Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy spoke to the local media in early June, having returned to the Chiefs after a four-year stint as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. After a practice during organized team activities (OTAs), Nagy referred to Kansas City as a "special place."
Earlier this week, Nagy had an opportunity to feel that love again. After a training camp workout at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, several Chiefs fans chanted his name so that they could get his autograph.
"It's very welcoming," said Nagy of the Chiefs' fanbase. "It doesn't surprise me. They're very passionate. They love their football. We had some great times here, great experiences. The last four years here of me not being here — and what coach [Andy] Reid, [Brett] Veach, Patrick [Mahomes] and [Eric Bieniemy] and the rest of this crew have done is nothing short of amazing — but I think we had a lot of good times up to that point, and now I'm back. I appreciate that, and it means a lot to me."
As is well-known among the most passionate Chiefs fans, Nagy's NFL coaching career began as an intern under Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008. He worked his way up to Philadelphia's offensive quality control coach before joining Reid in Kansas City for the 2013 season as Alex Smith's quarterbacks coach.
When Doug Pederson moved on to become head coach of the Eagles in 2016, Nagy was promoted to offensive coordinator. His continued success in that role led him to an offer to become the head coach of the Chicago Bears in 2018.
The timing of it all meant that Nagy never worked with Mahomes as the starting quarterback. But it also gives him a unique perspective on the quarterback entering his fifth year on the job.
"It is so neat to see his growth of where he's at and what he's done," started Nagy. "No. 1, he's been through four years of a lot of wins — whether it's the Pro Bowl, the Super Bowl, the Super Bowl MVP, the four Pro Bowls, et cetera. A lot of wins. When you walk into that room for the first time and you see him in a meeting room, and he's sitting there having four different conversations — three of them are football, once off to the side on something else — you see his growth, his leadership.
"When he's out there on the football field, it's just wild to see what type of leader he is. He's rare. In that time, I had a couple months after I got fired, I was able to read a book called, 'Relentless,' and it talks about being great leaders and being somebody that can just be great in the moment — and he has that confidence every day in practice. That's rare. You don't come across that very much — and he makes me a better coach because of that. He makes his teammates better players, and it's just special."
Together, Nagy, Bieniemy and Reid are working to make Mahomes' transition to life without Tyreek Hill a little easier. Will Hill now in Miami, Mahomes has begun to develop a rapport with targets such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and rookie Skyy Moore.
"The quarterback has a lot of flexibility with the toolbox that we have," Nagy noted. "And for him, this is a little bit new and different for him this year because he's got new wide receivers. And so, I think it's pretty cool to see him walk through the process of what he sees. So when we're in meetings sometimes, [Reid] does his deal, and he runs the meetings.
"[Reid] goes through everything, but then there's also a side where he lets Patrick go through and see if the wide receivers see it from Patrick's view. And that's awesome, because the wideouts see that they connect. And Patrick's really, really good at communicating sometimes. 'Hey, you didn't run the right route, but here's how you should run it.'
"But he does it without hurting their feelings. Again, a rare trait that he has, and it's just neat to be a part of."
After Nagy's return, some speculated that there would be an awkwardness between him and Bieniemy, considering during his last Chiefs tenure, it was Bieniemy — then a running backs coach — who was working under him.
Now, it is the other way around. Under Bieniemy, Nagy is a senior assistant and quarterbacks coach.
"The roles are a little bit different, obviously, with EB and myself," explained Nagy. "But when you understand what these guys have done together when I've been removed for four years is rare, it's awesome. Coach Reid has a culture and a way he does things, and we all follow. EB had been amazing on what he's done at his job. It's neat to see. He's grown a lot — and he's helped me out — so now, we're a team. We work together. We help each other out. There's zero egos, and it is kind of like riding a bicycle — but at the same point in time, man, we're all in this for one reason. Zero egos, and we're here to win. That's it. And so it makes it easy when you're here for that."
Nagy's Bears tenure began well — a 12-4 record in 2018 led him to win the Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year award. But three straight disappointing seasons led to Chicago deciding to move on.
Thinking back to his years with the Bears, Nagy says he learned a lot from the ups and downs.
"I think I go to be able to self-reflect on where I went wrong and how I could have been better," he said. "I built a ton of great relationships with a lot of great people, starting with Mrs. McCaskey, with George McCaskey, Ted Phillips, Ryan Pace, and so many great players and coaches. Those will last forever. Those aren't going to leave. Four years is gone, but it didn't end how we wanted it to. And there was disappointment, there was discouragement — but in all that said, I know I'm not defeated. I know those other players, coaches and people aren't defeated. And so, we just got to be better from it."
Nagy said being fired as a head coach came with a natural grieving process — one that was aided by a close circle of friends and family. On Saturday, he will return to Chicago wearing Chiefs red and gold, a trip that is sure to come with emotions.
"No. 1, what I have to do: it's my professional job to make sure I step back and make sure it's about we and not me," he said. "I mean that when I say that. But that's hard sometimes. And so when you get there, I'm so used to being on the home side, right? On the home sideline in the home locker room coming out, it's different.
"I don't know how I'll feel when I get out there. But I'm here for this team and these guys. I built great relationships with everyone there — but it's the preseason, too, so we're going to go out there and have some fun."
Chiefs Training Camp Report - Tuesday, August 9 - Day 12 https://t.co/IZHIA655xe— Arrowhead Pride (@ArrowheadPride) August 9, 2022
- Did not practice (due to injury): OL Lucas Niang (knee), TE Jody Fortson (quad), WR Gary Jennings (concussion), DT Taylor Stallworth (knee), WR Daurice Fountain (groin)
- Left early: S Zayne Anderson (shoulder)
- Returned to practice: CB Rashad Fenton (shoulder)
Tweet of the day
First Day out with the Guys, what a time to be alive!!— Rashad Fenton (@_sleepp) August 9, 2022
Quote of the day
Defensive back coach Dave Merritt on Kansas City's five rookie defensive back draft picks — Trent McDuffie, Bryan Cook, Joshua Williams, Jaylen Watson and Nazeeh Johnson: "I call them the 'Fab Five.' And most of them weren't even born then."
The Chiefs have a day off Wedneday and return to the practice field on Thursday (Day 13). The workout begins at 9:15 a.m. Arrowhead Time. Here's the complete schedule. Quarterbacks, running backs and specialists will be available to sign autographs as head coach Andy Reid addresses the media at the podium. Thursday will mark the Chiefs' final practice before their first preseason game, a Noon matchup against the Bears in Chicago.