For Matt Nagy, Saturday night became a tornado of emotions. His disappointment was sharp after the Chiefs were outscored 19-0 in the second half of a one-point playoff loss to the Titans.
“I was numb for a lot of the night,” he said, “for so many different reasons.”
On four second-half possessions, the Chiefs managed just 61 yards, three first downs and zero points. A commanding 21-3 halftime lead became a stunning 22-21 upset loss. After losing top tight end Travis Kelce to a concussion late in the first half, the Chiefs passing game sputtered. Their running attack, meanwhile, seemed to forget about league rushing champion Kareem Hunt. Hunt had only five carries for 17 yards after halftime.
As the offensive coordinator, Nagy knew his fingerprints were on the stumble.
“I called every single play in the second half,” he acknowledged Tuesday as he was introduced as the new Bears coach. “That was a learning situation for me. I’ve gone back and looked at it. There are scenarios where I wish I would’ve made some different choices with the play calls.
“For me, that was a failure in my book. But I’ll grow from it and I’ll learn from it, I promise you that.”
It was a sharp reminder of the dice roll the Bears have made on Nagy, a 39-year-old touted across the league as an offensive savant with a bright coaching future. But Nagy is unproven. Before Thanksgiving, he had never called plays on the NFL level. Now he’ll be the Bears’ offensive play-caller going forward, entrusted with bringing the best out of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Time will tell how successful he can be as he masters that role.
Will Nagy enliven the Bears attack the way he did the Chiefs’ over the final five regular-season games, a stretch in which Kansas City averaged 412.4 yards and 28.6 points? Or will there be frustrating setbacks like Saturday night’s?
Bears general manager Ryan Pace is convinced Nagy possesses innate play-calling skills.
“I think you can just feel, when you watch Kansas City, a lot of the creative things they did that were a little outside the box,” Pace said. “It’s how they used their personnel and how they would change up their tempo. Things like that. They were balanced, for the most part. And you could feel his aggressiveness.”
That was a buzzword for Nagy as well.
“That’s my nature,” he said. “I’m going to be aggressive. But it has to be calculated. You need to understand the difference between being too aggressive and not aggressive enough.”
Nagy seemed both scarred and motivated by the final scenes of his time with the Chiefs. Pace, who watched the end of that playoff loss from his hotel room in Kansas City on Saturday, never held it against him.
“One of the things I love about Matt is his humility,” Pace said, “and his willingness to come in and talk about that moment. He owned it. ‘Guys, this is what happened. I was calling the plays. This is what I learned from that moment. And this is what I’m going to do better going forward.’ ”