LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Matt Nagy will be the first to say that he owes almost everything to Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
Reid -- the seventh-winningest coach in NFL history -- wears many different hats when it comes to Nagy, the Chicago Bears' coach, who, after working for 10 years in Philadelphia and Kansas City, became the 10th former Reid assistant to become an NFL head coach.
On a given day, Reid can be mentor, friend, advocate or sounding board during conversations with Nagy. On some days, Reid can offer Nagy the unconditional support and the tough realism that every young NFL coach needs to succeed. No matter the message, Nagy is appreciative.
The 41-year-old Nagy admits -- without hesitation -- that climbing the coaching ranks in the manner he did would not have been possible without Reid, who's 20 years his senior.
“Coach Reid has about a six- to seven-inch-thick binder that he has hidden up in his top drawer in his office,” Nagy told ESPN over the summer. “It’s a book that has about 20-30 different tabs in it on how to run an organization and how to be a head coach. In 2012, he called me in his office one day and we were just small-talking and towards the end of the conversation he goes, ‘Hold on a second.’ He opens up the drawer and takes this book and gives it to me."
“He goes, ‘Take this, study it and let me know if you have any questions.’ ... That moment right there, all he said was that I believe in this kid, and you can be a head coach if you put your mind to it and stay under my wing. From that day on that was it. That’s all I needed.”
Nagy got the Bears job in 2018 and promptly won NFL Coach of the Year honors as Chicago went 12-4 and hosted a playoff game for the first time since the 2010 season. Nagy’s second season in Chicago has not been as smooth. With a 19-11 overall record, however, there is some perspective for Nagy; his predecessor, John Fox, went 14-34 in three seasons in Chicago. Reid is quick to remind Nagy of that perspective.
“It's very hard to win in the National Football League, right?” Reid said during a conference call with Chicago media members. “Unfortunately, there's things that come into it that you can't control. You're not going to control injuries. Those things happen. There's a little bit of luck in each season.
“That's what makes Matt so unique. I mean, he's so mentally tough. He tries to get the best out of his guys. The guys know that. And so, he'll be fine.”
Reid isn’t just offering an opinion from afar.
The unique part of the Nagy-Reid relationship is how often they talk. Without question, Reid has positively affected the lives of an innumerable number of assistants over the years, but he talks to Nagy the most.
“I don't know [why we talk so much],” Raid said with a laugh. “I like talking to him. He's so passionate about it and he works hard, long hours, and we end up talking. I can't tell you why. I don't know why. That's just the way it seems to work.”
Nagy needed Reid this season more than ever. The Bears went through a particularly rough stretch in October and November when they lost five of six games to essentially end their playoff hopes.
During that time, Reid told Nagy what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear.
“We're real with one another,” Nagy said. “When you're dealing with friends and coaches and players, you want honesty. And you want people to tell how they feel. I just think over time, we've told a lot of stories. I just have so much respect for him not only just as a coach but as a person and what he's done in his life and the way he's gone about it. He's family to me. He’s one of my favorite people in the world.”
The relationship takes another turn Sunday night when Chicago (7-7) hosts Kansas City and league MVP Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs (10-4) are still fighting for the No. 2 playoff seed in the AFC; the Bears' season will end in nine days no matter what happens against the Chiefs. Since ownership fired Mike Ditka in 1992, the Bears have made the playoffs six times. That being said, Chicago is much better positioned to sustain success under Nagy, who will undoubtedly reevaluate every aspect of the offense, from playcalling to quarterback play, this offseason.
And Nagy's calls to Reid will continue.
“He’s just a calming presence,” Nagy said. “He’s somebody that I trust as a friend, as a mentor. The amount of trust that I have for him and the experience, the life experiences and the coaching experiences that he’s been through, and the experiences we’ve been through together for so many years, he’s taught me to be who I am as a coach and taught me to be myself as a human being, and so when those times arise, where you need a little bit of advice from somebody who’s been through something, he’s the guy I go to."