When former Bears safety Doug Plank was in his first year as head coach of the Arena Football League's Georgia Force in 2005, starting quarterback Jim Kubiak suffered a season-ending knee injury in the team's fifth game.
Rather than panic, Plank confidently handed the reins of the offense over to his backup quarterback—a fiery competitor by the name of Matt Nagy—and the new Bears head coach responded by leading the Force to an 11-5 record, two playoff victories and an appearance in Arena Bowl XIX.
"Matt was outstanding," Plank said. "He was the next-man-up and he came in and just killed it. He was a great teammate. He was one of those guys that everybody depended on and did a great job."
Nagy was selected second-team All-AFL in 2005 after completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 3,003 yards with 66 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
"Matt was one of those guys who put in the extra time and effort to study film," Plank said. "Matt knew what he was doing. If you think the quarterback has to do a lot in the NFL, try doing it in the Arena League where you have to seriously do everything. I know that passing has gone up in the NFL, but in the Arena League passing is how teams exist. You can count on one hand sometimes how many times a team runs the ball in a game.
"So you are always dropping back. You are always manipulating the clock as far as calling timeouts, spiking the ball, whatever. So the starter gets hurt, Matt comes in and we go the championship game."
Plank recalls that Nagy was comfortable and effective communicating and interacting with teammates on both sides of the ball.
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"That isn't easy to do sometimes on teams," said Plank, a hard-hitting safety who played eight seasons with the Bears from 1975-83. "As far as the communication, he was intelligent. I can't remember him making mental mistakes. He was a player that was well-prepared and he certainly did a great job leading our team when he was the quarterback."
Nagy played six seasons in the AFL with the New York Dragons (2002), Carolina Cobras (2004), Force (2005-06) and Columbus Destroyers (2007-08), passing for 18,866 yards and 374 touchdowns.
Prior to being named Bears head coach Jan. 8, Nagy spent the previous 10 seasons coaching in the NFL under Andy Reid with the Eagles (2008-12) and Chiefs (2013-17). As Kansas City's offensive coordinator this season, he helped quarterback Alex Smith lead the league with a career-high 104.7 passer rating.
Plank feels that Nagy is the perfect coach to help develop a young Bears offense led by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who showed promise as a rookie in 2017 after being selected with the second overall pick in the draft.
"You look at what he's done in recent years in the NFL with the Chiefs and the work he did with the Eagles," Plank said, "and I feel he's more than qualified to take on this role to work with the offense, to work with the quarterback, and to be able to translate his knowledge and his enthusiasm to the players that he's going to coach."
Recalling his experiences with Nagy, Plank believes that the Bears head coach has the ideal temperament to excel in his new role.
"Matt was intense," Plank said. "He got really frustrated when things didn't go right and I think that's important. It's important to have that characteristic because it's too easy sometimes just to let things go on the way they are, and I never got the impression that Matt was that kind of guy. If it wasn't right, if it wasn't working, if it wasn't the way it was supposed to be, he had a problem with that. If you want to call it being a perfectionist, that probably was a pretty good description of him.
"I haven't seen him in an NFL situation. But Matt never had a problem whatsoever getting his point of view across, and I love emotion in a coach because it gets players excited. I've never found that not having emotion helps in a sport like football. Football is an emotional activity and the more that a coach can bring that every day, I think it helps his team tremendously."