Go for it? Why Matt Nagy’s Bears offense ‘will certainly be aggressive’ in 2018
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INDIANAPOLIS — Matt Nagy didn’t say much, but he didn’t have to. The boyish glint in his eye gave it away.
When asked this week how the aggressiveness of Eagles coach Doug Pederson, with whom he coached from 2009-15, will influence his own play-calling with the Bears, the coach smiled.
“I like it,” he said. “I like it.”
Pederson went for it on fourth down 29 times, most in the league last season, including a trick-play touchdown in the Super Bowl borrowed from the 2016 Bears. The
Eagles converted 20 times, the third-best fourth-down percentage in the NFL. No tried more two-point conversions, either.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid had a similar twinkle when asked if
Nagy’s play-calling will be similar.
“I would probably guess that he would be,” he said.
It will be months before Nagy unveils his in-game coaching style — and years before we know if it works — but those close to him spent part of the NFL Scouting Combine this week detailing what his offense will look like.
Like the Eagles, Nagy’s offense is a West Coast scheme sprinkled with elements of the spread offense that many of the league’s top players learned in college. His run-pass options demand quick decision-making from the quarterback, but enough athleticism to threaten a defense.
“Matt’s innovative,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said. “You see the Super Bowl and the spread stuff and the RPO stuff, Matt’s on top of that trend, always studying tape, always looking for new ideas, not afraid to dive into all the college concepts.
“I’d walk into his office on a random Monday or Tuesday, and he’d be studying some different schematic stuff from different colleges. I think Matt will push the envelope with regards to being innovative and being creative.”
Veach and Nagy became fast friends while playing at Delaware, which modified its famed wing-T offense to take advantage of Nagy’s passing skills. Veach, a receiver, said Nagy was “just an awful athlete” but had a cannon for an arm. He eventually rewrote the Fightin’ Blue Hens’ record books.
Reid’s offensive tweak was out of similar necessity. He and his deputies — among them, Pederson and Nagy — tailored the scheme to something more familiar to college prospects. Nagy’s offense will evolve more in Chicago.
“It was fun for us, refreshing, and we just started to grow it,” Nagy said. “As Doug goes to Philadelphia and has coaches coming from different worlds, they’re going to talk through what works and what they like. You saw with Philadelphia. They had a lot of success. They had fun with it.
“That’s what we’re going to do and we’re going to put our own little spin on it and see how our guys fit.”
He’ll demand that second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky be aggressive. He expected the same of Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs’ rookie backup he helped develop last year.
“He operates from that mindset of, just cut it loose, to attack defenses,” said Veach, who, like Nagy, grew up a coach’s son in central Pennsylvania. “He’s in the game plan. He’s going to put people in position to make plays. He’s going to trust the quarterback. He’ll put a lot on his plate.
“I’m sure he’s not going to throw everything at Mitch from Day 1. But I think eventually he’s going to have expectations for him to grasp a lot of concepts and to take that offense to another level.”
Nagy has no problem delegating — “He trusts the people around him and that’s a big deal,” Veach said — but first he must teach his offense to both his coaches and players.
Nagy brought only one Chiefs staff member with him: consultant Brad Childress.
“He is honest, he will shoot you straight,” Reid said of Nagy. “When he stands up there to tell you, it’s going to be the truth, which helps in your job. He will be a great leader. He is a leader of men. Not just of the office and the people he has to deal with there, but the football team.”
Listening will be just as important.
“I think Matt’s going to do a really nice job,” said Browns’ GM John Dorsey, who held the same job with the Chiefs. “He’s smart as a whip, he understands the position, he’s a really good understudy in terms of how he listens.”
When Nagy was promoted to coordinator, both Veach and quarterback Alex Smith had the same observation: He didn’t try to impress older players or his coaching peers, rather he remained himself. They envision him doing it again.
“He just stepped up there with a lot of confidence and I think the guys really buy into that,” Veach said. “He will certainly be aggressive.”
Maybe he’ll even sneak in a wing-T
“It’s funny, he told me that he has a two-point play in with some wing-T concepts,” he said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. I wouldn’t put it past him.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.