‘Crushing’ the NFL and Vanilla Ice Cream
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Matt Nagy has always followed right behind Doug Pederson on Andy Reid's assembly line for NFL head coaches.
When Nagy started his professional coaching career as an intern under Reid in 2008, Pederson was finishing up a stint as the head coach at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana, with the next move joining Reid's staff as an offensive quality control coordinator.
By the time Nagy was promoted from intern to a coaches' assistant in 2010, Pederson was in his final year of quality control before taking over as the Eagles' quarterbacks coach and Nagy ultimately took over Pederson's old quality control gig in 2011.
The Reid apple cart was upended in Philadelphia after 2012 season but the highly-regarded coach landed on his feet in Kansas City, taking Pederson [as offensive coordinator] and Nagy [as QB coach] with him.
When Pederson got the big chair in Philadelphia before the 2016 season, it was Nagy who was promoted to OC with the Chiefs where he spent the next two seasons before getting his own gig in Chicago for the 2018 season.
The two were so close that Nagy was Pederson's first choice as OC in Philadelphia but Reid wanted to keep Nagy and things worked out beautifully with Frank Reich as Pederson's first right-hand man with the Eagles.
"To me that's been pretty cool," Nagy said when discussing his history with Pederson with Philadelphia-area reporters on Wednesday. "To come in as an assistant when Doug was QC and then to keep following him. It just goes to show to how Coach Reid does things."
Reid's tree is the largest in the modern NFL and Pederson, the Super Bowl winner, and Nagy, a serious Coach of the Year candidate, are arguably its sturdiest branches.
"He builds from the ground up," Nagy said of Reid. "He builds organically and I love that about Coach. He tries to teach his people that come in no matter where you start. He wants to teach you how to do it and then groom you to be able to take advantage of these opportunities that Doug and I both have.
"And I believe in that. It's coach Reid, it starts there. He trusts you as a person. You build loyalty through him and then he takes cares of you. And that's what he did with both Doug and I and now we're both trying to do that and pay guys back by doing the same type of thing."
Pederson echoed that by discussing his relationships with Reich, now the HC in Indianapolis, and Nagy.
"I think it's definitely an honor to work with guys," Pederson said. "I think of even now with Frank Reich, taking over in Indianapolis, you build relationships with these guys. You know their families and all of that, and then you see them at this level, especially as head coaches and having success like both of those guys are. It makes you feel proud that you had a chance to work with them and be on the same staff with them and all of that.
"Matt and I, we talk. He bounced a lot of ideas and when he took over in Chicago this past year, just how did I do things my first year and things of that nature and just kind of picking my brain. Frank did the same thing this year. To always have that bond, have that relationship, is special. I'll be excited to see him Sunday."
While Nagy has followed in Pederson's footsteps at every professional milestone to date, the next one is the most important.
"He got that Super Bowl," Nagy said. "I’m trying to follow his lead here."
Pederson indeed won Super Bowl LII as the mentor of the Eagles and now has his team back in the postseason after a late run which turned a 4-6 start into a six seed and a trip to Chicago, thanks in large part to Nagy and the Bears.
Philadelphia needed to win its Week 17 game against Washington and help from Chicago, which needed to needed to top Minnesota to get into the playoffs and both sides of the equation came to fruition, an end game which means by helping his old friend, Nagy risks losing to him on Sunday in the wild-card round.
Playing games, however, never entered Nagy's mind when it came to Week 17 strategy.
"There were too many scenarios and what-ifs," Nagy said.
Winning against the Eagles and Pederson figures to be much tougher than the alternative would have been, a rematch against the flawed Vikings.
Nagy, though, isn't shying away from the challenge.
"It makes it neat just because obviously whether you talk about schematically with the offenses or you talk about the relationship Doug and I had together working under Coach [Reid]. It is, it's ironic, without a doubt it's ironic," Nagy assessed. "And then being from Pennsylvania my entire life and all the Philadelphia Eagles fans. My phone was blowing up after our win in Minnesota. I know it's all in good fun. I know how passionate the Eagles fans are. It will be a fun day and we are both gonna compete our tails off as coaches but in the end there will be a great hug and handshake and a respect factor."
And maybe even a little vanilla ice cream.
"He’d always destroy the vanilla soft-serve ice cream server," Nagy joked when discussing he and Pederson's time at the NovaCare Complex together. "He’d fill that bad boy up and then put a bunch of rainbow sprinkles on top of it and just devour it. He can crush food."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen