Matt Nagy was the NFL Coach of the Year four years ago, in his first season as a head coach at any level.
Life in pro sports comes at you fast.
Nagy, a Manheim Central High School graduate, was fired Monday as the head coach of the Chicago Bears.
“It’s a tough gig, being a pro coach,’’ Mike Williams, who coached Nagy at Manheim Central and still speaks with him often, said Monday.
“The media out there really destroyed him. With the media and fans against him at this point, it would have been tough to continue.’’
Attempts to contact Nagy Monday were unsuccessful. Williams said he reached out to Nagy Monday, but he hadn’t gotten back to him.
“I know he has a lot on his mind,’’ Williams said. “Right now, I’m sure he’s thinking about what’s best for his family.’’
Nagy was a star quarterback at Central, the University of Delaware and the Arena Football League.
His pro coaching career began as an intern on Andy Reid’s staff with the Philadelphia Eagles. He followed Reid to the Kansas City Chiefs and rose quickly to quarterbacks coach, then offensive coordinator and became a hot potential head-coaching property.
He went 34-31 over four seasons with the Bears, including the 12-4 mark and an NFC North Division title in 2018, the coach-of-the-year season.
“Over four seasons, we beat the teams we were expected to beat,” George McCaskey, Chairman of the Bears’ ownership group, said in a press conference Monday after the firing of Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. “Too often, though, we didn’t beat the better teams and you have to do that to excel in this league.”
The Bears were 6-11 this season. Nagy’s teams went 25-11 against teams that finished with a .500 record or worse. Against teams that finished above .500, they went 9-20.
They were also 0-2 in the playoffs, notably including a 16-15 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2018 wild-card round that ended in the infamous “double-doink,’’ field goal miss by Bears’ kicker Cody Parkey that was partially blocked, hit the left upright and then the crossbar before falling short.
A win there might have changed the story of Nagy’s tenure. But it likely will be most remembered for the performance of, and Nagy’s handling of, the Bears’ quarterbacks.
Nagy inherited Mitch Trubisky, whom the Bears drafted in 2017 over QBs like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.
Trubisky led the Bears to the ’18 division title and made the Pro Bowl that year, but never reached that level again, and left the Bears via free agency last year. He’s now a backup with the Buffalo Bills.
The Bears signed journeyman Andy Dalton to a one-year deal last offseason. They traded up nine spots to take Ohio State star Justin Fields with the second overall pick in last year’s draft.
Dalton started the Bears first two games, then sustained a knee injury. Fields started week three, completed six of 20 passes for 68 yards and was sacked nine times.
Fields played much better the following week, and Nagy named him the starter going forward.
The Bears’ offensive line was one of the league’s worst. In one two-game stretch, Fields was pressured 38 times. He eventually missed games with an ankle injury and broken ribs, and he and Nagy both missed games due to COVID-19 protocols.
Even though it soon became clear that Nagy’s job was on the line, Williams said, “I think Matt’s thinking was to protect Fields. In my opinion, he was looking out for his best interest. That didn’t satisfy anybody, of course.’’
Williams traveled to Chicago for the Bears’ 33-22 loss to Arizona Dec. 5, a game in which Dalton threw four interceptions.
“I talked to Matt quite a bit,’’ Williams said. “He knew his job was in jeopardy, but he and his wife stayed optimistic and upbeat. I was actually kind of refreshed by their attitude.’’