LAKE FOREST – There won’t be a single run, pass, block or tackle involved, but the most important matchup Sunday for the Bears and Denver Broncos as they try to get off the schneid and in the win column this season just may be between the 2018 NFL Coach of the Year Matt Nagy and Assistant Coach of the Year Vic Fangio.
No one disputes one of the single biggest factors in Nagy’s award-winning rookie campaign was his very first move, convincing Fangio to stay on as his defensive coordinator, and most agree the biggest factor in Fangio finally getting his first head coaching gig after 40 years in the business was the success he and Nagy had and Nagy allowing the defense to be basically Vic’s show.
Nagy is still one of the leaders of the Fangio fan club.
“He’s a guy who has so much experience that he can hang his hat on. And he’s been successful in a lot of different places.
“So for me coming in as a younger coach and a younger head coach at that, being able to rely on him for situational football and just kind of say, hey, how would you look at this formation or this personnel grouping, how would you attack it?
“But really more so than anything, it was just trusting and believing the advice that he gave.
“You knew that there was merit behind it because of all his experience.”
Ask Fangio what impressed him about Nagy and they continue to share a mutual admiration society.
“Well, I think he’s very versatile in that he can be committed to throwing it a lot or running it a lot or mixing it up.
“I think he’s a guy who will do whatever it takes. I don’t think he does one way of doing things. He’s going to do whatever is best for the team to move the ball. he has a good imagination with how he goes about it.
“Each and every week, they put together a different game plan and he’s a good guy to have that on his plate because he knows how to use it.”
Make no mistake though, history and respect will have nothing to do with anything when they meet in Denver.
Fangio says, “During pregame warmup I think it might bring back a memory or two when I see those guys, but once the game starts I think it will just be another NFL football game.”
One of Bears fans major concerns for Sunday is not only that there is not a better defensive coach in football than Fangio, there are none that know the Bears offense and Mitch Trubisky as well as he does.
So I asked Nagy how that familiarity will impact his preparation for the Broncos?
“I felt like last year as we got going on, towards the end of the season, middle of the season, we started feeling more comfortable with certain plays.
“I don’t think that’s going to change because we’re playing Vic. We’re not going to just change our whole offense because we’re playing Vic.
“It’s still hard. I can tell you just from last year playing the Chiefs in the preseason, I know that offense inside and out, but I couldn’t tell you what plays they were running based on formations.”
Fangio knows that while a lot of Bears probably miss him off the field, they’re not thinking about him on it either.
“They're still really good and it was fun to kind of watch them play as I watched the video yesterday.
“Lot of great players there, a lot of great people and players that I have a lot of fondness for.
“I’m glad to see them doing so well.”
Has Fangio changed at all now that he’s the head guy?
“I think if players that were with me in Chicago or San Francisco, if they were here now, would tell you I'm basically saying a lot of the same things in a lot of the same ways, just talking to the whole team instead of half the team.”
How well that’s working for him could be the biggest challenge the Bears face in a near-must-win situation Sunday.