ATLANTA – Honestly, the real surprise would have been if Bears head coach Matt Nagy was not selected the NFL’s 2018 NFL Coach of the Year.
There were no surprises at the NFL’s Honors Award Show Saturday, when Nagy was named the winner in the vote conducted by the Associated Press panel of 50 of the top football writers in the country.
The Bears' coach received 24 votes, more than doubling up on the second choice, the L.A. Chargers' Anthony Lynn who received 10 votes, and four other coaches getting votes including the Colts' Frank Reich, Kansas City’s Andy Reid, Pete Carroll of the Seahawks and New Orleans’ Sean Payton.
Nagy accepted the award saying, “I want to thank the AP for selecting me as the Coach of the Year for 2018, especially considering the other deserving coaches who had outstanding seasons.
“This recognition is not about me, it is about our coaching staff, our players, the entire organization and the great Chicago Bears fans. We won this together as a family.”
In his rookie season in the top job, Nagy inherited a team that had gone 5-11 the season prior, just 8-24 over the past two and was riding a streak of four straight NFC North last-place finishes.
Nagy led the Bears to a 12-4 record with the four losses coming by 1, 3, 7 and 3 points, victories in 9 of their last 10 regular-season games after slipping to 3-3, an NFC North title and a last- second loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles in the wild-card round.
A quarterback at the University of Delaware, Nagy was ready to move on from football, 30 years old and working in real estate when the Eagles reached out to him and offered him a chance to come to training camp for the most part as a camp arm.
Then-Eagles coach Reid offered Nagy a chance to try out coaching and he began as an offensive assistant before graduating to offensive quality control, quarterbacks coach and finally offensive coordinator of the Chiefs when Doug Pederson left to take over the Eagles.
Reid, who has become known for his coaching tree that now includes Brad Childress, John Harbaugh, Ron Rivera, Sean McDermott and Pederson to name a few, said of Nagy in November before he was hired by the Bears a few months later that he was likely to be the best head coach he’d trained of all of his assistants to date.
It seems Reid knew exactly what he was talking about.
From the moment he was hired by Bears GM Ryan Pace, Nagy appeared to be a perfect choice with his first task being to convince defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who had also interviewed for the job and lost out to Nagy, to agree to stay and be his defensive coordinator.
Displaying virtually no ego, Nagy basically made Fangio the head coach of the defense and together they ended up overseeing the NFL’s top-rated group.
He further excelled assembling an All-Star coaching staff by adding former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, past Vikings head coach Childress (who departed after training camp), offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, special teams coordinator Chris Tabor and secondary coach Ed Donatell.
Certainly the acquisition of Khalil Mack a week before the regular season began was a pivotal moment for the Bears and Nagy, but the rookie head coach was already well on his way to directing the franchise's dramatic turnaround.
Key to the Bears' success last season was the development of second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, Nagy’s top priority assignment and it didn’t take long for Trubisky to become a believer and prize pupil of his new boss.
What’s next for the newest Coach of the Year?
Nagy says, “Our guys, one of the powerful things I took from our exit meetings was they came away telling me truly how convicted they were in their feelings of us this year and where we could’ve really gone.
“That’s why I’m so excited—and it keeps you going—because we started something. Everything we did this past year? Throw it out the window. It means nothing. Now we’re 0-0, and that’s the challenge. That’s the new challenge.”