749 regular season wins. The most in NFL history.
An NFL-record 27 Pro Football Hall of Famers with another one on the way.
Those remarkable feats belong to the Chicago Bears, one of the most storied franchises in football history. But in recent years, the team has struggled to live up to the lofty expectations raised by past “Monsters of the Midway.”
That’s why the Bears hired Matt Nagy in January to be their new head coach.
And luckily for Chicago fans, the former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator plans to embrace the franchise’s legendary mystique on his way to creating a winning culture.
“I want the team to understand the team they’re playing for and the tradition and the history,” Nagy said via the Chicago Sun-Times. “When they step into Halas Hall, [it’s] understanding how fortunate they are. Number one, they’ve got to know that. A lot of guys will hear it, but they don’t know why and they don’t understand it. They’re going to understand why it’s so important for them to be able to put on the Bears uniform.”
The offensive-minded Nagy is also hoping to introduce a new identity to an offense that finished 30th in total yardage last season.
“Overall, we’re going to be much more aggressive than we are conservative,” Nagy revealed during the NFL’s annual meetings in Orlando earlier in the offseason. “If you have that mentality going into games, you’ll never leave with any regrets because you’re aggressive. But it’s got to be smart.”
That’s why it’s no surprise that during free agency Nagy and GM Ryan Pace prioritized strengthening the offense by signing a trio of talented skill players to immediately contribute.
The Bears have always struggled to find a No. 1 wide receiver.
Since 1993, Alshon Jeffery and Marty Booker are the only Bears wide receivers to lead the team in receiving yards for three consecutive seasons. With the signing of Allen Robinson, Chicago hopes to add a third name to that list.
“He’s a guy who presents a lot of problems to defensive backs just because of his ability with his size,” observed Nagy at the NFL’s annual league meeting in March. “But he’s a good route-runner. He’s able to, if you have a smaller DB on him, he can beat you up with his size. A bigger DB, he can beat you up with his route-running.”
Fresh off signing his three-year, $42 million contract in March, the former Jacksonville Jaguars wideout expects to evolve into second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky’s top target.
“I know from my standpoint, I’ll be able to make [Trubisky’s] job easy,” Robinson told ESPN. “That’s my goal. Again, that’s what I came here for. I came here to make those plays, to make those catches, to make his job easy.”
If Robinson, who’s coming off surgery for a torn ACL that he suffered in Week 1 last season, follows through with his promise, the Bears could have one of the league’s most prolific offenses in 2018.
Taylor Gabriel burst onto the scene with 35 catches for 579 yards and six touchdowns during the Atlanta Falcons’ Super Bowl run in 2016.
The Bears took notice and signed him to a four-year, $26 million deal to play the “Zebra” position in Nagy’s offense.
“He can catch the ball behind the line of scrimmage and take it for a touchdown really on any given play,” said Nagy. “Now, a lot of that goes with regards to blocking that goes on with wide receivers and that, but he’s not just that ‘gadget guy.’ He can be a true receiver and really do well.”
Gabriel earned that “gadget guy” persona during his two-year tenure with Atlanta, in which he tormented defenses with his speed in both the passing and running games. Because of that, his new head coach looks forward to finding creative ways to put the football into his hands.
“So the things we do with getting guys the ball quick, RPO stuff, but getting him the ball—you see what he can do with screens,” said Nagy of Gabriel’s skillset.
With Gabriel paired up with Robinson, the Bears could have the most explosive pair of wide receivers that they’ve ever had.
The days of having your tight end primarily serve as a hand-in-the-dirt blocker who can occasionally run a curl route for a hard-earned first down between the numbers are over.
If the modern game of football is chess, the TE is the queen, and Nagy knows this. It’s why he brought in Super Bowl LII hero Trey Burton to be the Bears’ TE of the future.
“You can move (the TE) around, do different things—it’s what we did with (Chiefs TE Travis) Kelce,” shared Nagy. “It’s an important role. It’s a position that’s easy to create some plays for.”
Even though Burton was mostly a third-stringer with Philadelphia, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson used creative play designs—like the unforgettable Philly Special—to play to Burton’s strengths.
Nagy coached alongside Pederson from 2009-15 while the two were assistants under Andy Reid in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Now, he’s excited to build off Burton’s success in Philly and unleash his versatility on opposing defenses.
“If you get a small nickel on him, he can use his size to body him up. If they put a bigger guy on him, we can use his speed,” Nagy said. “That’s one of the things I learned through (Reid), getting mismatches throughout. That’s what Trey does.”
Considering that no Bears TE has recorded more than 53 catches in a season during the past three years, it’ll be interesting to see how Burton’s production compares in the first year of Nagy’s tight-end-friendly offense.
Just think: If Robinson, Gabriel and Burton live up to expectations, the “Monsters of the Midway” could be reborn.