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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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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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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Across The Middle: Tightening Pace’s Leash

| November 29th, 2017

The Bears could’ve had the best coaches in the history of football and they still would’ve lost to the Eagles by 20 points.

Say what you will about John Fox and company — and it’s probably all fair — but the hard truth is that the Bears don’t have enough good players. A lot of that is due to injury. Losing their top two receivers and all four starting linebackers is a tough blow. But still, they should be able to put up a fight!

Let’s look at who was available Sunday against Philadelphia:

  • Markus Wheaton is paid like a starter.
  • Nick Kwiatkoski should be a starter at this point anyway. Christian Jones has played like one.
  • Deiondre Hall, Deon Bush and Hroniss Grasu should all be starters.
  • Jon Bullard was drafted to be a major piece. He shouldn’t be warming the bench behind a journeyman at this point.
  • Pernell McPhee has turned into a ghost.

I like Ryan Pace. Most fans do. I’d argue his plus decisions far outweigh his minuses but nowhere near as much as the losses outweigh the wins.

The Bears are at a crossroads.

They will, and I still believe should, allow Pace to hire the next coach. But what if they’re 3-8 next year too? Do they just hit the reset button again? How long can they reasonably expect this loyal fan base to be patient? They are currently suffering through one of the worst four-year stretches in team history.

I’ve long said the primary reason I wouldn’t want to hire Jim Harbaugh or Josh McDaniels is because they’d want to be Pace’s boss too, but I’m no longer sure that should stop the Bears. New England, Seattle, Kansas City, New Orleans all have their coaches in charge of the rosters. If Jim Harbaugh calls up George McCaskey and says he wants to the keys to the franchise, has Pace done enough for the Bears to justify saying no? Even if you look at first time head coaches the last two years, two of the big fishes were handed the keys to their franchises in Miami and San Francisco. That doesn’t include Sean McDermott, who was given what he asked for after a month or so on the job.

We have months to debate the coaching pedigrees of Harbaugh, McDaniels and everyone else, including whether or not they deserve such power. That’s not the point. The point is, how can we be so sure that Pace does? To be clear, this isn’t a call to fire Pace. I think he’s shown that he has an eye for talent. I just hope the Bears don’t let a great football mind out the door simply because Pace has a solid draft record.

Hopefully the problem is simple as needing a new coach and another off-season to build depth. I’m just not entirely sure that’s true. This is Year Three, the Bears should be much further along. Blame Fox all you want, but Pace has blood on his hands too. Here’s to hoping he can get it cleaned up.

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