Playoffs won’t change Chicago Bears’ Nagy
Bears coach Matt Nagy knows the playoffs are a different animal, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to change the approach that’s helped his team to a 12-4 record and a first-round playoff game at Soldier Field, Sunday against the Eagles.
“The intensity is completely different,” Nagy said. “It’s not even close. Now it’s time to go. This is where it gets real. It’s exciting to have one at home.”
Since he was hired a year ago as a first-time head coach, one of Nagy’s most popular mantras has been: “Be you.” He’s certainly not about to ignore his own advice. Not now; not when it matters most.
“We’re not going to change how we do things just because we’re in the playoffs,” Nagy said. “I feel like when you start changing, now you start getting out of your element, and I’m not going to allow that to happen.”
So the Bears won’t be practicing longer or harder – if anything they’ll continue to scale back but make sure they maintain attention to detail. Nagy won’t be sleeping on a couch in his office, and no one will be trying to reinvent the wheel – or the wheel route.
Nagy learned at the foot of Andy Reid, and in those eight years, their Eagles and Chiefs teams went to the postseason five times, including four of the last five years in Kansas City. But Nagy says he brought with him only general guidelines from Reid as far as the postseason.
“Just try to not do too much and continue to stay the course,” he said. “That’s not just play concepts, that’s (continuing to do) what you’ve done from Monday to Saturday. Don’t start changing. Don’t stay up later at night just because it’s the playoffs.
“Why? Just do the normal stuff that you’ve been doing. It’s been working. Why do you need to change it now, because it’s the playoffs? No, just continue to do what you do. I think when you start changing things, you’re not being yourself. Now you’re getting into territory that you have no idea how you’re going to react to it. Keep doing the same things.”
Nagy’s fun side is well known. That’s obvious when he selects a backup linebacker like Nick Kwiatkoski to be on the receiving end of a two-point conversion pass. Or when he uses a starting cornerback like Prince Amukamara to go in motion three times before the ball is snapped on the 2-pointer. Or when he repeatedly lines up OT Bradley Sowell at fullback and sends him on a deep seam route. All those things happened -- just on Sunday.
But there has never been a successful NFL head coach who is fun all the time -- and Nagy won’t be the first. He knows when to yuk it up and when to crack the whip.
“I just let it happen naturally, when I feel like, ‘OK, they’re crossing that line right now, they need to be reeled back in,’ ” Nagy said. “It’s a feeling. Coach Reid and I always joke about how everybody has a dark side. Well, deep down inside, you can ask our coaches. The coaches know that if I need to, I’ve got a dark side -- in a good way.
“If you don’t, you’ll get run over. You’ll get taken advantage of. And our guys know the difference between having fun and being serious.”
So, Nagy was asked Monday at Halas Hall, if he could think of any specific examples where that dark side has come out?
“Yeah, I can,” he said, smiling but not elaborating for one of the few times this season.
“No, maybe two times all year,” Nagy said.
That’s because the Bears have enough veteran leadership in the locker room that players can police themselves. It’s also because Nagy established early on that there was a time for work and a time for play.
“They get it,” Nagy said. “They didn’t know me (at first). They didn’t know who I was, how I coach, how I teach, how I react to certain situations, and they were learning the process. They didn’t know where to go stand on a Saturday morning for a walk-through.”
So the guidelines had to be laid down.
“You stand over here,” Nagy told them. “You come out here with the right shoes. You come out with the wrong shoes on; you’re going in to get the right shoes on. They didn’t know those things. And then, they do it for three weeks and then they test me, and they come out and they say they forgot. Well, no, you didn’t forget. Go back and get your shoes on. Now, they don’t do that. They get it. So I don’t have to do it any more.”
But, if necessary, Nagy knows when to go back to the dark side – in a good way.