As Bears break for summer, they ‘feel the new energy’ of the Matt Nagy era
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In March, NFL teams buy. In April, leading up to the draft, they lie.
Then they spend the next two months talking about how optimistic they are.
Bears fans, then, could be forgiven for raising their eyebrows every time they heard players sound downright giddy — about new coach Matt Nagy’s offense, quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s growth and even the return of orange jerseys — during offseason practices. Previous players have made similar claims: about Marc Trestman’s brilliance and John Fox’s professionalism, about Jay Cutler’s leadership and Mike Glennon’s long-awaited opportunity.
For a franchise that has won barely more than one out of every three games in the last five years, blind hope in June has amounted to little else. Still, there’s no doubting the genuine excitement that crackled through Halas Hall before players broke for summer vacation Thursday.
“It feels good,” right tackle Bobby Massie said. “This team right now is leaps and bounds this year from what we were last year. There’s an energy in this building. Players are hungry. We want to win.
“I’m sick and tired of losing, man. You don’t want to do all this stuff all year long and not have it pay off at the end of the year. We’re ready to make this thing go.”
Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. used the same word — energy — in describing the change since Matt Nagy’s arrival. That’s a credit to his scheme, but also his dynamism.
“You can just feel the new energy,” Leno said. “Everybody’s buying in. Everybody’s excited for one goal. We all got one goal, and that’s to win.”
Their reasons for optimism are more quantifiable than feelings. Nagy, praised as an innovator, has revamped an offense that finished with the fourth-fewest points in the league. A defense that ranked ninth in points allowed returns most of its players and all of its coaches.
Running back Tarik Cohen can sense the progress on offense and said “it’s only going to get better” the more the Bears practice.
“We’ve got an offensive coach now,” Leno said, referencing the defense-first Fox. “And we’ve got somebody who can put points on the board. We’ve got somebody who’s gonna be calling plays for us, and it’s just a really good feel, speaking of the offensive side of the ball first.
“We believe in his scheme. He keeps pushing us every day, challenging us in the playbook, in the meeting room, and all the coaching staff’s behind us. They’re all pushing us. That’s what we need, and that’s what we want right now as a younger team.”
The players hope progress will snowball. For a team that hasn’t won three games in a row since the beginning of the 2013 season, that’s foreign territory.
“We’ve had little tastes of it here and there, but it wasn’t the same,” Massie said. “This team, we have the capabilities and the weapons to get rolling on a week-to-week basis. It’ll be good to have that rah-rah feeling in the locker room.”
That feeling of camaraderie was the biggest question Nagy believed he answered during the offseason program, which ended with the third and final mandatory minicamp practice Thursday. During the program, Nagy was quick to downplay players’ mistakes.
“They’ve helped make my job easier,” he said. “I’m not going to be perfect all the time. I will make mistakes, but I’ll try to correct them.”
Asked whether he was pleased with what he has accomplished, Nagy sounded as optimistic as his players.
“It’s been great — I told them that, that’s been the message,” he said. “There really wasn’t a day where you look back and say, ‘Man, that was pretty bad.’ There were some days that weren’t great, not perfect. But that’s expected for the most part.”
That’s the NFL in June. There’s no good or bad, just great and less than great.