Like the relationship between a boy and his father, there is no more important bond in the NFL than the one shared between a quarterback and his head coach.
It’s this relationship that is the backbone of every franchise for better or for worse. It’s the fabric that, if woven correctly, leads a team to sustained success for a long period of time.
Just like Belichick and Brady, or Walsh with both Montana and Young, when that special connection is created between a head coach and his quarterback, there is no telling what heights a team may reach.
In Chicago, there is hope that such a relationship can be established between new head coach Matt Nagy and second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
The Bears have not had that special bond since the seven years George Halas and Sid Luckman shared together in which the duo reached the NFL Championship four times, winning three of those games.
To say Chicago is long overdue for such a special chemistry between head coach and quarterback would be an understatement, but the rarity in which it occurs is what makes those great relationships truly special.
Are Nagy and Trubisky up for the task?
In this column, I want to take you through the three pillars that will make or break the tenure these two are about to begin. Those three pillars are:
This is by far the most important factor. Without trust between a head coach and quarterback, there is simply no foundation for the rest of the relationship to grow upon.
Trust can mean many things. For Trubisky, he must develop his trust in Nagy to a point where he believes in both the system and what his coach will tell him during games.
Hopefully, these two are already on the path towards developing trust. I can’t stress just how crucial this offseason is for the long-term.
Throughout the upcoming months, Nagy will be implementing his offense and even though his quarterback will only be in the infancy stage of grasping its concepts, Trubisky must buy-in 110 percent.
Doing so now will only lead to better results in both the short and long-term. I have zero doubts that Trubisky is going to do so, and his belief in the system will breed a stronger sense of the inner-confidence that is imperative for every quarterback.
No confidence, no success. It’s that simple.
With Trubisky’s mechanics, trust will play a vital role. He’ll need to fully trust how Nagy and his staff want his footwork, windup, delivery, and the other minute nuances that go into each and every throw.
Trust will also play a factor during each and every game week. Trubisky must trust Nagy and the rest of the staff is creating the best possible game plan to win. In turn, Nagy must trust that Trubisky will do everything in his power to do what is asked of him.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Trust is also vital during the heat of the moment on Sundays. For example, if Trubisky is misreading coverages and is being baited into making poor decisions and Nagy goes over to his quarterback on the bench and tells him this information, Trubisky must have faith that what Nagy is saying is true, and that what he’s seeing on the field is not.
If for some reason these two are unable to build (and maintain) trust, then it’ll be chalked up as yet another failed experiment.
The good news is that both seem genuinely excited about the other. And on the surface, it appears that the seed of this trust tree has been planted and the roots have sprouted.
Now it’s up to both men to continue nurturing this sapling into a strong and healthy tree that can’t be bewildered by the fiercest of storms.
Trust between a head coach and his quarterback is meaningful, but it’s not the only necessary component of a special relationship between the two. How dedicated each is to their craft will also dictate future accomplishments.
With every great success story, there’s often a ton of work that occurs behind the scenes.
Do you know what makes Belichick such a great head coach? He out prepares everybody. No coach is more prepared each and every week than he is. Belichick devotes countless hours towards understanding the nuances of his opponents, and that’s why he’s been so successful in New England.
The same goes for Peyton Manning. His dedication towards not only mastering his offensive system but also understanding every blitz, every coverage, every wrinkle a defense may throw his way is what allowed him to break countless records and become a five-time NFL MVP.
Now every head coach and quarterback in the league has this passion to some degree, but in order to win championships, both will need to more so than others.
Perhaps it’s brewing in Chicago as Nagy spoke about his elite attention to detail when he was introduced as the Bears’ new head coach.
“Details, that’s what it comes down to. So you’re always learning more about a play or a concept. We still write in our books. I still to this day write every play down, every detail of each play.” – Matt Nagy
The art of perfecting one’s craft takes grit. Only a truly determined individual is able to focus on the small specifics without losing sight of the bigger picture.
What should excite Bears fans about Nagy is that he and his staff are not only already creating plays and concepts they want to implement, but also the fact that they are having fun with it.
Just take a look at what Ryan Pace was telling SI’s Albert Breer: “I’ll go down there at night right now, and Matt’s up on the board drawing plays with Helfrich and Brad Childress in there, and they’re bouncing ideas off each other, coming up with new things. It’s neat to see.”
It doesn’t stop there as Nagy and Pace have already given Trubisky two tools to jumpstart his grasp of the new system by signing both Chase Daniel and Tyler Bray as backups. I can’t stress enough the importance of both of these signings.
With Nagy not able to communicate with Trubisky until minicamp and OTA’s due to NFLPA restrictions, Daniel and Bray can help bridge the gap. But here’s the catch – how much Trubisky wants to hit the ground running is up to him and him alone, but I trust that he’s already doing so.
Pace was very high on Trubisky’s work ethic back when he spoke at the combine.
“He’s a natural leader. His work ethic, he’s very passionate about this. It’s really a 24/7 job for him. To be a good quarterback in this league, you have to be obsessed with being great, and Mitch definitely has that.” – Ryan Pace
Nagy was brilliant by adding Daniel and Bray. Having two backups that already know the system will not only help teach Trubisky the new offense, but they will also assist him on how Nagy likes certain things.
It’s all about details.
Instead of having another backup learning the system along with Trubisky, the quarterback now has, in a sense, two extra coaches both on the field and in the quarterback’s room in which Pace has dubbed the most important in all of football.
Both backups seem more than willing to help Trubisky maximize his potential, and Trubisky must be committed to using these resources.
That strong support system proves that Nagy is committed to Trubisky, and if Trubisky utilizes the supports that have been given to him, the transition should be smooth.
It’s not enough for both of these two to approach this offseason with a strong sense of commitment. Both will have to sustain that adherence throughout the grind that is the NFL season.
Nagy must be quick when creating his weekly gameplan and get it to his quarterback as soon as possible. In turn, Trubisky must absorb it like a sponge, ask questions where needed, and perfect it by the week’s end.
Doing this will allow Trubisky to become as comfortable as possible with the plays each week.
Plus, if he puts in the time in the film room, he’ll have a grip on how defenses will attack him, what coverages he should expect from different looks, how a defense tips its hand when sending the blitz, and so on.
Trubisky is in a good spot to become that film junkie. Manning was notorious for being obsessed with watching film, and if Trubisky can emulate that desire, great things will follow.
In order to become a great duo, both will need a shared commitment towards perfecting the little things. If one doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain, it’s simply a lost cause.
A well-prepared coach can only carry a quarterback so far, and the same is true vice versa.
Luckily for Chicago, both men are known for their deep desire for greatness and strong work ethics, but in addition to sharing trust and passion, there is one more pillar both must possess to achieve high levels of success – accountability.
This may be the most complex pillar of them all as both Nagy and Trubisky must have accountability not only within their relationship but also with the staff and other players.
When accountability is in place within a football team, players and coaches alike have an elevated sense of confidence, and often times, take their respective games to the next level.
It’s this sense of responsibility that instills (and strengthens) culture as everyone involved buys-in, encourages and empowers one another, and strives to obtain a common goal.
Between a head coach and his quarterback, accountability is key. It’s essential for a coach to be able to entrust responsibility in his quarterback as it helps strengthen the first pillar – trust.
If Trubisky does what Nagy asks of him correctly, Coach should point that out and praise him for doing so. But if the opposite happens, and Trubisky made a mistake either in practice or during a game, he must hold him accountable and explain what he did wrong.
And if Trubisky knows he made the mistake, instead of making excuses, he must man up to it.
It’s this open communication and transparency that establishes trust. It also helps set proper expectations, which will, in turn, lead to less frustration.
But accountability is a two-way street.
In order for this to work, Trubisky must hold Nagy to the same standard. If there’s a certain play that Nagy wants to run on, and Trubisky absolutely hates it and doesn’t believe in it, he must speak up and have his voice heard.
Do you think there was a single time last season where Trubisky held Dowell Loggains accountable for setting him up to fail? Of course not, or else things would have changed.
With Nagy, it must be different.
Trubisky must be able to have that open dialogue that will allow him to speak his mind. If there’s a certain player he wants to see on the field more (or less), as the franchise-quarterback Trubisky must be allowed to bring that information to the table.
Nagy will have the final say, of course. But if the two have trust, then there’s no reason why Trubisky’s input would be omitted from the equation.
Nagy has already proven he holds himself accountable. He did so when he admitted that he called every single play during the Chiefs’ playoff loss just a couple of months ago.
“That there 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 call. For me, that was a failure in my book.” – Matt Nagy
With that, there’s no question there will be a higher sense of accountability in Halas Hall than in previous years. Heck, accountability is the very core of the expected heavy RPO usage as Trubisky will need both the confidence and freedom to make his own decision each time one is called.
Having a stronger sense of accountability will also enable Trubisky to strengthen his leadership in the locker room. If he takes a risk and it ends up failing, he must be willing to pay the price, acknowledge it, and promise to do better next time.
The same goes with Nagy. If he calls the wrong play in a crucial situation, he must own up to it. Doing so will only make him a better leader through ownership and responsibility. Plus, Trubisky would have a deeper respect for his coach.
On the field, if Nagy can find a way to create a stronger sense of responsibility within Trubisky, it will give the quarterback more to lose, and to play for.
If Nagy can make Trubisky feel as the two are conjoined at the hip, that one’s success is the others, and the same applies to their failures, it would amplify his quarterback’s already deep desire for greatness.
Everybody in Chicago hopes that Nagy-Trubisky will become the next great coach and quarterback combination that ranks right up there with some of the all-time greats.
But in order for that to become reality, the two will need to establish trust, high-level commitment, and accountability.
Will it come to fruition? We’ll find out in the coming weeks, months and years. But in the meantime, buckle up for the road ahead, because the joy is in the journey.
What about you? What pillar do you believe is the most important? Was there one that should’ve been included? Let me know in the comments section below!