There are several reasons why the Chicago Bears are a winning team in 2018. A big part of it is the resurgence of their great defense, spearheaded Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Kyle Fuller, and Eddie Jackson. However, as anybody knows it all starts at the top. There’s no question this entire enterprise didn’t get rolling until the arrival of head coach Matt Nagy.
A lot of people were somewhat skeptical of the move at the time. It’s not hard to see why. Nagy had only spent two years as an offensive coordinator in Kansas City. Just half a season of that as an actual play caller. He’d only been a coach in the NFL for 10 years, which is comparatively short for most.
Yet with other far more tenured names available, GM Ryan Pace felt this was the guy for the Bears. Aside from his qualifications, it was for no other reason than Nagy made it clear he wanted the job. Now here, 11 months later he has been voted by the Associated Press as NFL Coach of the Year.
“Matt Nagy, who in his first season led a moribund Bears franchise to the brink of their first playoff appearance in eight years, is doing the best coaching job in the NFL. Nagy was picked as having done the NFL’s best coaching job in 2018 in voting released Friday by a panel of 10 Associated Press football writers.
He got seven of the 10 first-place votes.”
With the official award almost in hand, it’s time to ask the wider question. What exactly went into Nagy claiming this honor for the first time since Lovie Smith over a decade ago? Here are three key reasons.
Took Bears from 5-11 to first winning season in six years
This is the big one. Nothing catches the attention of voters more than winning. Especially winning with a team that has a strong recent history of the opposite. The Bears had no had more than six wins in a season since 2013 and had not posted a winning season since 2012. It wasn’t the longest drought in franchise history but it was one of the toughest to endure.
Nagy, with his infectious enthusiasm and fiery leadership, changed all that. On a frigid night at Soldier Field last week, the Bears knocked off the NFC’s best L.A. Rams to capture their ninth victory, ensuring the teams’ first winning record in six years. Considering he did this with a team that went 5-11 last season makes it all the more impressive.
Turned the offense into a viable threat
The Bears offense has long been a source of pain for Chicago and a big reason the team can never win consistently. It’s why Nagy was hired in the first place. His main job was to make it credible and turn Mitch Trubisky into the quarterback the organization felt he could be. It hasn’t always been pretty this year, but Nagy’s impact can’t be understated.
The Bears rank 7th in the NFL in scoring this season. They only rank 22nd overall but it’s important to remember they were 30th in 2017. An eight-spot jump in one year is nothing to turn the nose up at. There have also been stretches of brilliance from Trubisky including a six-TD game against Tampa Bay. Given how early it still is, the best may be yet to come.
Revitalized Soldier Field
This one wasn’t entirely his doing but it definitely started with him. One of the biggest things Nagy wanted to make clear with his players from the moment he took over as that their top priority from then on would be to defend Soldier Field. Nothing could be more valuable to a franchise than having a genuine homefield advantage where the fans are raucous.
It’s been a long time since Chicago experienced that, but with a 6-1 record in 2018 it’s safe to say his message got through. The Rams wanted no part of that stadium last week. The cold, the noise, and the swarming Bears defense simply overwhelmed them. It all began months ago when Nagy got the message across.