KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Andy Reid was looking for a new offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs two years ago, he found much to like in his quarterbacks coach, Matt Nagy.
“Matt’s got a nice feel for the game,” Reid said then in promoting Nagy. “He was a player, obviously, in the Arena League. And then we brought him on board. Some guys have a knack for it and he’s one of those guys. I’ve noticed with his participation that he’s got a pretty good grasp of the offense and defenses in this league. I think that presents a nice addition to that position.”
Nagy worked out well enough in his two seasons as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator that others around the league started to notice. He was hired on Monday by the Chicago Bears as their new head coach.
Though just 39, Nagy has a lot of football on his résumé. He was a quarterback in college at Delaware and for six seasons in the Arena Football League. He worked his way up Reid’s staff, starting as a coaching intern with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008 and later moving with him to the Chiefs as quarterbacks coach in 2013.
But his work with Alex Smith and the Chiefs’ other quarterbacks is what earned Nagy the promotion to offensive coordinator in 2016. The Bears were looking for a coach to work with their young quarterback, Mitch Trubisky.
“You have to be able to teach the offense to the quarterback after coach installs the plays,” Nagy said of his role in teaching QBs. “You need to be able to take that play that they’re installing and you become a teacher in your classroom. When we’re in here, I need to be my best at giving them another set of eyes to see the field, another perspective. I was fortunate enough to play the quarterback position really all my life.”
Smith, 33, had the best season of his career in 2017, setting personal records for touchdown passes (26) and yards (4,042). He was the NFL’s highest-rated passer (104.7). The Chiefs, meanwhile, went from 20th in total offense in 2016 to fifth this season.
With the Chiefs struggling on offense during this season, Reid made Nagy the primary offensive playcaller. The Chiefs, who had scored 19 points total in the two previous weeks, scored 31 in Nagy’s first game, against the Jets, and at least 26 in each of the four remaining regular-season games.
Running back Kareem Hunt had his busiest three-game stretch of the season late in the year with Nagy calling plays. Hunt rushed 78 times for 362 yards and three touchdowns in victories over the Raiders, Chargers and Dolphins.
But the Chiefs were shut out in the second half of their most important game of the season, Saturday’s playoff loss to the Titans. Any kind of score would have won the game for the Chiefs, who instead lost by one point.
Given his background, Nagy will presumably call the offensive plays as head coach for the Bears. That’s a big ask for a guy who 10 years ago was still a quarterback in the Arena League.
Nagy will handle it well if he develops as a head coach as well as he did as a quarterbacks teacher and offensive coordinator.