Matt Nagy has his quarterback.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace’s bold trade to acquire Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields — jumping from 20th to 11th in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night to get him — will give Nagy his best chance to prove he is a true disciple of Chiefs coach Andy Reid and can parlay the development of a talented young quarterback into a offense that can win the Super Bowl.
That development is something we did not see in Nagy’s three seasons with Mitch Trubisky. The 2017 No. 2 overall draft pick was inconsistent at best with the Bears under Nagy and mostly at his best against inferior defenses. By 2020, it was clear that developing Trubisky into the offense Nagy envisioned when he was hired in 2018 was a struggle. He did his best, but even Nagy and the Bears acknowledged it didn’t work.
The difference is that Nagy inherited Trubisky when he arrived from Kansas City — part of the coaching staff that rated Patrick Mahomes higher, in fact. Justin Fields is Nagy’s baby — a quarterback he scouted from the beginning of the draft process, and with three seasons more knowledge of what his own offense is supposed to be all about.
The timing is key as well. When Nagy was hired, he was a rookie coach designing an offense in his vision for the first time. He made mistakes that might have hindered Trubisky’s development as well. And Pace still was finding out what pieces Nagy needed to make his offense work.
We still don’t know that, but Fields will enter a Nagy offense that is a little further along. Not only has Nagy presumably learned from his rookie mistakes, but the Bears — while hardly a finished product — arguably are a little better set on offense now than when Nagy arrived.
The offensive line is a bit of an x-factor, but with tight end Cole Kmet and wide receiver Darnell Mooney expected to blossom in Year 2, with running back David Montgomery in Year 3 and with Tarik Cohen back after missing most of last season with a knee injury, Nagy can’t complain about the hand he’s been dealt. The quarterback might not be the final piece of the puzzle, but it’s the biggest one. With Fields, it’s the one that puts all the other pieces into focus.
Fittingly, Fields got the call from Nagy when the Bears made their decision. “Coach Nagy called me up and asked me if I was ready to be a Chicago Bear and I told him, ‘Of course,’” Fields said.
Their relationship is the key to the Bears’ hopes of heading upward instead of downward after an 8-8 season. “Coach Nagy’s a great coach. He’s a great person,” Fields said. “I got to sort of build a relationship with him these past couple of months.”
Hopefully, that’s just the start. The draft process is a little sketchy these days with the limitations of coronavirus protocols. It’s a little tougher to tell what’s inside a player on a Zoom call — Does he learn well? Can he be motivated? What kind of leader will he be. The trust is that Nagy knows what he’s looking for in a quarterback after slipping and sliding for three seasons with Trubisky, Chase Daniel and Nick Foles.
“I think I fit perfectly,” Fields said. “I think [if] he didn’t think I fit well, he wouldn’t have traded up. Just talking to him, getting to know how he communicates with his quarterbacks and his learning style, that’s gonna make me a better quarterback, a better play and he’s gonna teach me a lot. I’m excited to get up there and learn.”