Matt Nagy: I ‘failed in a lot of areas,’ but it will make me stronger

Nagy didn’t know what he wanted to do after the Bears fired him as their head coach after last season. Now he’s in the Super Bowl as the Chiefs’ quarterbacks coach.

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Chiefs quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy talks to pupil Patrick Mahomes in August.

Chiefs quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy talks to pupil Patrick Mahomes in August.

David Eulitt/Getty Images

PHOENIX — Matt Nagy didn’t know what he wanted to do after the Bears fired him as their head coach after last season.

His ego was hurt, and he was tired. He knew he loved football, but he wasn’t sure how much it loved him back.

‘‘Everything shuts down,’’ Nagy said Monday night. ‘‘You’re in charge of how many hundreds of people in an organization to in charge of nobody. That’s hard. . . . And you have to figure out what’s next.’’

He found his answer half a world away. To celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, Nagy and wife Stacey traveled to South Africa for two weeks. They went on safari, taking videos of lions, leopards and cheetahs.

‘‘It was wild,’’ he said. ‘‘At that point in time, it’s like, ‘OK, it’s time to take a couple of risks.’ ’’

Nagy and his wife talked about his four seasons with the Bears and about what he wanted to do next. He was grateful for his time as head coach — ‘‘2018? No one can ever take that away from us,’’ he said — but was in mourning.

‘‘It was a great time,’’ he said. ‘‘It didn’t continue. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to. That’s a part of everybody’s story. That’s a part of my story.’’

It was then that Nagy realized he wanted the story to continue.

The day he flew back to the United States, he took out his phone and told the Chiefs he was coming home. In February 2022, Nagy agreed to return to the Chiefs to become the quarterbacks coach for the greatest one walking the earth: Patrick Mahomes.

‘‘The healing process is different for everybody,’’ Nagy said.

Having Mahomes helps.

On Sunday, Nagy’s star pupil — Nagy was the offensive coordinator when the Chiefs drafted Mahomes — will play in his third Super Bowl. For the first time, Nagy will be by his side in the big game when the Chiefs take the field against the Eagles.

‘‘I’ve had so much fun this year, being in that quarterback room, being with the coaching staff in Kansas City, being with the fans in Kansas City, everybody,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s rejuvenated me. And I’ve just gotta learn from it.’’

There’s plenty from which to learn. Speaking at Super Bowl opening night, Nagy admitted as much.

‘‘I failed in a lot of areas,’’ said Nagy, who went 34-31 with the Bears. ‘‘But I know for a fact it’s going to make me stronger; I promise you that. I’m telling you right now it’s going to make me stronger.’’

Being fired 13 months ago, along with general manager Ryan Pace, hurt.

‘‘You feel like you let a lot of people down, people that you build a lot of great relationships with,’’ he said. ‘‘But at the same point in time, in my opinion, you’ve got to be strong enough to pick yourself up, pick your pieces up, learn from your failures and use it if an opportunity ever comes — whether it’s a position coach, a coordinator, a head coach.’’

Rejoining Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has been eye-opening. Nagy has watched the way Reid — whom he considers the greatest head coach of all time — handles his duties.

Reid, who was Nagy’s boss at two stops in 2008-17, knew he needed a hand.

‘‘He was Coach of the Year just a couple years ago,’’ Reid said Tuesday. ‘‘Things didn’t work out. He ends up being released. It’s good to knock some of that NFL scar tissue off and get going again. So he’s been able to do that. He’s in a great place.

‘‘I’m sure somewhere down the road here he’s going to get another opportunity.’’

Maybe even — one day — as Reid’s replacement with the Chiefs. After all, Mahomes loves him.

‘‘I was extremely excited [when Nagy returned] because I’d built such a great relationship with ‘Nags’ that first year,’’ Mahomes said. ‘‘I was happy for him that he was able to go to Chicago and have some success and have some failures. And he learned from those things.’’

When he interviewed for the job with the Bears, Nagy prepared for 200 hypothetical questions about how he would handle certain situations. After four years with them, he said he faced every situation in real life.

Nagy has a few regrets. He wishes he would have beaten the Packers more often — ‘‘Which I didn’t do,’’ he said, still annoyed. He considers clear communication one of his strengths, but he admits there were times it could have been better.

‘‘I thought I was good at it, and I wasn’t,’’ he said.

He knows that now.

‘‘I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t hurt — selfishly — for the city, for the players, for the coaches, support staff, etc., in Chicago,’’ he said. ‘‘But you can’t dwell on that. You have to pick yourself up. You have to be better from it.’’

He also could have been better at handling quarterback Justin Fields.

‘‘We knew that was our future, and we wanted to handle him and do everything we possibly could to make sure he succeeded,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘Scheme, how we handled practices, everything,’’

Nagy, however, began the 2021 season with Andy Dalton as the starter. Fields fell apart in Game 3 — his first career start — when he was sacked nine times by the Browns. By the end of the next week, Nagy had given up play-calling duties.

Chiefs quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy chats with Bears quarterback Justin Fields and running back David Montgomery at Soldier Field last year.

Chiefs quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy chats with Bears quarterback Justin Fields and running back David Montgomery at Soldier Field last year.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

‘‘It’s not what we wanted for Justin,’’ he said. ‘‘The last thing you want is to hurt somebody’s confidence, a young quarterback, like we did that game. No one wants that for anybody. We needed to learn from that and be able to change some things in how we handled him.

‘‘You end up running out of time.’’

Nagy said he and Pace were ‘‘all-in on drafting Justin’’ and had a development plan to play to his strengths.

‘‘It’s hard to do that right away, in months in summer in one year,’’ he said.

Nagy didn’t get a second summer. But he didn’t stop paying attention to Fields this season, when he came close to breaking the NFL rushing record for a quarterback. Asked whether Fields one day could reach a Super Bowl, Nagy said ‘‘without a doubt’’ he could.

‘‘I was so proud of the way that he moved this year as a quarterback,’’ he said. ‘‘A lot of credit to their coaches and what they do with him, the schemes that they put around him.

‘‘He’s one helluva player. He has a bright future in Chicago. I’m proud of him. . . . He’s going to keep growing.’’

Fields is coming off his third new scheme in as many years.

‘‘He was a rookie again this year,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘He learned a whole new offense. It’s going to take time. He’s got all the tools. He has a great future ahead of him. He’s very talented.’’

He has the right study habits, too.

‘‘To do what he did from his rookie year to this past year, it’s only going to get better for him,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘He is wired the right way. I got to see him firsthand how he studies, how he practices, his passion for the game. He hates to lose.’’

So does Mahomes, who has lost four fewer games in six seasons — 16 — than Fields has in two.

‘‘Patrick is just on another level in so many areas,’’ Nagy said.

Nagy is along for the ride, one year after the Bears fired him.

‘‘There were a lot of experiences in that journey for me that I could have been a lot better at,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘In the end . . . we didn’t get the results that we wanted.’’

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