Saturday, May 28, 2022

The Chicago Bears Need To Hire An Experienced Play-Caller To Develop Justin Fields


The Chicago Bears‘ search for a new general manager and a head coach will likely continue into a third week as the team has yet to fill both vacancies. There appears to be no preference for a head coach with either an offensive or defensive background, but more so to hire the best candidate possible. Whether the Bears hire a head coach with an offensive background or have a defensive-minded head coach hire an offensive coordinator to oversee Chicago’s offense, the franchise needs to hire a play-caller with experience who can properly develop quarterback Justin Fields.

Bears Have Poor Experience Entrusting First-time Play-Callers

The 2021 search will be the third time since 2004 that Chicago will be looking to hire a new head coach with a second-year first-round quarterback. In 2004, the Bears hired Lovie Smith as head coach, who hired Kansas City Chiefs quarterbacks’ coach Terry Shea as Chicago’s new offensive coordinator. Shea was hired to develop second-year quarterback Rex Grossman and create and deploy an offensive scheme similar to the successful Chiefs’ offense.

The 2004 Bears’ offense is viewed as one of the worst offenses in franchise history as the team would finish last in several major offensive categories. Grossman suffered a torn ACL in week 3 and was lost for the season as Chicago would suffer significantly at the quarterback position. Three quarterbacks would start for the Bears after week 3, including Jonathan Quinn, Craig Krenzel, and Chad Hutchinson. The three quarterbacks under Shea would combine for only seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 13 games. Chicago would fire Shea at the end of the season and rehire former offensive coordinator Ron Turner.

Although Shea had served as an offensive coordinator for various college football teams from 1984 to 1994, he had never been a play-caller at the NFL level. He had only been the quarterbacks’ coach for the Chiefs for three seasons before being hired by the Bears in 2004. Even worse, The Bears signed Quinn as their backup quarterback due to his familiarity with Shea during their time in Kansas City, but he would be the worst of the four quarterbacks that started for the Bears in 2004.

In January 2018, the Bears would hire Matt Nagy as their head coach, who had previously served as the Chiefs offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Nagy was the Chiefs’ play-caller for the final five weeks of the 2017 season and was the team’s quarterbacks coach since 2013. He was specifically hired as head coach due to his success with developing quarterbacks, with his main priority being the development of second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Although Nagy had been successful as a quarterbacks coach, he had spent his entire coaching career with the Chiefs.

Despite having offensive success in 2018, which included Trubisky making it to the Pro Bowl, Nagy’s offensive grew steadily worse during his coaching tenure. The Bears’ offense consistently ranked near the bottom of most passing categories from 2019 through 2021. In back-to-back seasons, Nagy either handed over or was stripped of play-calling duties due to poor offensive production. In both instances, play-calling duties were handed over to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. It was evident that Nagy lacked the capability of adapting his offense to match what opposing defenses deployed to stop Chicago on offense.

An Experienced Play-Caller Can Make A Massive Difference For Justin Fields

With the current head coaching search for the Bears, one of the most significant aspects for a coaching hire will be to develop Fields at the quarterback position. Whether it’s a head coach with an offensive background or an offensive coordinator hired by a defensive head coach, either will need to have prior play-calling experience to avoid the mistakes made by the last Bears’ coaches. Chicago’s main goal should be to avoid having their first-round quarterback play back-to-back seasons under poor offensive play-callers.

Having a proven offensive coach to help develop Fields could enable the second-year quarterback to perform better in 2022. The 2015 Bears’ season is an example of a quarterback performing better when playing under a proven play-caller as Jay Cutler had his best season during his eight-year career with Chicago. Adam Gase served as Cutler’s offensive coordinator that season and had been the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator for the previous two seasons.

The Bears have several quality players that have proven to be productive in their brief time with the franchise. Chicago has a dual-threat running back in David Montgomery and a 1,000-yard receiver in Darnell Mooney. The Bears’ offense will also feature tight end Cole Kmet, who recorded over 612 receiving yards in 2021. The biggest key is that these players will have another year with Fields to develop additional continuity but need a quality play-caller to put them in the best position to succeed.

The Bears need to make the correct head coaching hire but also need to hire the correct offensive play-caller. Justin Fields is the most vital player for Chicago, and his development will determine whether or not the team can be a playoff contender for years to come. In prior instances, the Bears have failed to develop their young quarterbacks by hiring inexperienced offensive coaches, who were unable to design effective offensive schemes, something the francise can’t afford to do again.


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