Take 2, unlocked: Should Matt Nagy win Coach of the Year award?
Pro Football Weekly GM Hub Arkush and senior Bears reporter Bob LeGere discuss whether Matt Nagy deserves Coach of the Year honors. Do you like what you see? Consider a subscription and get your first month free.
ARKUSH: Bob, three weeks ago I was on the McNeil & Parkins show on 670 The SCORE and Danny (P) asked me if I thought Matt Nagy was the NFL Coach of the Year.
The question froze me for a moment before I answered honestly. At that time it hadn’t even occurred to me he was a candidate for going 5-3 against a really weak schedule. Since then the Bears won three games in 12 days and have a stranglehold on the NFC North — certainly not a lock but a very firm grip. Earlier this week, I wrote a column singing a different tune, stating there are six candidates for the award now as I see it: Sean Payton, Sean McVay, Andy Reid, Bill Belichick, Bill O’Brien and Nagy. But realistically, it’s probably a two-horse race at this point between Payton and Nagy. Do you agree with how I’m handicapping the race, and is Nagy the NFL Coach of The Year this season?
LEGERE: To me, Hub, the thing that sets Nagy apart from most of the others is that he has reversed a four-year death spiral that had seen the Bears entrenched among the dregs of the NFL. Four straight last-place finishes in the NFC North, four straight double-digit-loss seasons, and a dearth of Pro Bowl players.
Payton has had 11 years to build a program in New Orleans, and he has Drew Brees. Belichick has built an unprecedented dynasty in the previous 18 years, and he’s got Tom Brady. Nagy has not only reversed the Bears’ culture of losing, but he’s done it with a relative novice at quarterback while installing a completely new offense. In short, he’s done more with less than all the rest. McVay did incredible work last year, and his team has taken another step, but nowhere close to the leap the Bears have made. Reid’s team also served notice last year that it was on the verge. The guy who I think doesn’t get much credit is O’Brien, especially after stumbling out of the gate 0-3.
ARKUSH: Bob, I don’t disagree, but I do think there are a few other factors to consider. If we’re going to penalize Payton for having Brees and Belichick for having Brady, how much difference has Khalil Mack made for Nagy?
Taking that a step further, as dominant as the Chiefs’, Saints’, Rams’ and Pats’ offenses can be, isn’t the Bears’ defense potentially just as dominant? And Nagy really has little to do with that, although I give him big points for having no ego and being smart enough to hand it over to Vic Fangio. I also worry about Nagy’s inability to figure out the ground game. The bottom line is Belichick won’t win because, unfair as it is, too many writers don’t like him, and McVay won’t get it because he won last year.
I am strongly considering voting for Nagy, but I really think a strong case can be made for Payton with all the injuries at receiver and mostly a no-name defense; and O’Brien, for how he’s turned around the 0-3 start and, like Nagy, is trying to go from worst to first.
LEGERE: I agree Nagy was wise to rehire Fangio, and he owes many thanks to G.M. Ryan Pace for the vet additions of Mack, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton and the drafting of Roquan Smith and Anthony Miller.
But Nagy is the mastermind behind a seismic shift, not only in wins and losses but also in attitude on and off the field and culture change in the locker room. John Fox talked about it for three years to no avail. Nagy came in and did it in less than a year. His accomplishment is unique.