How strong was the Sean McVay Effect on this year’s NFL hiring cycle? Strong enough that it overcame the Kansas City Chiefs‘ ugly second-half performance in their come-from-ahead defeat Saturday to the Tennessee Titans in the opening round of the AFC playoffs.
The Chicago Bears hired Matt Nagy, the 39-year-old offensive coordinator of the Chiefs, as their head coach Monday.
Nagy becomes the second head coach hired during this firing-and-hiring cycle for NFL head coaches. The first, Jon Gruden, is a star-quality coach who received a $10 million-a-year contract to return to the Oakland Raiders. Gruden is a former Super Bowl-winning coach whose public profile increased during his long stay away from the game, as the analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” telecasts.
Nagy, by contrast, is a virtual unknown to most of the football-watching public. He does not turn 40 until April. He is a former Arena League quarterback who spent one season having the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator job to himself after being promoted from co-coordinator status alongside Brad Childress.
Nagy had a hand in the Chiefs’ season-ending loss Saturday as they squandered a 21-3 lead and fell, 22-21, to the Titans at Arrowhead Stadium.
Yes, the Chiefs had some misfortune, as when Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota threw and caught a touchdown pass on the same crazy play, courtesy of a deflection. And yes, the Chiefs suffered on offense after losing tight end Travis Kelce to a concussion.
But their offensive play-calling also raised eyebrows and drew widespread criticism that was focused primarily on the fact that rookie tailback Kareem Hunt, the NFL’s rushing leader during the regular season, had only 11 carries in a game in which the Chiefs mostly were playing from ahead. That made little sense to many observers, and there was some speculation that it would take Nagy out of the running for head coaching jobs.
It did not disqualify him, though, at least not for the Bears. Nagy had done well during the regular season, helping to reverse the Chiefs’ downward spiral after Coach Andy Reid in effect benched himself and handed play-calling duties to Nagy. They won their final four games of the regular season, on the heels of a 1-6 skid, and captured the AFC West crown.
The Nagy hiring signals that other NFL teams, indeed, took note of the Year 1 success that McVay had with the Los Angeles Rams after being hired as the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. He turned Jared Goff into a franchise quarterback. He helped running back Todd Gurley to become a league MVP candidate. And he got the Rams into the playoffs as NFC West champs, even if they suffered a disappointing loss at home Saturday night to the Atlanta Falcons.
If there was any reluctance by NFL teams to hire a young head coach, it has been put aside. Nagy has a head coaching job in Chicago. Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, also 39 years old, could be next. He interviewed with the Bears and Arizona Cardinals, who remain in the market for a coach.
With the Bears, Nagy is entrusted with the development of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall selection in last year’s NFL draft who had an up-and-down rookie season after taking over as the starter for Mike Glennon. Nagy will attempt make Trubisky into next season’s version of Goff, and he will try to turn things around after three seasons of Bears’ struggles under predecessor John Fox.
If he can come anywhere close to duplicating the early success generated by McVay, the Bears will be delighted.