me, I was shocked and disappointed that the Bears’ ‘‘culture’’ didn’t receive more Pro Bowl votes.
For those of you whose Bears batteries are positive on both ends, there has been some good news: The tone of the public discussion about coach Matt Nagy’s job status has switched from ‘‘Get him out of here now’’ to ‘‘Don’t be surprised if ownership brings him back next season.’’ That can happen when a six-game losing streak gives way to a two-game winning streak with the 1-13 Jaguars up next.
It’s almost a certainty that Nagy wants to remain a head coach in the NFL. He makes a lot of money and has his own parking spot. But I’d like to propose a career shift for him, one that might seem like a demotion at first blush but isn’t.
Matt Nagy, college coach.
He’s made for Saturdays — so much so that, if he took this path, he someday might have his own statue outside a college stadium. As of right now, the only statue he’d get would be of him staring into the void as he tries to decide between Trubisky and Nick Foles.
Nagy’s best attribute is his ability to communicate. He relates well to young players. He’d be a great recruiter. He used to think his expertise was in calling plays for the Bears’ offense until NFL defenses disabused him of that notion. So he handed the play-calling duties to coordinator Bill Lazor. You might be asking yourself, what’s left? If the offensive guru isn’t the guru of offense anymore, what can he be the guru of?
Inspiration. Enthusiasm. He can be the guru of gushiness for a college football program.
Trubisky was 10-for-14 for 109 yards and a touchdown in the first half Sunday against the Vikings. Here’s what Nagy told him at halftime, according to a Fox sideline reporter: ‘‘See what happens when you’re true to yourself?’’ Now, I don’t know what that sentence means, but I do know it’s vintage Nagy. You might view it as corny high school stuff. You might think of it as psychobabble. You might think it wouldn’t work on a lot of NFL players. You might be right about all of that.
But it’s the type of thing that resonates with someone such as Trubisky, who is a college player in a pro player’s clothing. Everything about Trubisky says ‘‘college,’’ especially his absolute belief in whatever his coach is telling him. The rah-rah stuff hasn’t made him a better quarterback in his almost three years with Nagy, but the kid has soaked up Nagy’s messages like a cactus does rain. You can’t motivate someone into being a great quarterback. But if you have a college team full of Trubiskys, attitude-wise, and you have a genuine person such as Nagy leading some talented players, you might be on to something.
College football programs are filled with young, impressionable people just waiting for a coach to point them in the right direction, for a brick wall to run through and for a T-shirt with a slogan on it. Something like ‘‘Band of Brothers’’ or ‘‘11 Players, 1 Heartbeat.’’ Or ‘‘I’ll Play for Beer Money.’’
I believe Nagy to be sincere. I think he believes most of what he’s saying. That sincerity would resonate with high school kids and their parents. For him, the downside would be that he would have to spend weeks on the road recruiting. The upside, if he’s lucky and successful, is that he could build a program and have job security. He could be the king of his own kingdom. I’m thinking here of Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald or Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck.
Nagy has a similar vibe to him. That matters. You might be tired of videos of college coaches celebrating with their players after a victory or after handing a scholarship to a walk-on. You might think of those clips as calculating, and you’d be right in some cases. But the videos do speak to potential recruits. They say: ‘‘Fun coach! Fun times! Sign here!’’
The important thing about Nagy is that he wouldn’t have to fake it. He likes that stuff. When he utters his ‘‘Be You’’ slogan to Bears players, he means it. They might not buy what he’s selling, but they believe that he believes in what he’s selling.
All of it works much better at the college level. If a coach puts together a good staff that can handle the X’s and O’s and help players reach their potential, it doesn’t matter whether he can’t tell the difference between a pass play and a play date.
Nagy, 42, could be a star at the right school.
So here’s a potential trade: The Bears get Fitzgerald, and Northwestern gets Nagy. Would that be exchanging one rah-rah coach for another? I don’t know. But it might be fun to find out.