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Across The Middle: Pace Still Has His Work Cut Out For Him

| January 17th, 2018

Matt Nagy could be the greatest offensive mind in the history of the league and even he couldn’t have succeeded with the Bears talent this season. A telling quote from Bob McGinn’s annual :All-NFC North team column, polling multiple scouts:

“Personnel people find it hard to believe what the Bears were employing with at WR after Cameron Meredith and, to a much lesser extent, Kevin White, suffered season-ending injuries early. ‘Just a bunch of names, really,’ one scout said.”

In the piece the Bears had four players  — Josh Sitton, Cody Whitehair, Kyle Long and Jordan Howard —  take first-team spots offensively. They also had five starters finish last in their positions and two more were second-to-last.

The Bears have a lot more talent on defense, where seven players finished in the top two at their positions, which is impressive with the All-Pro laden Vikings unit in the division. The Bears’ talent resulted in a top-10 finish and that group still needs help in the pass rush department.

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Notes on the Nagy Coaching Staff

| January 15th, 2018


It’s okay to get excited about a new coaching staff.

It doesn’t mean you irrationally believe that staff is going to cure all that ails the franchise you root for; in this case your Chicago Bears. It doesn’t mean the good players will now become great players and the bad players good players. It just means you believe a new collection of leaders, a new assemblage of ideas has the chance to change things for the better.

When John Fox hired Adam Gase and Vic Fangio to be his offensive and defensive coordinators (respectively) there was nary a negative word to be written. Gase was the hottest young offensive assistant in the game, having interviewed for several head-coaching vacancies. Fangio was a steady rock of a coordinator, coming off his most successful stint in the league. Did it work out? No. But was that any fault of the initial coordinator hires? Doubtful. That blame falls on quarterback turnover, a tsunami of injuries and a head coach watching the game blow by like a Dakotan tumbleweed.

This is a coaching staff to get excited about. And fans should allow themselves that moment of excitement, even if it is only a moment. There are many reasons why.

  • When I ask my friends in the league to name the best offensive line coaches in the sport, three names surface: Dante Scarnecchia (the gold standard), Mike Munchak (will be employed in the NFL for 30 more years) and Harry Hiestand. Hiestand’s first time around with the Bears was exceptional but over the last five years he’s built Notre Dame’s OL into one of the most consistently dominating position groups in the nation. Of all the hires Nagy made this week, this is the most impressive.
  • But don’t get wrapped up in how this effects the draft. Yes, I believe Quenton Nelson is the best player entering the NFL next season and would be THRILLED to see him in Chicago. But the Bears would have known his ability with or without Hiestand on the staff. All having Hiestand at Halas Hall does is eliminate the need for lengthy pre-draft meetings with the ND guard. (The same can be said for the other major league prospect off this unit, tackle Mike McGlinchey.)

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Some More “Inside” Information on the Hiring of Matt Nagy

| January 11th, 2018

There’s a lot of information available about the hiring of Matt Nagy, with nobody writing a more detailed piece than Adam Jahns. But here’s some info that, until now, wasn’t available.

  • Chris Ballard and the Colts thought Nagy was going to be their next coach. Wanna know how close Ballard and Nagy are? Their kids are on the same youth sports teams in wherever-they-live Kansas City. These guys aren’t just colleagues. They are friends.
  • When Ryan Pace asked Nagy what he was thinking for the defensive side of the ball, Nagy responded that the team should do everything in their power to retain Vic Fangio. He supplied 5-6 other names he believed would be good choices but was effusively in favor of Fangio finishing what he started. The Bears were impressed.
  • Matt Nagy’s agent is former Bear Trace Armstrong. Armstrong’s rookie contract was negotiated by his agent, Tom Condon, and the Bears’ Ted Phillips. Phillips, Condon and Armstrong have maintained a close relationship for years. Phillips is a big reason that Nagy chose the Bears over the Colts. As I was told, Armstrong argued strongly to Nagy, “You NEED to be in Chicago. These guys are great.”
  • Nagy walking into the room with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand in his pocket was one of the most impressive moments of the entire interview process for the Bears. Hiestand is the best OL coach in the country. Bears knew that firsthand.

That’s all I got. Now Nagy will build the rest of his staff and away we go.

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Across The Middle: Nagy Was Always Pace’s Guy

| January 10th, 2018


Updated 2018 Bears Coach Power Rankings

#1. Matt Nagy. He was the guy all along.

“That’s who Ryan and this organization wanted to go after. They had a plan for it, they attacked it and they did it so that’s a credit for them for doing that, they were aggressive with it, they believed it, they had conviction and let’s go.”


Yes, Nagy was talking about Ryan Pace’s pursuit of Mitch Trubisky in the quote above but he might as well have been talking about his own pursuit by the Bears GM. The Bears interview schedule only made sense if they had a specific target in mind. Nagy was that target.

The alarm went off inside my head Friday night.

Why did the Bears schedule the first interview they were going to conduct last? (We already knew the Bears were going to meet with Nagy, Josh McDaniels, John DeFilippo and Pat Shurmur.)

Why did the Bears (and only the Bears) interview Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards completely came out of the blue, when they had already reached out to but not scheduled a meeting with  Panthers DC Steve Wilks to satisfy the Rooney Rule? (They were clearly meeting with a coach who wasn’t nearly as qualified to get the league rule out of the way.)

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Reacting to Matt Nagy’s Introductory Press Conference

| January 9th, 2018

The Chicago Bears formally introduced new head coach Matt Nagy today. Here are some thoughts on the press conference.

  • News: Nagy and Pace have not reached an agreement with a defensive coordinator or any other members of the staff. That will come in the next few days.
  • What occurred to me was the Bears now have a first-year head coach, second-year quarterback and 40 year-old GM responsible for putting it all together. I can’t remember another time where the three most crucial roles in this organization were operating as one. Were they ever? This is an exciting time to be a Bears fan. Sure, it might not work out. But it also might. And working out means competing for division titles every season.
  • “This is about more than the quarterback” was one of the first phrases out of Ryan Pace’s mouth and his only “football” comment made in the introductory remarks.
  • The Bears interviewed six candidates. One of them got four and a half hours and a dinner. The other five decidedly did not. Nagy was the target.


  • Nagy is a confident speaker. It is always interesting to see how these young coaches hold up in front of the media for the first time and Nagy seemed like a natural. This bodes well for a man who’ll have to address 53 giant lunatics every week.
  • Someone named “Larry Wisdom” got mentioned. I need to know more about him.

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Some Bits on the Matt Nagy Hiring You Won’t Find Anywhere Else

| January 9th, 2018

People tweeted me, texted me, asked me forty times today, “What do you think of the Nagy hire?” While it’s hard to believe, I really don’t care. I’m excited about new coach and new approach but you never know which of these coordinators is going to become a great head coach. I hope he wins a lot of games.

Since there’s so much information available on Nagy, I’ll spare you the same rehashed opinions and links. Instead here’s some information you won’t see elsewhere about the process.

  • John DeFilippo’s interview was underwhelming. And that’s being kind. The Bears found him to be green and, beyond that, doubted his ability to build a competitive staff. When Peter Schrager reported that Flip was willing to keep Fangio, some believe it was a response to Flip knowing he’d done poorly when pushed on those questions.
  • Josh McDaniels’ interview was the opposite. If Nagy was the target all along, McD gave the organization pause. He was incredibly prepared for their short session. There’s some debate over whether McD wanted to come to Chicago but there is no debate that Bears would have pursued vigorously if Nagy passed. (Side note: Nagy wasn’t passing.)
  • Adam Jahns is not just someone I respect but a friend. And an hour before his story went public, I knew he had it. Being able to experience that hour with him was flat-out thrilling. And seeing him beat Schefter and RapSheet by all of a few minutes is proof 2018 has potential.
  • When I went to sleep Sunday night, around midnight ET, Ted Phillips and George McCaskey were not certain who Ryan Pace was hiring as the next head coach. Pace was given autonomy. A source close to ownership told me Sunday early evening that it would “not be surprising if there were a second round of interviews”. It would have been quite surprising to Pace.

That’s it. That’s all I got. The press conference is Tuesday at 1 pm CT. I’ll be back with a wrap-up of that after it concludes.

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