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Bears’ Matt Nagy named AP Coach of the Year

ATLANTA — Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy didn’t want to talk in the hours after one of the worst losses of his career. The Titans upset his team in the wild-card round last season, and a still-reeling Nagy began preparing for two head-coaching interviews the next morning.

Nagy’s phone rang. It was his oldest son, Brayden, who is now 14.

He was worried that his dad wouldn’t be given those job interviews — with the Bears and Colts — because of the loss.

“I told him, ‘Dad’s still gonna get an interview,’ ” Nagy told the Sun-Times on Saturday. “On the phone, he gave me one piece of advice: ‘Just be you.’ ”

Bears coach Matt Nagy and his wife Stacey attended the NFL Honors on Saturday. | Sun-Times media

The next day, Nagy told the Bears’ brass — chairman George McCaskey, president/CEO Ted Phillips and general manager Ryan Pace — about Brayden’s advice. When he got the job, it became the rookie coach’s mantra, painted on the hallway in Halas Hall and brought to life by his fun-loving, freewheeling squad.

After leading the Bears to a thrilling turnaround season and 12-4 record, Nagy was named the Associated Press’ Coach of the Year. He got 24 of a possible 50 votes, with the Chargers’ Anthony Lynn finishing second with 10. Nagy, who won the Pro Football Writers of America award last month, is the first Bears coach to win the AP honor since Lovie Smith after the 2005 season. 

The Bears coach attended the awards show at the Fox Theatre with his wife, Stacey, on their 17th anniversary. They cut short their vacation to St. Lucia — where “it wasn’t minus-50 degrees with the polar vortex,” Nagy said — to fly to Atlanta.

From the minute he was handed the trophy by R&B singer Monica and former NFL greats Joe Namath and Barry Sanders, Nagy began crediting his players, staff and bosses. He said there was no better feeling than, after a road win, walking on the team charter and seeing 96-year-old matriarch Virginia McCaskey smile.

“I’ve been saying this whole time that these types of awards are always about all of us,” Nagy said. “That’s the best part about it — that it speaks to them.”

Nagy commanded his players’ respect from the first team meeting. From postgame dance parties to his trademark “Boom!” celebration, Nagy proved he could connect with them off the field, too.

“For me, it all comes down to trust,” Nagy said. “My No. 1 objective coming into Chicago this past year was being able to earn the players’ trust. That wasn’t going to happen in one day, one week, one month. It was gonna happen within a year.

“Once you start getting that trust from the players, then the coaches start trusting the players. It just becomes a beautiful thing.

“Now you have to win. And when you win, then you start believing.”

Guard Kyle Long, who was in attendance, said it would take hours to list what
makes Nagy the league’s best coach.

“I just think his energy, his enthusiasm for the game of football, his intelligence and the way he can relate to players,” Long said.

Tight end Trey Burton simply pointed to the Bears’ record in 2017 — 5-11.

“We were a serious contender this year,” Burton said. “He has all the characteristics of a really good coach in this league.”

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Nagy never has attended a Super Bowl, and he won’t start now. He’s flying home Sunday morning and vowed to go to the game “only when I’m on the sidelines.”

After giving his assistants some time off, Nagy and his coaches will meet back at the office Monday. They’ll start working toward improving on the Bears’ first playoff appearance in eight years.

Last week, George McCaskey marveled at how Nagy has lived the motto that Brayden suggested in that first interview with the Bears. He was himself.

“As the interview was concluding,” he said, “I told him: ‘Be sure you tell your son that he gave you great advice.’ ”