The five best stories that Bears coach Matt Nagy shared at NFL meetings
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PHOENIX — From discussing the Bears’ best players to disclosing what Chiefs coach Andy Reid says in text messages, coach Matt Nagy’s one-hour meeting with reporters Tuesday included a lot more than the breakfast buffet and omelette station a few steps from his table.
Here are the five best stories Nagy shared during the annual coaches breakfast at the league meetings at the Arizona Biltmore:
Comfort in cheeseburgers
Nagy and Reid, his mentor, have a rule: Wait 24 hours before discussing losses. But Nagy violated it after the Bears’ first-round playoff loss against the Eagles on Jan. 6, calling Reid on his drive home.
“One of the first things that [he] said was — and this was pretty neat — he was able to see a lot of our games, and he saw the growth in our quarterback [Mitch Trubisky],” Nagy said. “That was, to me, really strong in the fact that he’s telling me what a great job Mitchell did throughout the year. And that was comforting because that was a big part of what we were looking for this year.
“And then, as far as handling the loss, it’s life. It’s football. You’ll get over it. Give it a couple days.”
Nagy gave Reid a couple of days before he called him after the Chiefs lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 20.
“Coach was down, and it was hard,” Nagy said. “He was so close. And I wanted it so bad for him. You just feel it.”
Their mood changed 15 minutes into their conversation.
“He says to me, ‘Oh, man, we just both need a cheeseburger’ — and that’s him,” Nagy said. “You can hear him saying that.”
The next day, Reid texted Nagy a picture of the Bears’ name circled on the Chiefs’ 2019 schedule.
“He says, ‘Let’s go, baby!’ ” Nagy said. “So we’re ready.”
Reid’s pancakes bitmoji
Nagy never grabbed that burger with Reid. But, he told reporters, he did send Reid a picture of Town Topic after he and his wife, Stacey, “hammered” cheeseburgers at the Kansas City restaurant while they were in town for an awards ceremony.
It soon turned into a revelation that Nagy and Reid communicate often using their “bitmojis” — personalized versions of emojis that look like the user.
“No one knows it — I probably just told you — but [Reid’s] big on bitmojis, and he builds himself in a Tommy Bahama [shirt],” Nagy said. “So he has a Tommy Bahama, and then he’ll send me a picture of [him]like, eating a bunch of cheeseburgers or something. Then I have mine. And I send him back mine. We have fun with it.”
Nagy called up a recent bitmoji from Reid.
“You see Coach with the pancakes,” Nagy said. “See, I’m not lying. That’s it right there.”
Reid often wears the Hawaiian-like Tommy Bahama shirts during NFL meetings while most other coaches stick with business casual. It makes him stand out in the annual group photo.
Nagy also shared a bitmoji of himself with reporters.
“I’m Bear’ed up,” Nagy said. “I got the Bears hat. They don’t have a visor. So I got to talk to somebody.”
Signs from the stars
While the Patriots were defeating the Rams in Super Bowl 53, Bears linebacker Khalil Mack was in the gym working out.
“That’s pretty good to have that,” Nagy said. “When you have guys like that that want the trophy and they want the ultimate prize in the end, that’s special.”
The Bears’ success as a team last season included personnel accolades for some of their best players. A league-high seven Bears played in the Pro Bowl after alternates were added: Trubisky, left tackle Charles Leno Jr., center Cody Whitehair, running back/kick returner Tarik Cohen, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Kyle Fuller.
Cohen, Hicks, Jackson and Fuller were original selections, along with Mack, who missed the game because of an injury. Cohen, Jackson, Fuller and Mack also were first-team All Pro selections.
“Of everybody that . . . got those awards, they all either sent me a text or called me to tell me that they want the trophy,” Nagy said. “That [the personal honors are] great, but they want the trophy. Every one of them.”
It was especially true for Mack.
“From talking to No. 52, Khalil, he’s hungry,” Nagy said. “[From] all of the other accolades and everything, he wants a Super Bowl.”
Building around Mitch
The Bears’ decision to re-sign third-string quarterback Tyler Bray was significant for those who know him and understand his importance — starting with Trubisky.
“Mitch was one of the first guys that called me just to tell me how excited he was that Tyler’s coming back as that third quarterback,” Nagy said.
Re-signing Bray is part of the Bears’ plan to continuously support Trubisky on and off the field. Nagy also highlighted the importance of quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone and veteran backup Chase Daniel.
“The trust thing, they knocked that wall down,” Nagy said. “And now, those three guys . . . are helping out Mitch to try to be the best quarterback he can be.”
Leaving the building
Nagy ended his exit interviews with players with a new message.
“We’re not hunting anymore,” he told them. “We’re the hunted.”
That’s what happens when you go 12-4 and win the NFC North.
“That’s what you want,” he said. “We want to be that team that gets on prime time as much as we can. If you’re doing that, you’re doing something right, because people want to see you. But within our Halas Hall, our players are going to realize — and they’re going to feel it from our staff and from myself — that last year is gone.”
It’s a message that will be repeated again and again when players report to Halas Hall next month for the start of their offseason program.
“When I stand out there and I hold the trophy and I tell you, ‘This is why we’re here’ — you’ve got to believe it,” Nagy said. “[I’m] not sure that everybody believed it at the beginning of the season last year. Now when we get in there April 15th, every one of those guys in that building is going to believe it.”