Bears coach Matt Nagy discusses building an NFL team from a distance

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bears head coach Matt Nagy at a news conference after an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 21-13.

    Bears head coach Matt Nagy at a news conference after an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 21-13. Associated Press

 
By Hub Arkush
harkush@profootballweekly.com
Updated 5/16/2020 8:26 PM

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to try and do your job with no real certainty as to just what exactly your job is going to be?

Welcome to Bears head coach Matt Nagy's world.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Sure, basically his job is to win as many football games as possible.

But with no certainty or even best guesses as to when the NFL can get back to work as we all know it, or if there will even be a season this year - and if there is when it might start - Nagy is trying to begin the process of putting together the 2020 Bears.

And that's just the half of it.

He is not allowed to be in the same building or on the same field with his coaches and players, and Nagy is left to figure out what he can accomplish in a team sport with his team literally spread out over roughly 4,000 miles.

The answer at the moment is Zoom.

The Bears have begun a virtual offseason program bringing players together in groups via the internet and beginning the process of becoming a team and learning their playbooks without ever stepping on a football field.

"So the biggest thing for us is to establish these relationships" Nagy said Friday in a "Zoom meeting" with the media.

"We were just talking about it this morning," he went on. "We, as coaches, really have not been able to, for different reasons - again this is part of the silver lining - we haven't been able to find out as much about our players as people as we are right now.

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"That part is an element to this thing that we've never done before.

"The time that we are missing on the field we are getting when we are together in these breakout rooms. Just talking about life. And I think that part has been so valuable."

There is no reason to doubt Nagy is correct about that, particularly when it comes to a better understanding of what he might be able to get out of each individual player and team building, but how much impact can it actually have relative to making his guys better football players?

Theoretically these early sessions are part of the offseason workout program and the OTAs and then veteran minicamp are coming over the next five weeks.

I asked Nagy how he'll differentiate between those three programs and at what point all this virtual face time might start to offer diminishing returns?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"In regards to you first question, with the new CBA they say you can have the players for X amount of time, you can have the players for X amount of days," Nagy said. "It's very similar to what we would have if we were at Halas Hall. The difference is that we break that time out to go out on the field. That's extra time that we're having right now.

"Really in essence when you look at this thing, between the different phases, between OTAs, a lot of it is really the same stuff every day.

"I think the answer to the second part of your question is, where I feel like we've excelled in our idea of how we're going to do this is we've kept a really, really, good balance of quote-unquote other stuff, whether that's what we call these coffee shops, which are interactions between the players; whether it's bringing in guest speakers in different areas, whether that's hall of famers or future hall of famers, there's been some pretty good guest speakers.

"So how do you make it fun? How do you keep it creative? That's how we're doing that."

What's been the hardest part so far?

"Here's probably what the biggest difficulty is, is the unknown. That's what's hard," Nagy said. "We're sitting here, you go through trying to figure out what's going to happen, whether it be at training camp, whether it be at preseason, the regular season. There's a lot of unknowns there."

Ever the optimist though Nagy is doing the best he can to not let the unknown be a negative.

"That's OK. We can't control that," he said. "Let's control what we can control."

Today all he can really control is working on team building and the mental aspects of the game, and for now at least that's what the Bears new virtual reality is all about.

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