Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy overhauled his entire offensive coaching staff after a disastrous 2019 season that saw his offense among the worst in the league all year long. There’s no need to rehash all that went wrong last season, but dumping a bunch of offensive players was never a viable fix, and there was no chance Nagy would cede play-calling responsibility, so sweeping moves to the assistants was bound to happen.
Every new assistant Nagy brought in has some background in the same West Coast Offense he learned under Andy Reid. While they all didn’t work with Nagy’s mentor, all have worked closely with Reid’s disciples.
New offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has extensive experience coaching up quarterbacks and coordinating NFL offenses, but one of his tasks will be to help get the running game on track with new offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
John DeFilippo takes over as quarterback coach from Dave Ragone, but Ragone was promoted to passing game coordinator. And finally, new tight ends coach Clancy Barone has helped get a tight end into the Pro Bowl on his previous 4 stops.
We asked our staff... Which new offensive coaching move will pay the biggest dividends, Bill Lazor (O.C.), Clancy Barone (TE), John DeFilippo (QB), Juan Castillo (OL), or Dave Ragone (Passing game coordinator)?
Most of us went with Castillo...
Aaron Leming: The offensive line has been an issue for this team over the last two seasons. 2019 was highlighted much more due to the struggles of almost every player on that unit, but their run game and overall consistency hasn’t been what it was expected to be since Matt Nagy came to town. I think that in large part this can be attributed to a scheme conflict. While I still believe Harry Hiestand is a darn-good offensive line coach, I don’t think he truly worked well with what Nagy was wanting to do offensively. Same could be said with former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, who just seemed happy to be there more than anything else.
It’s been said that both of them shared responsibility for the run scheme and as we saw with two different running backs, it failed miserably. An argument could be made for Bill Lazor but I think Castillo’s experience in this offense and his ability to max out talent is going to be the biggest key for an offensive turnaround in 2020, outside of the quarterback position.
Ken Mitchell: It’s all about the offensive line, we need to see HUGE return-to-form type improvements from guys we already know can play, plus we need to see Ifedi not commit penalties on every play and development with our depth.
Jack Salo: Most other hires seem geared towards improving the passing game, which to put it plainly, just needs better production from the players. The offensive line issues felt more like coaching (Leno holding calls, Whitehair/Daniel’s position changes) rather than player production.
Jacob Infante: I’m excited to see how the hire of Juan Castillo plays out. While Harry Hiestand is one of the most respected offensive line minds in the nation, his power-heavy philosophy clashed with Matt Nagy’s emphasis on a zone scheme. Castillo should be a much better scheme fit for the Bears, and that could potentially make for an easier and more efficient system for the hog mollies up front.
Robert Schmitz: It’s gotta be Juan Castillo, right? I know us Bears fans love to talk about the OL coach as if he’s the defining factor when it comes to OL play, but the Bears’ offensive line has ranked 29th when run blocking (per Football outsiders) in each of it’s last 2 seasons whereas Castillo specializes in getting the most out of his running games. Considering both the performance of Castillo’s recent units as well as his experience with Andy Reid, I have to think he’ll bring the edge on the ground that Matt Nagy desperately needs.
Patti Curl: We’re in trouble if it’s not Juan Castillo. I’m optimistic he will be a better fit for this offense than Heistand, and we can see this O line improve despite minimal personnel investment. And I mean minimal pretty much literally, with a minimum-contract addition in Germain Ifedi and two 7th round draft picks. Both Ifedi and the rookies (Arlington Hambright and Lachavious “Pig” Simmons) have the talent to outperform their investments and I’m desperately begging Castillo to coach that out of them.
Lester A. Wiltfong Jr.: I’m going with Castillo too, and it’s all about marrying the running game to Matt Nagy’s vision for his offense. Castillo’s sole responsibility isn’t coordinating the run game — Lazor has a hand in that too — but it’ll be Castillo’s blocking schemes that will ultimately determine if the Bears can move the ball on the ground.
But we also had a DeFilippo mention...
Robert Zeglinski: You have to appreciate John DeFilippo’s history as a quarterback coach. First there was reinvigorating the career of Carson Palmer in Oakland in 2012. Then there was jump-starting the development of a young Derek Carr in 2014. When he moved to Philadelphia, he was one of the main architects in turning Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate pre-knee injury, and helped catalyze Foles’ 2018 playoff run. If there’s a person that can hide Foles’ flaws and maximize whatever’s left in his inconsistent arm, I’d trust DeFillippo.
And one of us went with Lazor...
Sam Householder: I think it has to be Bill Lazor. Hopefully he can help Nagy scheme a more balanced offense and keep Nagy from falling into his own worst traits, which I think happened last year far too often.
While another had Barone...
Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter: This is a tough one. Every hire made This offseason is going to alter some philosophies, and it’s likely Matt Nagy is returning to what he knows instead of experimenting between collegiate and pro concepts. Things are going to be majorly different between 2019 and 2020 from a coaching standpoint.
With that said, I’m going with Clancy Barone. Considering all the memes and jokes about the Bears collecting “all dah tight ends,” people coincidentally forgot who was hired to coach these players. Barone is one of the NFL’s most successful position coaches.
Don’t believe me? Barone’s work has yielded credible results in each of his stops with the Falcons, Chargers, Broncos, and Vikings. Alge Crumpler, Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, and Kyle Rudolph all saw some of their best seasons while being coached by Clancy Barone.
I’m not expecting him to turn the clock back on Jimmy Graham as much as I believe he’ll turn Cole Kmet into a fine player. I do expect significant improvement at tight end under Clancy Barone, though. And that’s what this offense needs along with clarity at quarterback.
Now it’s your turn.