So a bear, ram and eagle walk into a bar … honestly, I don’t even know how the rest of that joke goes, but hey – It’s fitting.
But in all seriousness: are the Bears shaping up like the Rams or Eagles?
It’s hard to say without seeing results on the field, but I say yes because they’re actually looking like they took the best strategies from both teams.
Let me explain.
When the Rams hired Sean McVay, they utilized McVay’s young, innovative offensive mind to develop Jared Goff in his second year as a starting quarterback. He didn’t develop an all-star staff like Doug Pederson, but he did bring in Wade Phillips to orchestrate a strong defense to help the young quarterback.
In the NFL, your quarterback’s success is your success. If he struggles, your team struggles and heads start to roll precipitously down Mt. Offseason. Los Angeles took the shotgun approach to the free agency, making trades and utilizing the draft and went to reload multiple positions around Goff.
The Rams ultimately went to the playoffs where they were eliminated in the first round. Keep in mind, McVay lost in the wildcard game as offensive coordinator of the Redskins and didn’t go to the playoffs the year after that and got this head coaching job, similar to Matt Nagy.
Contrarily, the Eagles hired a coach from the Andy Reid tree named Pederson, and with a little help from Reid who is known for seeing his protégés all the way through their first year, he built a phenomenal staff.
Both coordinators and the quarterbacks coach were considered candidates for head coaching jobs this year. With the staff in place and hitting on all cylinders, the Eagles took flight after Carson Wentz’s first season.
From decent starter as a rookie, to MVP candidate in his second season, Wentz single-handedly made the Browns look like fools after they inadvertently said, “there are no quarterbacks in this class that we want, so you can have our pick for a low low price of … a King’s ransom” in the 2016 NFL draft.
The Eagles took the risk, paid up and instead, the reward was the King himself. “Dilly, Dilly!” In year two, they too overhauled the offense bringing in multiple receivers, running backs and got some offensive line help. Having a great defense helps the quarterback a lot too, and the Eagles had a top-five unit.
That brings me to my Chicago Bears.
The Bears mimicked the Eagles in the way that Nagy (at the time of writing) is currently putting together not a good staff but a great one. Offensive Line coach Harry Hiestand is one of the best in football at any level. He’s easily top-three. Home-run hire.
Nagy then hires special teams coordinator Chris Tabor and running backs coach Charles London. Then hits another home-run hire by locking in Vic Fangio. While neither Tabor or London are household names, they both have connections to the Bears, and Tabor is interesting as he’s the only coach to survive all of the Cleveland Browns turnover. I’d call these “base hits.”
Nagy follows that up with a bold and innovative approach … and boy is it another homer.
He hires Mark Helfrich as his offensive coordinator. For those of you unaware of who he is, Helfrich is the mastermind that developed Marcus Mariota at Oregon as the head coach.
Helfrich ran a fast spread offense, and while this is Nagy’s offense and he’ll be calling plays, I imagine they sit down and craft new parts of the playbook together. Reid blended spread concepts with the West Coast offense. Expect Nagy to do the same, especially with a dual-threat quarterback in Mitch Trubisky. Imagine what creative, offensive, anti-Dowell Loggains combinations we can have now.
The Bears are like the Rams in that they took the young, not-super-hot coaching candidate that was effective and paired him with the second-year quarterback. They have a stud running back in place like Jordan Howard and need help at receiver. How many the Bears draft, trade for or sign in free agency is still an unknown, but everybody knows help is on the way.
Chicago locked in a successful defensive coordinator who could have autonomy on that side of the ball and his position coaches are reputable. In Fangio, Nagy also got the “old guy” who is established, respected and really good at his job.
Let me pause here and say Nagy is winning the locker room with hires like this. Not having to “coordinate” with the defensive coordinator does more for a young coach than you know. This is especially true when he’s an elite one like Fangio, Phillips or Jim Schwartz. There’s no pressure for their performance. There’s no wondering if they’re going to give up an 80-yard touchdown because they called a Cover 0 Blitz against a five-receiver set in the gun, at the opponents’ 20.
This allows Nagy to solely focus on scoring points.
If I broke down every detail for you, this article would be an essay. For those fans that are trying to find reasons to be optimistic, you now have plenty of them. Nagy is doing a great job so far and if this is any indication of how the season will go, expect big things from the Bears in 2018.
We don’t know how the draft will unfold, or who the Bears will lock in during free agency. But we know some parts of it will work.
By now, the bear, ram and eagle have finished a couple of pints. The latter two have babbled about the inner-workings that’s led to their recent success. The Bear? He’s sitting back and taking mental notes, recording the best bits from both.
Freshly out of hibernation, the bear is currently famished. But if he listens closely, and crafts the perfect winning-recipe, soon he’ll too be able to feast and reclaim his spot on top of the food chain.