LAKE FOREST – It was inevitable that he’d get asked about it, so instead of brushing it off, Matt Nagy just decided to embrace it.
The storyline is far from a bad one: A former assistant coach who got a top job in the NFL is now facing his mentor for the first time in the regular season in that position. It’s a narrative that was conceived the minute the schedule was released last spring, and it will play out in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football.
So Nagy spoke openly about what it means to face Andy Reid’s Chiefs this week on Sunday at Soldier Field, not shying away from talking about the man who helped to get him to where he is in the NFL. From Philadelphia to Kansas City, the impact that Reid had on the Bears’ leader was massive and continues to be even though they’ll be coaching against each other on Sunday.
As the Bears have struggled through a difficult 7-7 season that fell below expectations set in September, it’s the Chiefs’ coach that Nagy called often for advice during the last three-and-a-half months.
“He’s just a calming presence. He’s somebody that I trust as a friend, as a mentor,” said Nagy of Reid and why he turns to him for advice. “The amount of trust I have for him; the life experiences and the coaching experiences that he’s been through, and the life experiences that we’ve been through together for so many years. He’s taught me to be who I am as a coach and taught me to be myself as a human being.”
It’s an education that began in 2008 when Nagy was a coaching intern under Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles. He stayed in that position before being elevated to a coach’s assistant in 2010 and then offensive quality control coach the next two seasons. When Reid was let go by the Eagles after the 2012 season and took the job in Kansas City, Nagy followed him and became the quarterback’s coach starting in 2013.
Three years later, Nagy was elevated to the offensive coordinator and his performance in that job landed him the head coaching position in Chicago in January 2018.
As he’s taken over the Bears, he continues to use the principles which he learned under Reid, communicating with honesty to his players as he did with his former coach.
“One of the things I hope that coach appreciated from me was just that if I ever felt something or believed in something I said it in a respectful way, and then I could handle it when he told me what he felt in a respectful way as well. I go through it now as a head coach when you’re dealing with friends and coaches and players, you want honest,” said Nagy. “You want people to tell how they feel. I just think over time, I mean, we’ve told a lot of stories. I just have so much respect for him not only just as a coach but as a person, and what he’s done in his life.
“The way he’s gone about it; he’s family to me.”
Reid repeated similar sentiments when discussing his former student this week as he prepares to take his playoff-bound Chiefs to Soldier Field against Nagy’s Bears.
“He’s smart and he’s passionate about the offensive side of the ball,” said Reid of Nagy. “He’s very creative, so you’ve got to expect anything, he’ll do it, he’s not afraid to do things. So you’ve got to make sure you study and be disciplined with your reads.
“And he’s a good leader of men, so as a head coach, he’s great with people, and a leader, good leader.”
Reid should take pride in that, for Nagy learned how to be one under him for nearly a decade.