Feeling at home: Why Matt Nagy sees the Bears’ history as motivation for all
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A dinner in downtown Chicago had to wait. Bears general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy wanted the coaching staff to see something, to experience the vibe they’re trying to create and spread.
So on Wednesday, March 21, members of Nagy’s first Bears staff went to Soldier Field together before dining together. They came and went as one.
‘‘Welcome Bears Coaches,’’ the large video screen read, a message that was signed ‘‘Matt Nagy.’’ A video that featured highlights and messages about the history of the organization was shown. It included narration by Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus.
‘‘I’ll never forget turning around and just looking back and seeing all the staff and everyone’s eyes up,’’ Nagy said during the NFL’s annual meetings in Orlando, Florida. ‘‘Everyone had their own little moment.
‘‘And so for us to have that, it’s just one step in trying to connect everybody and understand this isn’t about the offensive staff, this isn’t about the defensive staff, this isn’t about the special-teams staff, this isn’t about Ryan, this isn’t about me, this is about all of us together.’’
It was a memorable moment that came with some important words from Nagy.
‘‘We wanted them to understand how powerful it can be when you walk onto this field and what it means,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘The message from us to them was, ‘Home-field advantage is pretty significant.’
‘‘It’s our responsibility to make other opponents know when they step onto this field what they’re getting into. That’s a message that we as coaches need to relay to our players.’’
Welcome to Nagy’s world. It’s full of nostalgia and fire.
The Bears’ previous two coaches often spoke of the team’s historic allure and the importance of their jobs. But Nagy not only has embraced it, he also has chosen to live it as he figures out what it means to be an NFL head coach.
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‘‘I want the team to understand the team they’re playing for and the tradition and the history. When they step into Halas Hall, [it’s] understanding how fortunate they are. No. 1, they’ve got to know that. A lot of guys will hear it, but they don’t know why and they don’t understand it. They’re going to understand why it’s so important for them to be able to put on the Bears uniform.’’ — Nagy
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The sunrise is Nagy’s time because it’s his only time alone. His schedule is loaded now. He has more responsibilities, more meetings. He’s not losing track of time; he simply has more to keep track of as a head coach.
‘‘Early in the morning, when that sun pops up and there’s no one in my office and I get to look out on the practice fields and into the woods and some of the deer that are there kind of grazing, that’s when I’ve found out that life slows down for about five minutes,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘You can really take it in of where you’re at and why you’re here and all the people that helped you get to this point.
‘‘Then you take yourself and immediately say: ‘The responsibility of that is on your shoulders.’ ’’
The Bears last made the playoffs in the 2010 season. Nagy knows that. He mentioned it during the coaches’ breakfast at the NFL meetings. Surely, he knows the Bears went 14-34 under John Fox, too.
Fixing all of it will take time. Nagy knows that, too. He also mentioned at breakfast that doing so will take some patience. But Pace knows that he’s now working with what he often calls a ‘‘high-burn’’ personality, much like himself.
‘‘Matt’s very passionate about this,’’ Pace said. ‘‘I can pick up the phone and call Matt at 3 in the morning, and he’s going to answer on the first ring, and right away we’re talking football. I just appreciate his drive and his dedication to get this going. We share that.’’
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‘‘For the coaches, for myself, for the players, to be able to connect [with the fans] and make it real is very important. [It’s] a founding franchise, 1920, the history of coach [George] Halas, being an owner, being a founder, being a player, being a coach, how that’s gone and how it’s still in the family. One of the biggest cities in the country. Huge fan base. Passionate. Loyal. Driven. Motivated. Winners. It’s a winning city. They need to know that. Let’s understand that, and let’s do what we need to do.’’ — Nagy
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When it comes to building his team, Nagy has much to teach, learn, decide and handle.
With an offensive staff coming from various backgrounds, Nagy is teaching many of his own coaches the language, operation and goals of his offense.
With this offseason as his starting point, Nagy will go through different situations and scenarios each week as he learns to manage the clock and challenge plays.
With his time with players restricted by league rules, he won’t hold individual meetings. But this season will feature a players’ committee, which will be voted on by players, though he’s still deciding between permanent and temporary captains.
With quarterback Mitch Trubisky to teach, Nagy’s time with the defense and special teams will be limited. But to get a handle on everything, he’s considering following some advice he has received by watching videos from all three phases.
All of it comes with being a first-year head coach. But the Bears wouldn’t have hired him if they didn’t think he could handle all of the above and then some.
‘‘He’s got an enthusiasm, a dynamism, a confidence, a leadership quotient that’s really exciting to see,’’ chairman George McCaskey said. ‘‘That’s probably what I’m most excited about.’’
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‘‘You’ve got the Cubs, the White Sox, the Bulls, the Blackhawks. You’ve got many other teams that are around here. But you hear about these Chicago Bears fans. They’re all one. When you get into Soldier Field on that Sunday afternoon and you see, regardless of the weather, that they’re all there, they’re packing the house and they’re there for you guys, I don’t know how you don’t get goose bumps about that.’’ — Nagy