‘Be you’: Bears rookie camp provides inside look at Matt Nagy’s coaching style

A walk down the hallway that Bears players take to reach their respective meeting rooms is a walk through the motivational world of new coach Matt Nagy.

From inspirational sayings, to artwork, to the direct statement of “Chicago tough” outside the locker room, players have plenty to see and digest.

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A life-sized image that features members of the Bears’ revered 1985 defense — Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary, Leslie Frazier and Otis Wilson — can be seen toward the end of the hallway near all of the defensive rooms.

Bears coach Matt Nagy and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio talk during rookie minicamp. (AP)

“When you look at the pictures of that ’85 Bears defense, that’s something that really hits me,” rookie defensive end Bilal Nichols said. “How ferocious they played. How dominant they were. How they just controlled games. That’s how I would love to see the defense I play in.”

The three-day rookie minicamp provided a glimpse into Nagy’s approach and methods for connecting and motivating his players. Rookies and veterans will get to see more of his coaching style when organized team activities begin Tuesday.

Similar to Fox, Nagy is into messaging. Under Marc Trestman, the hallway walls were bare. Under Fox, the same walls displayed sayings and pictures from their victories, albeit not many of them. 

Fox’s approach combined with general manager Ryan Pace’s cutthroat overhaul of the roster improved the Bears’ culture after Trestman’s controversy-filled run. But Nagy is still a new coach with new messages to share. A massive new paint job was required. It is
Nagy’s culture to build and improve now.

“No. 1 thing was just be yourself,” rookie inside linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe said. “Just keep to your core and stay true to who you are and have fun.’’

Nagy’s message — “Be you” — is prominent on the walls of Halas Hall. It is also one that seemed to resonate most with the rookies, including first-round pick Roquan Smith.

“Just being myself, because that’s what you can do best,” the linebacker said. “Just be yourself in all phases.”

In some ways, it is similar to head coach Doug Pederson’s approach with the Eagles, which was detailed in stories during the buildup for Super Bowl LII.

In a presentation before Pederson’s first season with the Eagles in 2016, he highlighted personality. He told players that he wanted them to be themselves and to stay true to their own personalities.

Nagy and Pederson are both from Andy Reid’s coaching tree. Nagy took over as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator after Pederson left for the Eagles.

“What does ‘Be you’ mean?,” Nagy said. “It means let your personality show. Be you, don’t change. If you have a vibrant personality and somebody thinks that it might be a little cocky or arrogant, that’s OK.

“If you’re quiet and introverted, you don’t like to speak up too much, that’s OK. I don’t want false enthusiasm. I don’t want that.”

Nagy said there are certain lines that can’t be crossed by players. Nagy, though, doesn’t appear to have the same lax approach that Trestman had to player discipline and issues.

“That’s my job as a coach to kind of corral that,” he said.

The Bears were struck by Nagy’s authenticity during the coaching search. Nagy’s message is an offshoot of that.

“We all got here our own ways,” Nagy said. “We created our own paths. What can happen, as a player, is you think you need to maybe try a little harder, you may have to act a little different — don’t do that. Just be yourself. Do what got you here. As coaches, don’t change. If you have a certain style of teaching, then teach that way. Don’t change because now you’re in the NFL.”