New Bears coach Matt Nagy sees himself in ‘driven’ QB Mitch Trubisky
Matt Nagy’s last text message to Mitch Trubisky was one of congratulations after the Bears traded up to draft him No. 2 overall in April: Hey man, you did a great job with us. You’re going to do a great job there.
On Monday, there became here.
Nagy agreed to become the Bears’ 16th coach, intrigued by the connection he had made with Trubisky while his former team, the Chiefs, studied him before the draft last year.
On Tuesday, general manager Ryan Pace was eager to paint Nagy as the leader of 53 men and not just a Trubisky whisperer — ‘‘This is about more than the quarterback,’’ Pace said — but don’t be fooled. Nagy, who will call plays, was hired to make Trubisky the best he can be.
In retrospect, believing in Trubisky last year was the first building block. Nagy first met him at the NFL Scouting Combine but found his interview answers to be too scripted, as if Trubisky simply wanted to tell his potential bosses what they wanted to hear.
But when the Chiefs flew Trubisky to Kansas City for a six-hour interview, Nagy — their offensive coordinator at the time — said he couldn’t help but open up.
‘‘There weren’t a lot of teams that wanted him coming out of high school, so he was driven,’’ Nagy said after being introduced at Halas Hall, where he hugged Trubisky in the weight room. ‘‘I think that’s important. As you look at these guys and these players, you never know when you’re gonna catch one of those guys that’s driven like that. For him, you could sense that.’’
It felt familiar. Even on perhaps the greatest day of his professional life, Nagy showed he was wired the same way when he mentioned in his opening statement that only two Division I-AA schools recruited him out of Manheim (Pennsylvania) Central High School.
‘‘[Trubisky] is certainly a part of it, but that’s not the reason why I’m here,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘I’m here because of the organization and the direction. I could feel that from the moment I was in that interview process. That’s a benefit to have Mitch Trubisky. I knew a lot about him because I had him in the combine and we spent some time with him. . . . Everyone on this team is just as important as the quarterback.’’
Maybe in theory, but the quarterback was the only one whom the team considered including in the search. The Bears eventually decided against Trubisky attending interviews.
Nagy, though, already knew him. He even brought the notes he made last year — both off Trubisky’s film and his Kansas City visit — to his interview with Pace, chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips.
‘‘I felt like they already knew each other without having Mitch involved in the interview,’’ Pace said.
Nagy’s experience this season helped prepare him for Trubisky. Not only did he help Alex Smith to perhaps his finest season, but he groomed Patrick Mahomes, whom the Chiefs drafted in the first round.
‘‘It kind of brought that out in me to understand: ‘Listen, [Mahomes] doesn’t know the concept of this play, the Flanker Draft Texas Halfback Wide. He doesn’t understand that, whereas Alex can do it in his sleep,’ ’’ Nagy said. ‘‘So it made me a better person, and it made me a better coach.’’
Nagy had to see his plays through the eyes of someone learning it for the first time. Next season, he’ll do it again when he teaches Trubisky his West Coast system.
If their time together before the draft last year was any indication, the second-year quarterback will be fine.
‘‘After six hours of being with Mitch, it was unbelievable,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘He did a wonderful job, thought he’s a helluva person, thought he knew football inside and out. It was fun talking ball with him.
‘‘So to see him get here just today, it was neat.’’
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.