LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — One more victory to finish the regular season was in the books and that meant the party was on at “Club Dub.”
The Chicago Bears were swaying and jumping and pumping their fists as the strobe lights flashed and “Swag Surfing” by Fast Life Yungstaz blasted through the visitors’ locker room at Minnesota.
The video then cut to coach Matt Nagy leading his players as they raised their right arms and thrusted them toward the ground.
“Boom!” they yelled.
“One more!” Nagy screamed.
“And another!” he yelled again.
“Ooh, that feels good!” Nagy said.
How could it not?
The Bears (12-4) have been lowering the boom on just about everyone they have faced in their first season under Nagy, a magical ride where the next stop is Sunday when they host defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia in their first playoff game in eight years. Chicago comes in with an NFC North title after four straight last-place finishes, nine wins in 10 games and a belief that anything is possible.
Nagy inherited what looked like a major rebuild when he became the Bears’ 16th head coach. Chicago went 14-34 the previous three seasons under John Fox and won 13 games in two years under Marc Trestman.
But Nagy already has more victories than any other rookie coach in franchise history. Beyond that, he has made Sundays fun again in Chicago. He is demanding and creative, running trick plays with names like “Santa’s Sleigh” and turning the locker room into a virtual nightclub after victories. His demeanor seems to resonate with players and fans.
To the people who have known him the longest, none of this is all that surprising.
They saw the charm and determination as he developed into a star quarterback at Manheim Central in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country and a record-setter at Delaware.
He’s in quite a spot at age 40, considering he was just about out of pro football a decade earlier.
With a young family, he was selling new homes after the Arena Football League folded. He got the break he needed from Andy Reid in Philadelphia with an assist from a college teammate. And look at him now.
“I think if you’re given a chance and you’re driven and you’re obsessed and you are consumed with being given an opportunity to make people right or prove yourself right, then the sky is the limit,” Nagy said.
It wasn’t always smooth for Nagy. His drive may have led to some confrontations early on with his high school coach Mike Williams over a play call, mistake or some other disagreement. But they worked through it, forged a strong bond. And Nagy led Manheim Central to two state semifinals in the 1990s.
The Bears liked the looks of him and the potential chemistry with their young quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky.
“If you were to say to me, ‘You’re going to get these opportunities, what would you do with it?’” Nagy said. “I’d tell you I’d be right here. But I was able to get to this point for one reason, and that’s through all of the support system I have with family, friends, coaches, mentors and players. That’s the reason I’m here.”