Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase has a very tough job. He has to find the right balance in his offensive system that will work with the pieces he has in place in Chicago.
After being one of the hottest head coaching candidates in the NFL, Adam Gase finds himself working for a franchise that hasn't had an assistant make the jump to head coach since Buddy Ryan went from defensive coordinator of the Bears in 1985 to head coach in Philadelphia the following season.
If Gase can buck the trend and get the Bears -- and quarterback Jay Cutler -- back on track, his stay in Chicago could be a short one.
Gase has a long list of schemes he's familiar with after having coached for 15 years. He incorporated some of Peyton Manning's Erhardt-Perkins offense into his scheme while working as the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos from 2013-2014. He was Mike McCoy's quarterback coach in '11 and '12 while with the Broncos, and McCoy ran a variation of the west coast offense, but they switched to a read-option based offense when they inserted Tim Tebow at QB in 2011.
Josh McDaniels was the head coach/play caller for Denver in '09 and '10 so Gase got an up close look at his Erhardt-Perkins O while working as their wide receivers coach.
In 2008 Gase was an offensive assistant for the 49ers and offensive coordinator Mike Martz. He also worked with Martz as an offensive assistant in Detroit in 2006 and as his QB coach in 2007, so he's familiar with the Martz version of the Air Coryell system.
From 2003-2005 Gase was a scouting/offensive quality control assistant for Lions head coach Steve Mariucci, who is a long time west coast offense guy.
Before he began coaching in the NFL, he started as a graduate assistant at Michigan State under head coach Nick Saban. Then in 2000, when Saban went to LSU, he took Gase along for the ride and Gase served as a grad/recruiting assistant until 2003. While at LSU, Gase was around the offense of Jimbo Fisher, who is currently the head coach at Florida State, and is well known for his versatile offensive schemes.
Gase's years working in multiple offenses has shaped his mind into being very adaptable, which is something we talked about yesterday while discussing #4 on this Most Important Bears list. Last year while in Denver, Gase morphed his O into one that leaned on the run during the final six games of the season, dropping their pass attempts per game 40.7 to 31.7.
Chicago head coach John Fox has preached his vision of the 2015 Bears being more of a running team. If the Bears offense shows more of a willingness to stick with the run, then the play action pass should be more prevalent. The Bears will utilize a zone blocking scheme, so it's natural to assume we'll see some bootlegs incorporated into Adam Gase's O.
Gase understands the short passing game, he's comfortable stretching the filed both horizontally and vertically, and he's OK with changing things on the fly.
The New York Times had an interesting article about Gase last year that talked about his coaching background.
(Peyton) Manning has called Gase "the smartest guy I know." Denver Coach John Fox said Gase was "a master of innovation." The team's president, John Elway, went the furthest: He used the word genius.
"Adam is a lot like me in that he's always thinking of how we can do something better or different — or both," Manning said. "And he has an almost photographic memory. He can recall a defensive scheme we saw from eight games back and remember our exact formation and the play called."
Gase's former boss, Nick Saban, said he has a natural instinct for football.
"It was a conceptual thing with Adam, he just understood how things worked and he was willing to work and start from ground zero," Saban wrote in an email. "It wasn't like this was a star player who had played a lot of football. He wanted to be a coach and he was willing to invest as much time as it took."
It's worth noting that when Saban left Michigan State for LSU, the only assistant he took with him was Adam Gase.
CBS Chicago's Dan Durkin looked at Gase's offensive schemes and he came away impressed.
Given Peyton Manning's presence in Denver, questions exist about how much Gase impacted those team numbers, but such questions can never be quantified. The fact remains that Gase devised the game plans and called in the plays, and his exposure to Manning over the past three seasons is nothing but a benefit to his growth as a coordinator.
Looking through the Broncos' game tape over the last two seasons affords a prism into Gase's many influences. From West Coast spacing concepts (likely learned during his time with Steve Mariucci) to Air Coryell vertical concepts (likely learned during his time with Mike Martz) to the route combinations and principles that have defined Manning's career — mesh, levels, verticals - they're all in Gase's playbook.
We've yet to get any specifics on a prospective run/pass ratios or even Gase's offensive playbook, but Patrick Finley of the Sun Times has found a few nuggets.
Some Bears players have characterized their new offense as fast-paced. Gase, too, has vowed to give Jay Cutler some of the same line-of-scrimmage control as he did for the greatest audible-caller in the game's history, Peyton Manning, last year.
Quick and simple terminology will allow the Bears to play at a faster pace, and simple terminology is a staple of an Erhardt-Perkins philosophy. Another staple of the system is a balanced approach, which is something John Fox will want.
Gase himself even revealed that some of what he does will resemble some of Martz's offense.
"(Cutler's) worked with a couple different guys, the good thing is, he's heard a few things that I say," Gase said. "He'll look at me and kind of, 'That's a little Martzist,' right there."
I find the marriage between these two offenses interesting because Mike Martz didn't allow his quarterbacks to audible, whereas the Erhardt-Perkins O occasionally requires the QB to be a conductor at the line of scrimmage.
There's no denying that Martz ran some truly great offenses back in the day, but his stubbornness to alter his scheme to suit his personnel was a downfall. I don't think Gase shares the stubborn gene with his mentor, so I don't expect his QBs to be sacked 50 times.
Like we discussed yesterday, I would expect Cutler to be right around 30 passes per game, and it's up to Gase to put together the correct gameplans that will allow Matt Forte and the running game to thrive. But he also has to find ways for his talented group of pass catchers to make an impact.
The more I dig into Adam Gase's past, the more impressed I become. Here's a guy that had the San Francisco head coaching job all but locked up, but he didn't want to have Jim Tomsula forced on him as his defensive coordinator. He wants his first head coaching gig to be on his terms and he's willing to wait for the right opportunity to arise.
Gase definitely has a clear vision for his future in the NFL and hopefully he has a clear vision for the 2015 Chicago Bears.