Emma: Change For Bears' Offense Starts With Nagy

In Bill Lazor, the Bears hired an offensive coordinator similar to Matt Nagy.

Chris Emma
January 14, 2020 - 11:26 am
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(670 The Score) When newly hired Bears coach Matt Nagy brought in Mark Helfrich as offensive coordinator two years ago, it was an intriguing choice.

Nagy had never worked with Helfrich, and their lone connection was their shared agent, Trace Armstrong. But Nagy believed the former Oregon coach Helfrich could help add another layer of innovation to his offense.

"What you don't want is a staff full of the same people," Nagy said of building his first coaching staff in Chicago.

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Two days after the Bears ended a disappointing 8-8 season in 2019 with their offense ranking among the NFL's worst, Nagy dismissed Helfrich and three other assistants on Dec. 31. Given the struggles of Nagy's system and his play-calling, the fired coaches appeared to be scapegoats for Nagy's failures.

The Bears averaged 4.7 yards per play (31st in the NFL), averaged 3.7 yards per rush (30th) and saw quarterback Mitchell Trubisky take a major step back in his third season. While Nagy oversees each element of the Bears' offense, the team had no interest in firing its head coach, so Helfrich took the fall.

The Bears then tabbed former Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor to be that same position Monday, a source confirmed after NFL Media first reported the news. The team hasn't yet made Lazor's hiring official.

Lazor, 47, has coached in the NFL since 2003, working for six teams as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. He brings an experienced coaching complement to Nagy but also has a background similar to Nagy's. He will serve as a mentor for Trubisky and likely will have influence in preparing the game plan.

And what will Lazor bring to the Bears that's different from Nagy? That remains unclear.

Nagy hasn't made any public comment on the Bears' offensive coordinator position since firing Helfrich an hour after the team's season-ending press conference. What he covets in that position is unclear, though one could presume he sought help establishing a running game that never got moving in 2019.

The Bears pursued former Giants coach Pat Shurmur as their offensive coordinator, a source said. Shurmur could've brought the Bears an experienced coach with proven track record of establishing a rushing attack, but the interest wasn't mutual. Shurmur preferred to be the leader of an offense, not a liaison.

Shurmur landed in Denver with former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who's now the Broncos' second-year coach. There, Shurmur will be in complete charge of the Broncos offense and the growth of budding quarterback Drew Lock. The Broncos' offensive coordinator job proved to be more attractive than the Bears' position.

Nagy never relinquished play-calling duties to Helfrich, and it seems unlikely he will for Lazor. Chicago hired veteran assistant Juan Castillo as its offensive line coach, but the franchise didn't give him the title of run game coordinator as he was in Buffalo and prior stops.

The Bears have filled their coaching staff on offense with different names but similar resumes. After previously referencing the benefits of looking for something new, Nagy has instead brought in more of the same.

For the Bears to bring change on offense, it still starts with Nagy.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.