Culture Club: New Bears credit Matt Nagy for building destination team
Cordarrelle Patterson has just won a Super Bowl and played under NFL legend Bill Belichick.
So when it came time to hit the free agent market, the versatile wide receiver knew exactly the kind of coach he wanted to play for next season: Matt Nagy.
“I wanted to be a part of that coaching,” Patterson said.
When last season ended, several Bears said they felt the team would become a destination for free agency based on their turnaround season and the fun they always seemed to be having.
As it turns out, free agents were attracted to the Bears but to a man the main reason they expressed was coach Matt Nagy.
Whether it was how Nagy handled strategy, how he related with players or just his personality, he received much of the credit for getting free agents interested in the Bears.
“Just the way he handled himself and the professionalism and everything about him, how he talks, how he speaks to you, the first time meeting him and talking to him l felt like l’ve known him for 30 years,” Patterson said Thursday in a conference call with Bears reporters.
The city of Chicago, the expanding football fortress known as Halas Hall, the 12-4 record, Club Dub and playing with Khalil Mack were all attractions for players, as well as the money. But the three players who signed just after the free agency period began all testified to how impressive the NFL Coach of the Year is.
“You could just kind of feel the energy when you walked in the door,” new Bears slot cornerback Buster Skrine said.
Skrine said Bears receiver Taylor Gabriel told him about Nagy, as did a friend of Prince Amukamara’s.
“I definitely think a lot of players want to play for Matt Nagy,” Skrine said. “Just watching the Bears play last year, I could tell the team enjoyed doing what they were doing.”
Skrine witnessed the coaching first hand last fall when his Jets came to Soldier Field and lost 24-10. He had heard positive things about Nagy from his own coach Todd Bowles, who is Nagy’s longtime friend.
Then he saw it applied on the field when the Jets came with an all-out blitz. Nagy had them ready with a screen pass and Tarik Cohen went 70 yards to the end zone. A while later, while in cover-3, Nagy made a perfect play call to frustrate them again for a first down when the Jets defense felt they had the upper hand.
“It’s like they knew exactly what we were going to be in and they executed,” Skrine said. “They knew we were in cover-3 in the red zone.
“I just knew going against them, the coaching was awesome and I’m glad to be here.”
New Bears running back Mike Davis raved about the Bears defense he faced while with Seattle.
“Khalil Mack is everything, man,” Davis said. “He’s everything as advertised.”
That makes a difference. But players get hurt or leave as free agents or in trades like the one that brought Mack to Chicago.
When you’ve got a coach who attracts free agents, it’s a real tool for maintaining a team’s strength over time.
Skrine said he had a few words with new Bears safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, and they both agreed they liked the culture at Halas Hall started by Nagy.
A report by Mike Garafalo of NFL Network said Clinton-Dix turned down more cash elsewhere to be part of the Nagy experience on a one-year prove-it type of deal.
When players are putting pride and cash aside for the chance to play for a team, you’ve established a real free agent destination.
“Coming here and feeling that culture, which is hard to find, with people who are just genuinely positive ... the team and the culture as a whole, is awesome,” Skrine said.