Matt Nagy knows his primary job is to turn the Chicago Bears into a winning team. That’s obvious. His other job, the one he was hired for, was to turn Mitch Trubisky into a top NFL quarterback. They saw the work he did with Alex Smith. They know his background as a QB in college and the Arena League. His qualifications are all geared towards that endeavor.
There’s nothing wrong with that. The Bears have too often been held back because their offense couldn’t carry the load. If Nagy can fix that, it’s a great thing. The key though is the same challenge that many coaches like him have faced. The challenge of elevating the other side of the ball from your area of expertise. It’s such an overlooked aspect of what separates average coaches from great ones.
Can a coach who is steeped in an offensive background do enough to ensure his defense isn’t neglected? This was the exact problem that ruined the run of Marc Trestman in Chicago. Even as the offense improved, the defense sank to its lowest depths in franchise history. Then John Fox came in and merely flipped the script. The defenses were good but the offense collapsed.
This is the pitfall Nagy approaches in his first year.
Matt Nagy already crafting ways to motivate the defense
The first and most vital thing he needed to do was put a good defensive coordinator on his staff. Retaining Vic Fangio was the wisest, most obvious choice. However, there’s more to being a head coach than hiring a good assistant. You’re expected to be the biggest voice in the room. The man who takes the lead and demands excellence from everybody, not just one side of the ball.
It seems Nagy understands this and has taken a variety of measures to get the defense united and amped up for this year. Danny Trevathan noticed it early on when the coach began his first meetings with the team.
“He came in humble but he was hungry. He came in anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”
Talking alone though isn’t enough. Players will only respond to words so much. They need to see action too. A sign that the coach cares about their well-being, both on and off the field. Little gestures like taking them on fun excursions can often be huge for team unity. Nagy did this a week ago when he took the Bears to Topgolf in Naperville. Eddie Jackson was a big fan of that.
“[Nagy] won us over I think really last week with the Topgolf thing. It was something where everybody can get to know each other better with coaches and players.”
At the end of the day though, defensive players tend to be a talkative bunch.
It’s not easy to play defense this day and age. Players need to carry themselves with a certain cockiness and swagger. They love to trash talk, see if they can get under the skin of the offense. It’s one thing to hear a quarterback or a wide receiver jaw right back. It’s another thing when the head coach is doing stuff like that. Cornerback Prince Amukamara took delight in going back and forth with Nagy during practice.
“I like to talk stuff to him. He’ll say something like, ‘We’re coming at you 2-0’ and stuff like that. That just brings out the competition, and you always want that in your head coach.”
This demonstrates an understanding by Nagy that not all players are the same. It takes different methods to motivate them all. The famous line about Vince Lombardi was he treated everybody the same, like dogs. That’s not true. He treated certain players like dogs but only because he felt that was the best way to get their best effort from them.
Nagy seems to operate in the same manner, which is a welcome sign.