Bears like Nagy's style, but he admits 'I have zero swag'
BOURBONNAIS -- His players have referred to Bears coach Matt Nagy as "a dude" and a "cool guy." Some have even nicknamed him "Swaggy Nagy."
None of it really matters, but it's all good with Nagy, as long as there's a level of respect that comes along with the accolades, and as long as it endures through good times and bad. Nagy's just being himself, and if the players think that's cool, then Nagy's cool with it.
"He's just a swag coach," second-year RB Tarik Cohen said. "He's a players' coach and he's like a teammate really. He's just a cool guy."
But, to set the record straight on the swag talk, Nagy said: "No, I have zero swag."
Nagy's youthfulness (he's just 40), his high energy and his unbridled enthusiasm for everything football are all qualities that resonate with players, as is the fact that he played the game -- albeit in the Arena League -- for six years.
It's nice to be liked, but as a leader of men, it's better to be respected. Sometimes the term "players' coach" comes with the connotation of being one of the guys, or even soft.
"I don't care about the 'players' coach' part," Nagy said, "but I care that they respect me; that they respect our coaches. You don't get respect unless you earn it. This isn't just going to happen overnight. This is something that I'm trying to build."
If players perceive Nagy as more relatable, maybe it'll be easier to earn and keep that respect, and it should make for better communication, which Nagy believes is key.
"It's a neat thing because, when we're not out here on the field, when we go inside behind the scenes, we're able to talk about how we want to build this culture," he said. "There's so much stuff that goes into this."
Nagy said that manifested itself most recently on Tuesday, in something as mundane as the annual meeting with officials, when new rules are explained and tweaks to existing rules are discussed.
"(It was) guys showing respect to the officials and asking questions," Nagy said. "This is how we do it. We don't just sit in the meetings and let the officials talk to us. Our guys were very interactive, asking questions to the officials so they understand the game. That's where I think the respect factor comes in for both the players and the coaches."
All that kumbaya stuff is great for now, but what happens when Nagy's team is attempting to weather its first losing streak, which is inevitable in a rebuilding process?
"Yeah, that's the challenge," Nagy said. "So, if I can earn enough respect from them right now when things are easy, how's it gonna go when things are hard? I've been challenging myself each and every day to get better at understanding how that process is going to work. But you're trying to do that through your players and coaches as well. We're preparing them for adversity. And as long as you do that, then you can try to handle those storms that come."
Offensive guard Kyle Long is one of only two players on the roster who was around for Marc Trestman's two-year term and John Fox's three years. He says there are a variety of factors in Nagy's approach that appeal to players on all three phases of the team, even though offense is his area of expertise.
"He's a guy who's played the game," Long said. "He's coached in a number of places with a lot of different guys and under great coaching staffs and we're lucky to have Nagy. He's a guy that understands football on both sides, upstairs and downstairs. He's a dude, he's definitely a dude, and we love having him. He can put things into terms that we can understand and relate to.
"Some coaches are offensive, some coaches are defensive, (but) he's a guy that can really rally all the guys."
But Nagy knows it won't always be as effortless as he's made it seem throughout the offseason and in the first week of training camp.
"Things are rosy right now," the first-year head coach said. "Everything's great. (But) it's not always going to be that way. There's gonna be times where we hit some roadblocks, and there's peaks and valleys.
"I'll continue to go back to when (I said) 'You surround yourself with good people at the core and people that are better than you.' Then, typically, you rise to the top. And it's not always right away, but you learn through that process. And our guys are understanding that. So we're prepping 'em, and it's fun right now. But there's gonna be challenging times, and how are we going to respond to that?
We shall see.