Matt Nagy says quarterback Mitch Trubisky wasn't the most important factor in him accepting the Bears' offer to become their 16th head coach in franchise history.
“That’s not the reason why I’m here,” Nagy said when asked about Trubisky, the second overall pick in last year's draft. “I’m here because of the organization and the direction (of the team). It’s a benefit to have Mitch Trubisky, but this is a team game, and everyone on this team is just as important as the quarterback.”
Nagy is obligated to say that. But it's no secret Trubisky's success or failure will have more to do with how long Nagy lasts in his first head-coaching gig than anything else.
As the Chiefs' offensive coordinator a year ago, Nagy became familiar with Trubisky during the pre-draft process. K.C. was committed to taking a quarterback, which turned out to be Patrick Mahomes, eight picks after the Bears took Trubisky. Nagy and the Chiefs initially met Trubisky at the Scouting Combine, but it was the NFL's version of speed dating.
“It’s just too hard to figure out who that player is, who that person is, in 15 minutes,” Nagy said. “I had an opinion of Mitch that he was kind of introverted and, I felt, scripted, which 95 percent of the guys are in that atmosphere.
“But we took several quarterbacks we were interested in and had them for six or seven hours and let their personalities show. Mitch was unbelievable, he did a wonderful job. I thought he was a helluva person, thought he knew football inside and out.”
Nagy and Trubisky are destined to be linked in Bears history. But the new head coach will delegate the development, education and refinement of the young quarterback to his top offensive lieutenant – coordinator Mark Helfrich — and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone. Nagy is confident he's got the optimal mix of coaches to work with the franchise quarterback.
Helfrich helped guide Marcus Mariota to the Heisman Trophy during his four years as head coach at Oregon. Ragone helped prepare Trubisky to make 12 starts as a rookie and is the lone offensive holdover from John Fox's staff.
“The quarterback needs to know when he’s doing something wrong or how he can get better,” Nagy said. “And the coach needs to understand when he’s not teaching something the right way. You’ve got to communicate. When you fail to communicate, there are gray areas. And when there’s gray areas, bad things happen.”
For the most part, Trubisky avoided fatal mistakes as a rookie. He threw just 7 interceptions and wasn't picked off at all in four of his final five starts. But he also threw just 7 TD passes in an offense that was scaled down, partly as a concession to his inexperience, and partly because he lacked the weapons to mount an effective aerial attack.
In Year Two, much more will be expected from Trubisky, and Nagy is confident Helfrich is the ideal mentor. “It's such an important position in this league and it's a delicate position that has to be (coached) the right way,” Nagy said.
“It's knowing how to be a teacher in the classroom. Sometimes you have to get on them a little bit. There's going to be tough love.
“But teaching details and fundamentals, (Helfrich) has that. It was a slam dunk the second I knew he was interested and got to talk football with him. It was a no-brainer.”
The beginning of the Bears' offseason workout program is still two months away, but Helfrich likes what he's seen of Trubisky on tape. He worked with a variety of quarterback types at Oregon, and he says the great ones have two important traits in common, aside from physical tools.
“You have to have a talented guy who wants to be coached and wants to be great,” Helfrich said. “You get him to say that, then hold him to that standard.”