In his first season with the Bears, Matt Nagy has been named the NFL coach of the year by the Professional Football Writers of America.
Nagy led the Bears to a 12-4 record and the NFC North championship in 2018. The team had finished in last place in the division each of the previous four years with records of 5-11, 6-10, 3-13 and 5-11. The Bears won nine of their final 10 regular-season games for the first time since 1985.
“Every single day that we’ve been together has been confirmation that he is the perfect head coach for this franchise,” general manager Ryan Pace said Monday. “And it’s just going to get better and better as we go forward. We worked so well together. He’s very natural in this role and we’re very, very fortunate to have him as our head coach.”
Nagy’s 12 wins are the most by a first-year coach in Bears history and more than any of the NFL’s other 31 current coaches in their first seasons. In addition, Nagy became the first coach to lead the Bears to a winning record and a postseason berth in his first year since Paddy Driscoll in 1956.
Under Nagy’s direction, the Bears went 5-1 against NFC North foes after they were 4-20 versus their division rivals the previous four seasons. They also went 7-1 in regular-season home games, their best record at Soldier Field since the 2005 team also went 7-1.
“As soon as we hired him, I knew he was the right guy,” quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said Dec. 16 after the Bears clinched their first division title since 2010 with a 24-17 win over the Packers. “He’s got that vibe about him that everybody wants to be around him, everybody wants to play hard for him and he really motivates this team.
“Obviously he’s brilliant on offense, but it’s really special the way he brings a group together and motivates them for a common goal. It’s really become a family and he’s a huge part of it.”
Nagy is the first Bears coach to win the PFWA award since Lovie Smith in 2005.
The culture that Nagy implemented helped the Bears respond to adversity throughout the 2018 season. They rebounded from a season-opening loss to the Packers with three straight wins, from back-to-back defeats to the Dolphins and Patriots with five wins in a row and from a loss to the Giants with four consecutive victories.
Asked what has impressed him most about Nagy, Pace said: “Just how comfortable he is in his own skin. Just be yourself. Just be you. He has a blueprint from Andy Reid and he respects him, but Matt is just himself. I think the players feel that. Because if you do that every day, it comes off natural and organic and I think it’s very attractive.”
The PFWA also named Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as its NFL assistant coach of the year. Fangio, who left the team last Thursday to become head coach of the Denver Broncos, led one of the league’s most dominant defenses in 2018.
The unit topped the NFL in fewest points per game (17.7), takeaways (36), interceptions (27), interception return touchdowns (5), lowest opponent passer rating (72.9) and fewest rushing yards per game (80.0).
Outside linebacker Khalil Mack, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson were all named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and the PFWA. The three players along with tackle Akiem Hicks were also voted to the Pro Bowl.
Senior writer Larry Mayer ranks the Bears’ top 10 plays of the 2018 season: