Ryan Bukowiecki is a student at the Illinois Media School and a contributor to The D & Davis Show
The process of the 2018 off-season has been arguably one Chicago Bears fans had not seen ever in the franchise’s history.
During the season’s exit press conference Ryan Pace told fans that he would lead the next coaching search and soon after the collaborators (Ryan Pace, Ted Phillips and George McCaskey) hit the road to find the next head coach. Of course, we know in short order that Matt Nagy became the next man. Before Nagy’s hiring, fans speculated on what would be the ideal dream scenario for the Bears, in particular hiring an offensive-minded head coach.
Reasoning for that thinking centered not only around the need to focus on the development of young franchise quarterback Mitch Trubisky, but also because having an offensive man at the helm helps eliminate the worry of a talented offensive coordinator leaving for a head job somewhere else. The scenario of a talented OC leaving for a head job is all too familiar and has happened enough to the Bears that its hard to imagine that the Bears would be able to keep a consistent system for Mitch Trubisky. Therefore, if the new head coach was an offensive coach then the next best thing would be to retain Vic Fangio to be his counterpart for the defense.
Among the best defensive coordinators in the game, Fangio may have done his most impressive job this year with a young and thoroughly injured Bears defense. Chicago lost six starters to IR this year but finished seventh against the pass, ninth in points allowed, 10th in total defense and 11th against the run. We still don’t know if the Bears have a consistent play-maker on defense other than maybe Akiem Hicks, but still Fangio has somehow made a consistent defensive unit.
This dream scenario of Fangio returning to the Bears seemed like a long-shot, many jobs were available amidst the coaching turnovers at the end of the regular season, but those jobs started to get filled. With the news of DC’s being hired in places like Green Bay and coaches hired elsewhere it became official Friday that Fangio would be returning. Somehow the Bears did it, they were able to execute the dream foundation for their coaching staff and things continue to look up when you look at the other hires rounding out Nagy’s new crew.
None of the Bears’s moves guarantee anything but it feels that the Bears deserve a lot of credit for what they have done in this coaching search. Ryan Pace is decisive and likes guys that wow him and so far it is easy to see why Matt Nagy wowed Pace.
Nagy was considered by many to be a top coaching candidate based on who was available. Nagy’s press conference was refreshing to hear as a Bears fan. Nagy is honest and unafraid to answer a question. Nagy did not rely on silly cliches or coach speak about anything. In Nagy’s head coaching interview, one of the most important questions was what his staff would look like. And if any Bears fan wasn’t sold on Nagy at his press conference then they maybe they should be now because he has a really good staff around him.
A head coach is nothing without a good staff around him. Nagy spoke how Andy Reid checked ego at the door when working with his assistants and allowed any assistant to voice an opinion or idea on plays or anything within the offense. It seems safe to assume Matt Nagy would be this kind of head coach.
When Nagy was asked questions about the staff he wants to build, Matt said that he will be the play caller/QB whisperer on offense and planned on allowing the DC to be the “head coach” of the defense with Nagy overseeing the operation. Therefore the top coaching vacancies for the Bears was offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, offensive line, defensive line and special teams coordinator in no particular order. Then Nagy went out and built a terrific staff, starting with Harry Hiestand, a top O-line coach who was with the Bears under Lovie Smith. Go ask Olin Kreutz about Hiestand and you’d hear raves, and Heistand was at Notre Dame with Brian Kelly where he developed multiple top linemen for the NFL like Zack Martin and Ronnie Stanley — great hire.
Staying with the offense, one of the early moves was filling out the OC, a job to which Mark Helfrich was tasked. The OC for the Bears will be a sounding board for innovative ideas for the offense, as far as offenses go on any level of football they don’t get much more innovative than Oregon, which Helfrich is most associated with. Also, Nagy uses a lot of college concepts in his offense. Though he is west coast technically, Nagy leans more toward RPO and spread so adding Helfrich should help develop the offense in all those areas. Helfrich also has experience as a play caller and QB developer, which should help Matt Nagy a lot. The Bears’ flurry of hires also brought Kevin Gilbride in as tight ends coach and Mike Furry as wide receivers coach along with Charles London being in charge of the running backs.
Nagy was able to fill the special teams coordinator job quickly as he tabbed Chris Tabor for the position. Tabor worked under Dave Toub in Kansas City from 2008 to 2010 before going the Browns, doing so good at his job that he lasted through two owners, five general managers and four head coaches in the clown show along Lake Erie. The Browns have had only one constant in the past decade and that has been Tabor and his special teams. As mentioned before, Fangio was hired as DC and will likely retain many of his staff, which provides needed stability and trust for this latest transition given how good the Bears defensive coaches were last season.
Looking at those incumbents it would seem that Jay Rodgers will be back as defensive line coach and Ed Donatell as defensive backs coach. All the top positions could be handled within a week plus if Rodgers is retained and that’s a very good sign for a young head coach in need of a good staff around him.
With the staff pretty much filled the Bears can start to plan the off-season program, including an extra week of practice, an extra mini camp and OTA because of the new head coach, per NFL rules.
The staff will have to figure out the injury problems that continue to still plague the team and could persist from the John Fox era if they’re not careful. Coach Nagy has said how much he values a physical and aggressive team and he plans to practice very hard. The Bears also have plenty of roster question marks and need to make smart free agent signings and savvy draft picks in some key postions.
Even with a great new coaching staff nothing is guaranteed for this franchise but the Bears deserve an A+ for the plan they had in place and the way they were able to execute it thus far.
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