LAKE FOREST – So let’s talk about what happened when Matt Nagy met the media – and through them – Bears Nation for the first time Tuesday.
As one hopeful Bears fan put it to me, Nagy laughed and smiled more and answered more questions in 30 minutes than John Fox did in three years.
Will Nagy prove to be a breath of fresh air blowing through Halas Hall? I’d say it’s a little early to answer that one, but he did get himself off to a pretty good start.
I had a brief exchange with Ryan Pace immediately after Nagy’s introduction. The Bears’ general manager asked me how I thought Nagy did in his first big, major-market gabfest. Not in a boss-worried-about-how-the-most-important-hire-of-his-life-did way, but more like a friend hoping his guy came across well.
I felt like I’d just witnessed a half-hour sales pitch from a really confident guy who was excited and intimate with his subject matter, but he wasn’t trying to sell me a cure-all or a bridge.
Our first brush with Nagy most importantly left me feeling as if the Bears’ new coach is a pretty easy guy to trust.
Asked how Pace sold him on the job – Nagy also interviewed with the Colts and might have had other opportunities had the Bears not gobbled him up so quickly – Nagy gave my favorite answer of the day.
“The direction of this team and this organization, you see, you feel it. There’s a want there to be great.
“One of the things I noticed right away off the bat with Ryan is understanding how easy it’s going to be for us to have a partnership. It’s going to be strong. I told him. I said, I got you. This is something here we’re going to do together.
“No egos involved. Right? I’m going to help you with any questions you have, and you do the same to me. You criticize me, and I’ll criticize you.
“We may agree to disagree, but guess what? We’re going to build a competitive team. And in the end, we’ll be able to look each other in the eyes, respect each other and smile.”
Where do I sign up?
When asked how he will handle the duties of head coach, quarterback whisperer, play caller and chief cook and bottle washer all at once, Nagy returned to a favorite theme. “It was really neat (in Kansas City) because between the three of us (Andy Reid, Brad Childress, Nagy) and the rest of our staff, we all gave ideas.
“Everybody had ideas. There was no egos. You would think most of the time, that would be the biggest [issue] – too many cooks in the kitchen. That wasn’t the case.
“With Coach Reid, there was zero egos. He doesn’t care.”
I left Halas Hall on Tuesday believing there is very little if any ego with Nagy.
It also was instructive observing Pace, who appears to have grown dramatically in his role in recent months.
The Bears got the optics right this time with George McCaskey and Ted Phillips seated proudly but silently in the audience, beaming like proud parents.
When Pace was asked what makes Nagy his guy, he told us, “He’s a natural leader. He’s highly intelligent, has outstanding character, and you start with that; he’s a great person. So it’s someone I thought we could collaboratively work together, and it could be a strong relationship.
“What was kind of neat, was that I have all these references, but obviously a lot of them were coming back from mutual friends in the business saying, ‘You guys just fit together.’ If they were going to match two guys together, it’d be Matt and I. I think that was part of it, too.”
Pace and Fox were the odd couple from the jump, and far too often not in a good way. This pairing just looks and feels better, feels like it was clearly Pace’s baby and has a much better chance to succeed.
Now all they have to do is win. Can’t wait to see if they know how to do that.
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org