Football

By now you probably know the Chicago Bears hired veteran NFL coach Bill Lazor as Offensive Coordinator. Wooohooo.

We knew this hire wasn’t going to be real interesting, at least not in a style/scheme sense, when Head Coach Matt Nagy announced he would not be giving up play calling duties in 2020. This job also doesn’t scream “stability”. 2020 poses a make or break year for every relevant figurehead in the organization, meaning if things don’t at least culminate in a playoff berth and probably a solid effort once there, that many more positions will be open at Halas Hall.

There’s still a trail of bread crumbs we can follow leading back from Lazor, though, that could give some insight to what the Bears plan to do at QB this offseason and how they might work with Mitchell Trubisky to help him to suck less. I mean, you’re not here to read a summary of Bill Lazor’s Wiki page, so let’s get goofy. Fuck it.

Come along on a journey with me, dear reader, as we connect some dots. TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP!

Lazor comes in to replace Mark Helfrich, and while both are supposed to be QB whisperers that’s where the similarities end. Helfrich was a first time NFL hire, coming from the college ranks with a specific job to manage the run game. Seen as how that went the last few seasons, along with non-development of the QB position, Helfrich is out and Lazor is in. It’s not yet known if Lazor will assume the Run Game Czar title, or even if he’ll do much in the QB room since Dave Ragone managed to dodge the ax himself, yet again. No, Lazor seems to be here to help Nagy clean up the mess that is the RPO offense under Nagy…and maybe because of his connections to a few potential QB options for Chicago.

Lazor brings an NFL pedigree, holding jobs in the League for the better part of the last 16 years. His most recent stop was as OC to Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, where he brought in the run-pass option to help out a struggling offensive line/rushing attack and helped the Bengals make one more flailing effort to the playoffs before Lewis was finally put to pasture. So this makes him both highly qualified for 2020 Bears OC AND an ominous omen as the Angel of Death for Nagy and Ryan Pace, which is fun! Whatever he did was beneficial to QB Andy Dalton, who threw 64 TDs against 31 INTs from 2016-18. A.J. McCarron was also in Cincy during his tenure. More on that in a minute.

Lazor also found himself as OC in Miami in 2014…a year in which a young Ryan Tannehill threw for 27 TDs/2 INTs/4,095 yards and another 311 yards on 56 carries, arguably his best season (albeit on a pretty rough 5-11 Dolphins team) before his current run toward the AFC title this season. Lazor was hired in Miami because of his time in Philadelphia, where he had a hand (as QB Coach) in Nick Foles stand-in monster season.

A pattern is forming here, and it lines up in a few ways:

-While not always ending in overall success, Lazor tends to be around for strong years from his QBs

-Lazor isn’t going to revamp the run game, but a lot of those prior successes with QBs comes in spite of run game, not because of it

-Lazor has links to a number of QBs that should be readily available this offseason (to varying degrees)

So maybe this “underwhelming” hire has some meat to it. Maybe there’s more here than finding a competent NFL coach that’ll stay out of Nagy’s way. I’ll admit that Lazor’s resume of QBs doesn’t really elicit much excitement, but the team could do a lot worse than sending a conditional late round pick for the safety net and recent continuity of Dalton or even a cheap, one year deal for McCarron. Foles and Tannehill are much less likely based on circumstances, but in the event that Pace has some batshit plan in place, they have some familiarity of past successes with Lazor. The fact he’s worked most recently to coax the most out of struggling offensive lines and using RPO schemes to do so helps make even more sense of why he’s here.

Ultimately, it didn’t lead to sustained success in Cincinnati. Pace and Nagy and wagering their futures on things turning out different in his second shot at the same problem.

Football

Do you hear anything? No? Me either. No noise. No torches and pitchforks. No jobs on the line (yet). It’s pretty boring around here.

Usually in late July we’re all too eager here in Chicago to begin HOT TAKE SZN surrounding the Bears and the NFL. This July, though, feels different. Is everyone just happy to banter about the Cubs division chase and Sox future potential? No, we’ve been doing that every July since 2015. The NBA had a pretty big summer, but the Bulls largely sat that out and everyone is just content they MIGHT make a surprise run at the 8-seed in the East. Hawks prospect camp and convention?? OK, I’m done.

So with nothing new or exciting going on in major sports around the city, why is this late July so different? The Bears, coming off their first playoff appearance since 2010 and second in the last 13 years, have had the quietest offseason in about as long. No new head coach/GM/Front Office personnel. No major signings/high draft picks. Hardly any turnover on the roster/staff, and no real starting positions up for the taking. GM Ryan Pace didn’t even get to make a draft pick until the third day, and there’s been little discussion about the his team or the impending camp since.

The biggest offseason story? Kickers. Cody Parkey long fired into the sun, the talk of both mini-camp and now training camp is the kicking sideshow. Each day’s camp breakdown thus far has started with the accuracy for that day’s kicker; Elliot Fry is 17 of 20 so far! He’s hit from 60 and banged in from 48 and 51 in the driving rain! Eddie Pineiro hit from 63 after doing his best 80s macho movie hunk routine – after his coaches asked him to try from 60 he replied “nah, how ’bout 63”! Suh gnarly, broseph.

The crowds are another HOT story coming out of Bourbonnais. Attendance day one? OVER 8,000!!! Videos tweeted of fans LIGHTLY JOGGING to get front row standing room to see the Midway Monsters strap on the pads and paw at each other! Whoa, did you see that 50-yard bomb from Mitch to Gabriel?? Kahlil Mack and Eddie Jackson are sooooo goood OMFG!!!! I mean, it’s great to see the guys you want to excel succeed in practice, but that’s the bar here, no? To be as good as advertised?

This shit is BORING. But boring doesn’t really mean bad. Consider:

-There was one major coaching change in the offseason, but not the normal refrain of a deficiency in some area. Vic Fangio left to go be the head coach in Denver because his defense was so amazing (while the rest of the team was total ass for most of his tenure). The ensuing hire? Chuck Pagano, a highly regarded defensive mind in his own right that mostly just needs to keep the ship on course. There also are no ‘hot’ seats to speak of at the moment. Weird.

-The players lost to free agency were seen as priced out of their worth at Halas Hall and nary a tear was shed for Adrian Amos or Bryce Callahan. The replacements and other new signings were mostly budget buys met with a collective “meh”.  HaHa Clinton-Dix and Buster Skine swap in for Amos and Callahan. Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson are here to do something in the backfield. Great, fine. I bet you didn’t even know they signed Ted Larson, again, for O-Line depth or Marvin Hall and Peter Williams. Only one of those guys is made up, but I’m guessing you have to look it up to tell me which one.

-The draft was pretty uneventful as well, unless you count trading up 14 or so spots in the 3rd round “eventful”. Sure, they got their GUY at running back in David Montgomery, or so they’ll tell anything with ears. Even he hasn’t generated much buzz since the draft, a soft spoken type that just does his work and stays quiet off the field. Booooooring. The rest of the draft was all lottery tickets and undrafted free agents because Pace only had five picks to work with. They got a Ridley? No, not the one from Alabama.

-There aren’t any big injuries to get all worked up about, either. Adam Shaheen hasn’t practiced in two days, but that’s basically his whole bag of tricks since being wildly overdrafted three years ago. Someone named Emmanuel Hall is recovering from groin surgery. HaHa is on the PUP list, rehabbing a lower body injury but expected back before too long. Whatever.

So this late July, the start to camp is boring. Embrace the boring, it means that most of us are looking forward to September and could give a shit about what happens between now and then. We don’t even get another open practice for a few days; the team has a shorter, closed practice today and is off Wednesday. There’s a preseason game a week after that, so maybe by the weekend we’ll start to get some real battles for the edge of the roster. Those are the positions that help to define serious championship contending NFL teams from the dregs they beat up.

Boring kinda sucks, but we’ll take it after the last decade worth of summers overstuffed with tough questions. Wait and see how these jokers fighting for their NFL lives fair in game reps in a week or so. If you need your fix the rest of this first week, keep refreshing that twitter account of your favorite beat writer to see where Steady Eddie P tells coach he’s spotting his next kick. HOOOOO BABYYYYY!

@WFrenchman on Twitter