An inside look at the Bears’ interview and hiring of new coach Matt Nagy
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It took general manager Ryan Pace a week to find his new coach, and he reached that decision in less than 24 hours in Kansas City.
Here’s a look at how the Bears’ interview and eventual hiring of Matt Nagy unfolded:
The reference check
Pace kept his list to six names, but he said he had 25 to 30 references for each candidate.
An endorsement from Chiefs coach Andy Reid carried significant weight. But Pace said many of his Nagy references turned out to be mutual friends — and they typically said the same thing. “ ‘You guys just fit well together,’ ” Pace said.
Without a direct connection to Pace, Nagy dug around, too, including speaking with quarterback Chase Daniel, who played for Pace and the Saints. Nagy wanted to know about Pace the person. He heard the same thing Pace did — that they’d click personality-wise.
“[The comments] all came back from people that I respected — really just powerful,” Nagy said.
To Nagy, a text message from Trace Armstrong, his agent and a former Bear, turned out to be a strong message about the Bears.
Pace offered to delay their Sunday morning interview after the Chiefs’ dramatic 22-21 loss to the Titans on Saturday in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
The Bears were taking Nagy’s efforts and the emotions of the game into account. They wanted to give him time, if he needed it.
“That meant the world to me,” Nagy said. “Instead, we went even earlier. I wanted to go earlier because of that. That’s where it all started. That was a good feeling.”
Pace, chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips met with Nagy at 8 a.m. at the Raphael Hotel in Kansas City. The interview concluded at around 12:30 p.m.
Mitch Trubisky wasn’t present for the interview, but, in a way, he still was a key component.
With the Chiefs considering drafting a quarterback in 2017, Nagy’s work on Trubisky was extensive. Nagy not only shared his notes and reports on Trubisky, but he also had Trubisky’s own notes from the Chiefs’ private visit with him.
“It’s neat to see us share the same vision on what he is as a player,” Pace said.
But Pace stressed that there was more to Nagy than Trubisky.
“It was bigger than that,” Pace said. “It was more about him as a leader and visualizing him in front of our organization, which was pretty easy to do as we got into it.”
Nagy was outnumbered at the Raphael Hotel but still felt relaxed. He didn’t have to diagnose plays on a dry-erase board. They just talked. Nagy said the Bears allowed him to be himself.
“We just let it flow,” Nagy said. “That’s the part that I liked. It was very natural.”
That was Pace’s goal. He had a list of questions that was 15 pages long. But he wanted the conversation to flow organically, not robotically. Pace heard what he wanted to hear. He saw a leader with a grasp on accountability and a young, humble coach who saw failure as an opportunity to grow.
As offensive coordinator, Nagy accepted the blame for the second-half play-calls that played a role in the Chiefs’ demise against the Titans. Pace watched the Chiefs unravel from the Raphael Hotel.
“I had mixed emotions watching that, but one of the things I love about Matt is his humility and willingness to come in and talk about that moment like he did,” Pace said. “He owned it.”
The Colts were up next after the Bears, and they were serious competitors led by general manager Chris Ballard, the Chiefs’ former director of football operations.
“Chris and I have a good relationship away from football, being with the Chiefs together,” Nagy said. “I respect the heck out of Chris.”
But Nagy still had a business decision to make, one he thought Ballard would respect in the end. The Colts have quarterback Andrew Luck, but his shoulder injury has clouded his future.
Pace also proved to be quite the salesman.
“It was just a feel,” Nagy said. “And I know where we’re at here; it felt good. It’s no slight to Indianapolis.”
The private dinner
After meeting with the Colts, Nagy had exit interviews to conduct with Chiefs players. But he also received an invitation from Pace to have dinner at Stock Hill steakhouse.
“It was Matt and I, his wife, Stacey, and my wife, Stephanie,” Pace said.
It was a private, personal dinner that essentially sealed the deal.
“It allowed me and Ryan to talk about life in general and philosophies: Who are you as a person, who are you in the building [and] who are you outside the building?” Nagy said. “What’s your vision? What’s my vision? Does it connect? Can we work together?”
The answer was an emphatic yes.
“You just knew it, and you felt it,” Nagy said. “Our wives are sitting with each other, and they’re going and they’re talking, and it’s clicking. It just kept going on and on. You talk football, and you talk about the future. It just felt right.”
The wake-up call
Nagy didn’t sleep much after dinner. The calls from Armstrong and others kept coming. It went the whole night.
“You had a good feeling about how things were going,” Nagy said.
At 3 a.m. Monday, Nagy and Stacey woke up their four sons, Brayden, Tate, Jaxon and Jett. It was time to break the news.
“We told them something could be happening, and they wanted to be woken up if it did,” Nagy said. “So we said, ‘Hey, listen, Dad just got offered the head-coaching job by the Chicago Bears.’ They wanted to know if we moved tomorrow.”
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.