More important than whether Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, Mitch Trubisky ‘ready': What about Matt Nagy?


The questions are a familiar one, swirling around how ready the Bears are to face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday: Will Khalil Mack be ready after a preseason lost waiting for a trade? Will Mitch Trubisky take that needed career step after a lackluster training camp and shortened preseason? Will Roquan Smith’s hamstring be sufficiently healed? Will the offense have assimilated enough of Matt Nagy’s offense to run it with effect in Lambeau Field?

Those answers will come, in varying degrees, once Sunday night arrives. But there is one other, one overhanging all the others:

Is Matt Nagy ready?

Nagy is the third attempt of a wobbling organization to find a true replacement for Lovie Smith, fired in 2012 after a 10-6 record that, five years later, still looks only marginally attainable, even amid the headiness surrounding the arrival of Mack.

He is also a head coach for the first time other than a short stint coaching a high school JV team in Pennsylvania more than a dozen years ago. He knows that as many eyes will be on him as many of his players when the lights come on, literally, looking to see whether years under Andy Reid in Philadelphia and Kansas City have made him into a head coach.

“I’m gonna find out,” Nagy said on Wednesday. “I’m going to be tested, individually, what I’m made of and how I control this team and their situations. I feel like I’ve been prepared by one of the best in the league, in coach Reid, so that’s what I’m going to rely on.”

Nagy’s personal style is a marked change from just about every coach the Bears have had in the 20 years since Mike Ditka and Dave Wannstedt. Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman, John Fox – none were as vocal as Nagy.

Tackle Bobby Massie is on his fourth head coach, beginning with Ken Whisenhunt and Bruce Arians in Arizona, then John Fox and now Nagy in Chicago.

“Everybody has pretty much the same philosophy: ‘Go out, win the game, kick ass, do what you know you’re capable of doing,” Massie said. “Different coaches have different ways of delivering that message but it’s really the same message.

“[But Nagy is] the highest energy of the guys I’ve played for. Fox was laid back, ‘BA’ [Arians] was cool as [anything]. Nagy is a younger guy but he’s real confident, and he played the game.”

Reid called Nagy the best head-coaching prospect that he’d ever worked with, which puts Nagy in the company of John Harbaugh (Baltimore, Super Bowl winner), Doug Pederson (Philadelphia, Super Bowl winner), Ron Rivera (Carolina, Super Bowl loser) and others including Sean McDermott (Buffalo), Todd Bowles (Jets) and others.

Per unofficial count by the Kansas City Star, fully two-thirds of Reid assistants who’ve become head coaches have taken their teams to the playoffs, including those three with Super Bowl appearances. One-fourth of all NFL head coaches have Reid roots.

Nagy will call the offensive plays for his Chicago offense. It is a job he handled for the final six Kansas City games last season, including a playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans last January that saw the Chiefs lose an 18-point lead in a scoreless second half in the wild-card round.

Nagy took complete responsibility for what he dubbed a “failure,” one that he covered unequivocally in the meetings with Bears officials that resulted in his hiring.

“I called every play in that second half,” Nagy said at his inaugural press conference as Bears coach. “I stand by it. And I promise you I'm going to learn from it.”

Therein lies the core of the “ready” question. The answer to that, and to whether Nagy keeps his promise, is at hand.

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