Sunday’s road trip to Miami will feature a familiar face on the opposing sidelines. Though he only coached in Chicago for one season, Adam Gase left a lasting impression on Bears fans.
A 2015 season that was supposed to feature the ugliest part of a full-scale rebuild wound up featuring a promising offense that featured a revitalized Jay Cutler.
The offensive turnaround took Gase from a coordinator to one of the hottest head coaching prospects in the league. With the prospect of watching Chicago’s key to offensive success exit stage right, a number of fans in the Windy City wanted the Bears to promote Gase in order keep the offensive guru in town.
Of course, the Bears would likely have never paid both Marc Trestman and John Fox to be unemployed at the same time, but it’s still an interesting thought experiment to tackle.
What if the Bears promoted Adam Gase to head coach of the Chicago Bears?
The Bears were a surprising 5-6 team in 2015 following an upset victory in Green Bay. However, deficiencies in roster proved too much to overcome s the Bears dropped winnable games against the 49ers, Redskins, and Lions. The Bears were realistically only a few plays away from being a 9-7 football team that season, but ended 6-10.
However, it’s the inability to win close games that got John Fox fired in favor of Adam Gase in the first place in this week’s scenario.
Now that Jay Cutler was operating under Gase for the second year in a row, the team could make some strides with building the rest of the roster.
Keep in mind that the Bears added the likes of Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman, and Akiem Hicks via free agency while bringing in Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard in the draft. This team was truly ready to build on a relatively solid 2015 campaign considering the circumstances.
Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no statistical evidence to suggest that Cutler would have performed better under year two with Gase.
Cutler played 57 games over four seasons in which he was in Year 2 or 3 with an offensive coordinator. In those 57 games, Cutler threw for 14,154 yards, 86 touchdowns, and 57 interceptions. Throughout the other 96 games of Cutler’s career, he threw for 20,979 yards, 141 touchdowns, and 103 interceptions.
To break that down into averages, Cutler averaged 248 yards per game, 1.51 touchdowns per game, and exactly one interception per game under his second and third years with an offensive coordinator while averaging 218 yards a game, 1.47 touchdowns per game, and 1.07 interceptions per game in the rest of his career.
Despite multiple years in the same system, Cutler only managed 30 more yards a game, and approximately one less interception per season.
Even with the stats being against Adam Gase and Cutler, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and award them half of the games they lost by a single possession. This would have brought their 2016 record up to 6-10, exactly the same as 2015. That would have been a massive problem considering Gase was hired due to everyone believing the offense and team was just short of breaking out.
This slightly improved record makes the 2017 draft one of extreme interest for Chicago. If Gase was brought in with the belief he could win with Cutler, then he certainly wouldn’t have been afforded the opportunity to draft and develop another quarterback. With Gase and now Ryan Pace in desperate need of the offense and Jay Cutler to succeed on offense, the Bears go for broke on offensive talent in the draft.
The Bears take tight end OJ Howard at 10th overall (likely where they would have picked at 6-10) to provide Cutler a reliable, young, and healthy security blanket. In the second round, the Bears would take a dynamic receiver out of USC, JuJu Smith-Shuster.
With a now restored third-round pick without the Trubisky trade, the Bears now choose to bolster their defensive line Dawuane Smoot out of Illinois. With hindsight, there’s no way I would change any of the back half of draft with Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen joining the fold.
These additions along with re-signing Cutler to a one year deal (in favor of Mike Glennon), and bringing in Prince Amukamara would have at least created a competitive Bears roster for the 2017 season.
With a significantly better roster, let’s say the Bears win four of the six of the games they lost by one possession in 2017. This would have brought Chicago’s record to 9-7 which wouldn’t have done much for the playoffs considering both Detroit and Dallas missed the playoffs with equivalent records the same year.
Now the Bears have an unsigned 35-year-old Cutler with a draft spot in the mid to late teens. Even with a beefed-up roster and multiple years under Adam Gase, the Bears would have likely seen their peak in 2017.
Perhaps the Bears could have still pursued a Kirk Cousins during the 2018 offseason, but that goes back to Gase not coming through as the offensive genius he was supposed to be at the time of his promotion.
Ultimately, watching Gase walk after one year of promising offensive production was painful.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to claim that the Bears were a better football team with him on the sidelines. However, hopping ship from the rebuilding plan just to retain an offensive mind wouldn’t have just been damaging for the Bears, but any team going through a rebuilding phase.
If Bears fans want a real-life example of a team firing a head coach to retain a hot-shot offensive mind, they would only need to look back at Chicago’s last game.
While it seems like eons ago, Tampa Bay fired Lovie Smith in order to promote Dirk Koetter. The move was made due to the organization’s belief in Koetter’s ability to make Jameis Winston the team’s franchise quarterback.
That sure worked out. ?
While it was difficult to say goodbye to Gase following the 2015 season, Ryan Pace unquestionably made the right decision in keeping Fox. He understood that while the short-term results would be more painful, the long-term plan was well worth it.