Who is new Bears head coach Matt Nagy? ‘Intense,’ ‘motivated’ and ‘a leader’
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Matt Nagy got the top bunk and Mike Cecere the bottom.
The two had met on their official recruiting visit to Delaware and had become fast friends. Nagy was a strong-armed, if slow-footed, quarterback from Pennsylvania; Cecere was a stud defensive lineman from New Jersey.
The two would live together for five years, starting as redshirt freshmen in 1997 and through their star turns. The Blue Hens made the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals in 2000, Nagy rewrote their passing records and Cecere became their first player to be named All-Atlantic 10.
So there might be no better person than Cecere to answer the question Bears fans spent Monday asking after general manager Ryan Pace christened Nagy the 16th coach in franchise history: Who, exactly, is Nagy?
He was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator who helped revive their season, taking over play-calling duties from coach Andy Reid and helping them win four of their last five regular-season games before a crushing playoff loss Saturday.
He’s a quarterback mentor — to Alex Smith, who turned in perhaps his finest season, and first-round draft pick Patrick Mahomes — and, more important, a Mitch Trubisky fan.
He and wife Stacey, whom he met in high school, are the parents to four boys, including twins.
But more than anything, he’s still the 17-year-old who lay on the top bunk with a pen.
‘‘He was so far beyond anybody else,’’ Cecere said. ‘‘He already had a full notebook of offensive plays he’d made himself. You just knew he was going places.’’
Delaware was out of eye-black stickers. Nagy, a creature of habit as a player, wouldn’t calm down.
Coach Tubby Raymond sent Jerry Oravitz, then his operations director, to find out what was wrong — and to fix it. Oravitz’s baseball instincts kicked in. He ran to the catering office, got two bottles of wine, burned the cork and smeared it on the star player.
‘‘Once he’s between the lines, he’s razor-sharp, locked in, intense,’’ Oravitz said. ‘‘Probably from the time we recruited him, you could see he had an unbelievable amount of intelligence and fire. He was extremely critical of himself.’’
That’s why Nagy, even though he wasn’t recruited by a major-college school, eventually set Blue Hens career records with 502 completions, 8,214 passing yards and 58 touchdowns.
‘‘He was a leader from Day 1,’’ Cecere said. ‘‘Everyone respected how smart he was with regard to the offensive mind [and] work ethic. And his arm spoke for itself. His accuracy spoke for itself.’’
Nagy played six seasons in the Arena Football League, where he totaled 374 touchdowns and 55 interceptions. A high school coach who had started a real-estate career, Nagy spent the summers of 2008 and 2009 as a training-camp intern with the Eagles. He even spent one morning on the team — he signed to play after Kevin Kolb was hurt — but the NFL disallowed the contract for fear of setting a precedent of stashing extra players as interns.
His Eagles connection dated to college: Brett Veach, one of his favorite receiving targets at Delaware, was low-level assistant for Reid. When Veach was promoted to a scouting position, he suggested Nagy take his place. Nagy gave up his real-estate job.
After serving as Reid’s assistant in 2010, Nagy was promoted to offensive quality-control coach. He followed Reid and Veach to the Chiefs, for whom he was quarterbacks coach for three seasons, co-offensive coordinator last season and offensive coordinator this season.
‘‘I was with him when he started his journey in the NFL, and to see him climb the ranks and achieve his goal of becoming a head coach is outstanding,’’ Veach, who was named the Chiefs’ GM last summer, said in a statement. ‘‘Matt is passionate and motivated and, as a former player, has a great feel for the locker room.’’
The Bears hope it translates to the quarterback room, too.
They wanted a play-caller to be their coach and Trubisky’s mentor, but Nagy had the least experience among the four offensive minds they interviewed between Friday and Sunday.
Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had head-coaching experience, and both figure to land jobs once their teams lose in the playoffs or win the Super Bowl. Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo was the Browns’ offensive coordinator in 2015, calling more plays than Nagy did this season.
Still, it’s easy to imagine Pace squinting and seeing Smith’s athleticism in Trubisky, Tyreek Hill’s speed in Tarik Cohen and tight end Adam Shaheen turning into a poor man’s Travis Kelce.
The futures of Nagy and Pace, who figure to be tied to each other with four-year contracts, depend on Trubisky’s growth. He needs to be Nagy’s X’s and O’s come to life.
‘‘I knew all he needed was a shot and that he was going to grow through the ranks quickly,’’ Cecere said ‘‘A lot of these guys take years and years and years to get where he is now. It just goes to show you how well-respected and how intelligent he really is with regards to the offensive mind.’’
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.