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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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Wildcard Saturday Commentary: Nagy Could Be Next McVay (But What About His Staff?)

| January 6th, 2018

Matt Nagy has spent his entire career with Andy Reid; not a bad guy to hitch your wagon to. Reid’s coaching tree has had prolific success, winning championships as head coaches, coordinators and position coaches. Just look at the his 2001 staff in Philadelphia:

  • Brad Childress (QB)
  • Pat Shurmur (TE)
  • Jim Johnson (DC)
  • Ron Rivera (LB)
  • Steve Spagnuolo (DB)
  • Leslie Frazier (DB)
  • Sean McDermott (ASST.)
  • John Harbaugh (ST)
  • Dave Toub (AST)

Behind every great coach there are great assistants. None of Andy Reid’s assistants rose as quickly as Nagy. But the young offensive coordinator’s lack of experience in multiple staff rooms could suggest to NFL front offices an inability to find his own assistants, keeping him from the opportunity to be a head coach.

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DaBearsPod: No Pats Coaches, Jeff on the Radio, Dave Eats Dog [AUDIO]

| January 5th, 2018

ON THIS WEEK’S EPISODE:

  • Jeff makes the case against Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia.
  • Jeff then appears with his buddies Jimmy B and TC on KBGG 1700 in Des Moines.
  • The great jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimee offers some New Year’s tidings. If you don’t know her music, know her music: cyrillemusic.com.
  • Reverend Dave ate dog in china. It’s a horrible story. And it is apologized for immediately after he tells it.
  • Fight song finale!

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Across The Middle: Call to McDaniels Had To Be Made

| January 3rd, 2018

I don’t know if Josh McDaniels has learned from his failures in Denver, but I’m glad Ryan Pace intends to find out. We can sit back and debate the qualifications of all the other candidates, but there’s no questioning what McDaniels has done. The 41-year-old offensive coordinator…

  • Has five Super Bowl rings.
  • Has coached nine offenses that have finished in the top 10 in scoring and seven that have taken top 10 spots in yardage.
  • Has won at least one game with six different quarterbacks, including an 11-5 campaign with Matt Cassell.
  • Has has been credited with developing young quarterbacks (who were later traded for draft picks) in Cassel, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett.
  • In New England’s 2017 Super Bowl run, they averaged 34.6 points per game. They scored 28 points against the best defense in the league to win the 2015 Super Bowl.

You name it, he’s done it. He’s the one guy every team with an opening has to interview.

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Flip the Script: Bears Should Hire Eagles Quarterbacks Coach

| January 1st, 2018

At the end of the 2013 season, when Phil Emery was looking for Lovie Smith’s successor, I wrote a column endorsing Kyle Shanahan for the job. That column was met with across-the-board rejection from not only readers but friends in the media and around the league. My argument was simple. I thought Shanahan was going to be a great head coach soon enough, knew he had a terrific relationship with Jay Cutler and wanted the Bears to grab him before he became a hot commodity. Sure enough, a few years later, Shanny went on to create explosive offenses in Atlanta and become the hottest coach on the market in 2017.

John Eugene DeFilippo is that guy right now.


Resume.

Let’s just go through Flip’s career and see what he’s accomplished because it’s rather remarkable for someone who is only thirty-nine years old.

  • He began his NFL coaching career on Tom Coughlin’s staff with the New York Giants. Never a bad thing to get your first exposure to the league under one of its greatest coaches.
  • After two traumatic seasons in Oakland (‘The Kiffin/Cable Years’) he was the rookie year QB coach for Mark Sanchez in Jersey. Sanchez, coming off one year starting in college, struggled through that season but then turned everything around in the postseason. With Trubisky trusting and relying on Sanchez, Flip could probably convince him to stay on as QB coach and now the Bears would be building a similar coaching coalition to what exists in Philly.
  • Flip left the Jets, where he was splitting duties with former Bears OC Matt Cavanaugh, and returned to the college ranks. His work at San Jose State was apparently pretty damn good but who is really doing a deep dive into what’s good and not good at San Jose State?
  • He returned to the pro ranks, coaching both Derek Carr as a rookie and coordinating the Browns for a year with a quarterbacking trio of Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel and Austin Davis. That trio completed 60% of their passes for 4,156 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. That trio. Did that.
  • He’s been the QB coach for Carson Wentz and been primarily responsible for the Wentz transition from lost rookie fading down the stretch to MVP candidate. And let me tell you this. If Nick Foles takes this team deep into the playoffs, Flip will have the suitors stacking up.

The Leap.

Listen, is the jump from position coach to head coach a big one? Yes. But two things. (1) Andy Reid did it once. (2) Flip has already been a coordinator, even if only for one year, even if only for the Browns. And Flip also sounds an awful lot like a head coach. His players agree. From current Eagles backup Nate Sudfeld:

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Four Thoughts on the Eve of John Fox’s Final Game as Bears Head Coach

| December 30th, 2017

John Fox will lead the Bears one more time, tomorrow, in Minneapolis. These will be my final thoughts on the Fox tenure.


(1) People need to stop revisiting how and why Fox was hired. There was no conspiracy. Ownership did not inflict Fox upon Ryan Pace. It was a simple process.

  • When the Bears hired Pace, Ernie Accorsi and ownership believed it would be wise to pair the young GM with a veteran head coach. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
  • Accorsi had known John Fox for thirty years so the coach’s surprising availability was an ideal match.
  • Accorsi and ownership asked Pace to meet Fox.
  • Pace met him. For a long time.
  • Pace decided to hire him. If Pace had called ownership and said no, Fox would not have been hired. Did ownership clearly want him to make this decision? Yes. Did Pace feel pressured to make it? I’ve been told by someone who really knows that Pace didn’t need pressure. He liked Fox a lot.

Everybody. Was. On. Board.


(2) Fox took over the worst defense in the history of the Chicago Bears. That’s not hyperbole. That’s fact. And today that unit is ranked 8th in the NFL, even while suffering a series of debilitating injuries and playing half the season with no pass rushers. There are a lot of factors why but the John Fox is leaving the Bears in far better shape than he found them.

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Across The Middle: Next Coach Needs To Be A Winner

| December 27th, 2017

When the Bears hire their next coach, they better make sure he knows what it takes to win.

When looking at the 10 active head coaches with the highest winning percentage and 10 who lasted three years or fewer in their head coaching stints, the difference was clear. Of the 10 coaches with the highest winning percentages:

  • 7 had won at least 20 more games than they lost prior to taking their current jobs.
  • 9 had major championship game experience.
  • 9 won championships at some point in their lives.

Out of the 10 coaches who flamed out quickly, the best had won 14 more games than he lost and only two had previously won Super Bowls.

Two coaches that make this study a bit more inexact are Pete Carroll and Andy Reid. Carroll had six years as a defensive coordinator, going 49-47 and he was 33-31 as an NFL head coach prior to coming to Seattle. But his work at USC was exemplary, going 97-19 with two championships. Reid is the only coach in the top 10 who had no experience as a coordinator, but he was part of the great Green Bay Packers teams of the mid 90s, where he won a Super Bowl. Any way you slice it, you’re looking at two coaches who had quite a bit of success before they hit it big with their current teams.

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