Nagy’s award brings optimism to Bears fans

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IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR THE NFL – Coach of the Chicago Bears Matt Nagy, left, accepts the award for AP coach of the year at the 8th Annual NFL Honors at The Fox Theatre on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Atlanta. (Photo by Paul Abell/Invision for NFL/AP Images)

Marcel Carrasco

With a franchise quarterback who was thrown into the fire last season, an average receiving corps and a top-tier defensive coordinator, Chicago Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy was able to mold a struggling Chicago team into a championship-caliber squad.

Nagy’s accomplishments didn’t go unnoticed. He was named 2018 Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year during the NFL Honors Ceremony Saturday in Atlanta.

“I want to thank the AP for selecting me as the Coach of the Year for 2018, especially considering the other deserving coaches who had outstanding seasons,” Nagy said. “This recognition is not about me; it is about our coaching staff, our players, the entire organization and the great Chicago Bears fans.”

Nagy received 24 of the 50 votes, catapulting him in front of other coaches such as San Diego Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn and Indianapolis Colts Head Coach Frank Reich, who finished second and third in voting, respectively.

Nagy joins a list of legendary Bears coaches to be named Coach of the Year. George Halas was the first Chicago Bears coach to win the award in 1963 and 1965.

Mike Ditka took the award in 1985 and 1988, former Head Coach Dick Jauron cemented his place in 2001 and Lovie Smith was named Coach of the Year in 2005.

Ditka and Halas have been the only Chicago coaches to win a league championship the same year as being awarded Coach of the Year. Both coaches had a winning record the second time around as well. Halas followed both award-winning years with losing seasons, and Ditka lost the conference final in 1988 before a 6-10 record in 1989.

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Under Nagy, the Bears won 12 games a team high since 2006. The rookie head coach’s success has been historic for Chicago as the Monsters of the Midway put up defensive numbers that haven’t been seen since the Smith Era. The Bears posted the fourth-most points scored in a season in franchise history.

Jauron and Smith lost the divisional championship after their award; however, Smith reached the Super Bowl the following year with a 13-3 record. Jauron failed to reach the playoffs at 4-12 the following year.

The Bears clinched their first NFC North title since 2010, which also marked the last time they made the playoffs. They also secured their first winning season since 2012.

Nagy’s offensive influence was instant, as he implemented pass-oriented offense in a team that relied on the run. Under Nagy, quarterback Mitch Trubisky saw his quarterback rating rocket from 77.5 in 2017 to 95.4 in 2018.

Nagy’s aim at turning a mediocre squad into the 12-4 Bears included off-field cultural changes extending from Halas Hall to the Soldier Field locker rooms. Internet sensation “Club Dub” worked as a team chemistry builder as much as a way to solidify morality after victories this season.

After wins, the Bears would turn their locker room into a party that they named “Club Dub.”

Aside from being the first Bears coach to win Coach of the Year his first year in charge, Nagy did it after stepping into office with a team that lost 10 or more matches the previous three seasons, the most for three of the four previous award-winning coaches before arriving.

The Bears are arguably in a better spot than previous seasons with a young quarterback, a dynamic backfield and an aggressive defense something that some Bears squads lacked since the Ditka Era.

With the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings all in some sort of identity crisis, the surprisingly weak NFC North should be up for the taking. Nagy will look to extend his success to next season, and beyond.