ROSEMONT, Ill. – General manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy took center stage—literally—Sunday morning at the Bears100 Celebration.
In a “Leading the Bears” panel discussion, Pace and Nagy joined president/CEO Ted Phillips to discuss the franchise’s resurgence last season. Pace was named NFL executive of the year and Nagy was selected NFL coach of the year after the Bears won the NFC North with a 12-4 record.
“If you guys could see how these two gentlemen work together seamlessly in the office, you’d be so proud of them,” Phillips told an enthusiastic crowd at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. “The results are showing, but every day they have such a great working relationship.”
Pace helped orchestrate the Bears’ worst-to-first turnaround with a series of bold and impactful moves. He hired Nagy, traded for All-Pro outside linebacker Khalil Mack, matched a contract offer cornerback Kyle Fuller received from the Packers, completely revamped the receiving corps and drafted three players who were named to the NFL All-Rookie team.
The Bears had a league-high eight players named to the Pro Bowl last season after having none selected the year before. That included Mack and Fuller, both of whom were also chosen first-team All-Pro.
“You want to talk about a rock star, he’s a rock star,” Nagy said of Pace. “He’ll never tell you that because he’s one of the most humble people I’ve ever met in my entire life. When you have that, good things normally happen and we’re in that right now. I’m lucky as heck to be his partner. We always say we’ll agree to disagree (if there’s a difference of opinion), but there are not too many of those [situations] and we’re in this thing together.”
Pace was hired by the Bears in 2015 after spending the previous 14 seasons with the Saints, including his last two years as director of player personnel.
“When Ryan Pace interviewed, he knocked it out of the park,” Phillips said. “George [McCaskey] and I wanted to hire him on the spot. It’s the kind of person he is. He was so well prepared. You can feel when he talks about the team, the fire and passion and the competitiveness that he has. And Matt has all of it as well. They’re authentic guys; love them both.”
The Bears also hit a home run when they hired Nagy in January 2018. They had done exhaustive research on several candidates and had an inkling heading into the interviews that Nagy would ultimately be their choice.
“It’s a very thorough process,” Pace said. “There’s a tremendous amount of research that goes into that. It’s referencing, talking to coaches, scouts, players, agents, equipment guys. It was pretty in-depth.
“I remember watching pretty much any interview Matt’s ever done just to get a feel for his personality. As we went into those [head-coaching] interviews, I was pretty sure the type of person he was. Probably a couple minutes into our interview with Matt, we knew pretty quickly that he was going to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears.”
Phillips had the same feeling right from the outset.
“When we got to Kansas City and started interviewing Matt, I remember telling George and Ryan, ‘I’m still waiting for one person to come in here and say, ‘I want to be the coach of the Chicago Bears’ and really mean it.’ Sure enough, first thing out of Matt’s mouth was that, and I think we all kind of felt that this is the guy. And what can you say; first year 12-4, coach of the year, we love having you, Matt.”
Nagy also had a strong feeling early in the interview that he was headed to the Bears.
“Within five minutes of being in that hotel room with George, Ted and Ryan, it felt like family,” Nagy said. “I knew right away that this was my new home and this was my new family. The rest was going to be on me just being able to show them who I am and let them feel that from me.
“When you know something and you feel good about it, it’s just so easy to just let your own personality show, and that’s when I talk about ‘being you.’ From Day 1 I can honestly say the relationship that we have from the top with Mrs. McCaskey the whole way down to the very bottom of whoever that is, all of us, we never change.
“We’re all here for the betterment of the Chicago Bears and for the city of Chicago and for you fans. And we know there’s really only one reason why we’re all here, and it’s time to do it.”
Get an exclusive look at the final day of legacy panels, autograph signings, and other activities from Bears100 Celebration Weekend featuring current players and Bears legends.