When Sunday night arrives this weekend, Kansas Chiefs head coach Andy Reid will do something he is used to — go head-to-head with one of his own.
Nagy is one of five active coaches in the NFL who served under Reid prior to becoming a head coach. In January of 2018, if you included Reid himself, Reid-influenced teams covered eight franchises, or one-fourth of the league.
Sunday against the Chicago Bears will mark the 10th opposing former assistant Reid has faced. And though Reid may be accustomed to such a situation, it is an uncommon feeling for Bears head coach Matt Nagy.
“I’d be lying if I said if I said it wasn’t a little bit different versus other games just because of the background we have,” said Nagy in a conference call this week.
The 41-year-old Nagy served as a coaching intern under Reid from 2008-2009 with the Philadelphia Eagles. Through the years in Philadelphia, Nagy was promoted from a coach’s assistant to offensive quality control. When Reid joined the Chiefs as head coach in 2013, he was named Kansas City’s quarterbacks coach.
Nagy became the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator in 2016 when Doug Pederson left to become the head coach of the Eagles. Nagy served as offensive coordinator during Alex Smith’s best year in 2017, which coincided with Patrick Mahomes’ rookie season.
“He was an awesome, awesome coach and he helped me out a ton,” said Mahomes this week, “helping explain things to me as I was coming from a totally different offense to this one. He really helped me with just presenting it in different ways that I understood and was able to pick up so I could have success whenever I was in practice or in preseason games or the last game of the regular season. I mean he’s a great human being and a great coach and he really understands how to get the best out of his quarterback.”
As it turns out, that has been Nagy’s most difficult task in 2019. Just a season after his Bears went 12-4 en route to an AP NFL coach of the year award for Nagy, his quarterback Mitch Trubisky has had quite the up-and-down season.
The Bears started the season 3-1 before losing five of six games in the middle of the season. Just last weekend, a late Trubisky resurgence was not enough, as the Green Bay Packers eliminated the 7-7 Bears from playoff contention.
Many times this season, Nagy has turned to Reid, who is always willing to provide a guiding light.
“It’s been awesome — the communication that we always had and that continues,” said Nagy. “I couldn’t even begin to tell you how much respect I have for [Reid] as a person, as a coach, what he’s taught me. Just this year, myself, being my second year, it’s been a different year. There’s been a lot more adversity, and so, in times like that, it’s really easy for me to pick up the phone at midnight if I need to and call him for advice and know no one’s around and we can just talk. We’ve done that a few times, and it means a lot to me because he’s very authentic, and when you’re with him every single day for all those years that I was — in his office, in his room — just always talking ball, talking life. And when you’re away from it, you realize how much you miss it.”
Nagy says he and Reid talk late at night or early in the morning because when you’re the head of a franchise, sometimes it feels like that is the only time available.
“I’ve had coach Reid and coach (Brad) Childress tell me, over and over for years, that your door never stops knocking from 7 in the morning until 9 at night,” added Nagy. “That could not be any more true. So super early in the morning and super late at night is a beautiful time to try to catch up, and I think that’s where just as head coaches, you realize that and that time is so valuable, so the fact he takes a phone call in the evening or in the morning early just goes to show our relationship.”
As to be expected, Reid thinks rather highly of his former coordinator and assistant.
”He’s smart,” said Reid. “He’s passionate about the offensive side of the ball. He’s especially passionate about football, but he’s involved with the offensive side. He’s very creative. You have to expect anything. He’ll do it. He’s not afraid to do things, so you have to make sure that you study and that you keep disciplined with your reads and all of that. Then, he’s a good leader of men. He’s great with people and a good leader.”
Nagy says on Sunday, he expects the pregame and post-game to be “very normal.” Nagy and Reid will likely say hello before the game and there will be a few words after.
When the whistle blows, though, Nagy will try to do what won him coach of the year in 2018 — call the right plays in hopes of winning a football game.
If you have had a chance to catch a nationally-televised Bears game over the past two years, you might have noticed Nagy’s play sheet. In addition to all the data he feeds Trubisky, on the bottom right of one of the sides, it reads, “Be You.”
That sounded awfully familiar on Thursday, when current Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Nagy’s successor as coordinator, recalled what Nagy told him when he received the promotion.
“He just told me basically, just handle it in stride and he said, ‘Listen. I know you’ve been prepping for this. You’re ready, but at the end of the day, EB, just be you. Put your personal touch on it.’”
Reid often preaches to his players to let their “personalities show.” That spirit extends to his coaching staff — both current and former.