Former Bears coach Matt Nagy would change nothing — and everything — about time with team
“There’s the grieving process,’’ he said. “I think that’s normal. But you have to use that to be better.”
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Former Bears coach Matt Nagy was talking about reflection, evaluation and, true to form, a self-help book he read this year.
‘‘I had plenty of time to do it once I got fired,’’ he said.
Chairman George McCaskey canned Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace the morning after the Bears’ season ended in January. A month and a half later, Nagy was back in red and gold, hired by mentor Andy Reid to coach the Chiefs’ quarterbacks. Except for his four-year stint with the Bears, Nagy has worked for Reid his entire professional life.
During that month and a half between jobs, Nagy reflected more about his four seasons as the Bears’ coach than he will Saturday, when the Chiefs pull into Soldier Field for the preseason opener.
‘‘There’s the grieving process,’’ Nagy said after the Chiefs’ practice Tuesday at Missouri Western State University. ‘‘I think that’s normal. But you have to use that to be better.’’
The Bears went 12-4 and reached the playoffs in Nagy’s first season. In his final three seasons, however, only two teams in the league averaged fewer yards per play. Nagy said ‘‘there was disappointment and there was discouragement’’ with how his tenure ended — with a 6-11 record and questions about whether he stunted quarterback Justin Fields’ development. He finished 34-31 with two playoff losses with the Bears.
Last season, Bears fans chanted for him to be fired during home games. Some did so with glee. Now he signs autographs and Chiefs fans call out his name — which ‘‘means a lot to me,’’ he said — at practice.
‘‘I know I’m not defeated,’’ he said. ‘‘I know those other [Bears] players, coaches and people aren’t defeated. So we just gotta be better.’’
The Chiefs, however, have quarterback Patrick Mahomes; the Bears do not. Asked whether he had confronted Mahomes about counting to 10 on his fingers after scoring against the Bears in 2019 — Mahomes was drafted 10th, eight spots behind where the Bears selected Mitch Trubisky in 2017 — Nagy laughed, then demurred.
Nagy later rattled off the names of his Bears bosses, starting with matriarch Virginia McCaskey, and said his relationship with them will last beyond his four-year stint.
‘‘I wouldn’t change anything . . . of those four years [of] experiences,’’ he said. ‘‘I’d change a lot of what happened, wishing we’d won more and could have done more, but I learned a lot. That part, I wouldn’t change. I think I gotta be able to self-reflect on where I went wrong and how I could have been better.’’
Bears players already have volunteered that information back at Halas Hall. Many consider coach Matt Eberflus’ practices to be the hardest they’ve experienced. Last week, Darnell Mooney said Bears receivers were practicing a basic, essential drill — how to get open when the quarterback scrambles — far more than they did under Nagy.
‘‘You look back and say, ‘I would change this, I would change that,’ ’’ Nagy said. ‘‘There are different silos that I look at and say, ‘OK, I would probably do something different here.’ And then you can get into the schematics, the X’s and O’s, the personnel, etc.
‘‘But at the same point in time, you learn from some of that: ‘OK, if I were to go back and have that opportunity, would I handle it the same way?’ Maybe for some instances, yes; maybe for some, no. In the end, for us, it just didn’t end how we wanted it to. That’s OK. We move on.’’
Returning to Soldier Field is part of moving on, even if, as Nagy acknowledged, the game won’t count in the standings.
‘‘No. 1 . . . it’s my professional job to make sure I step back and make sure it’s about ‘we’ and not ‘me,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘I mean that when I say that. But that’s hard sometimes. . . .
‘‘I don’t know how I’ll feel when I get out there.’’