How will Matt Nagy lead the Bears back from a crushing loss? By ‘just being me’
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Matt Nagy could coach another quarter-century and not experience the kind of shock he felt after his NFL debut last Sunday, when the Bears blew a 20-point lead — the second-biggest collapse in their history — and lost to the rival Packers on national TV.
While coaches have strategies for how to refocus their teams, Nagy kept it simple. And, he hopes, authentic.
‘‘Just being me,’’ he said. ‘‘Don’t change. I’m not going to change a thing. I’m not.’’
Whether that will be enough to rally his team Monday against the Seahawks will be an early referendum on whether Nagy is more than just a clever play-caller. When the Bears hired him, he never had been a head coach at any level.
Just as general manager Ryan Pace said he learned the most about Nagy’s mettle by interviewing him hours after the Chiefs blew an 18-point lead to lose the AFC wild-card game in January, Nagy’s players and staff members got an early glimpse last week into how he handles adversity.
‘‘I learned that his energy doesn’t stop,’’ defensive end Akiem Hicks said. ‘‘And that’s a positive thing coming from the leader of our team — having somebody that’s gonna come in and is gonna shoot you straight and give it to you day-to-day the same way that he does, whether we win or lose.’’
It starts with an honest film session, said offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, the only other staffer who has been a head coach at the major-college or pro level.
‘‘Truly identifying, showing on a big screen in front of the entire team, ‘Hey, we need to coach this part of it better, and you guys need to execute this part of it better,’ ’’ said Helfrich, who was the head coach at Oregon in 2013-16. ‘‘And we’re all in this together. . . . It’s, ‘Hey, this is how we’re going to solve it together.’ And I think [Nagy] did a great job of all those things.
‘‘I think a lot of it depends on his personality. And he’s him, all the time. . . . And the players recognize that and appreciate that.’’
After watching film, Nagy preached positivity. He promised his players the lessons learned would benefit them this season, even if it didn’t feel that way.
‘‘Things happen for a reason; I’m a firm believer in that,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘And when things happen for a reason and you stay positive, then we’re going to use this thing. There’s going to be one game or one play in this season where we benefitted from this happening. That’s how I see it.’’
Nagy painted the picture of being able to see down a winding road, even when his players couldn’t.
‘‘He has a good understanding of how long the season is,’’ said running back Benny Cunningham, who served as a captain in Week 1.
There’s no doubting the pain of the loss, though. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky admitted he dwelled on it a day longer than usual — 48 hours — and acknowledged the difference between winning the opener and losing it.
‘‘You definitely think about the missed opportunity we had to set the tone for our season,’’ he said.
It’s up to the head coach to change that narrative, and Nagy is hardly alone in his task. All seven head coaches in their first season with their teams lost in Week 1 — by a combined 91 points.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, the NFL’s oldest coach at 67, said learning how to lead a team back from disappointment is an acquired skill. Perfecting the discipline, language and mentality takes years.
Nagy has eight days.
‘‘Once you’ve developed the discipline it takes to return your focus to the next challenge — if you’ve acquired that — then you can kind of count on it,’’ Carroll said. ‘‘You can count on your return. You can count on the way you come back to it.’’