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

Welcome back to THE VAULT, my weekly sacrifice to the Dark Lord of Bears fandom. Through a combination of a shrine to Josh Bellamy and a woven idol made entirely of Bobby Engram’s discarded trash, I hope to write 750 words and pay tribute to the fans before me so that one day during my darkest hour the spirits of men in mustaches and sweater vests whisk me to safety. Also if this blog blows up and I make this my full time job, I hope to one day be in the position to insult Jay Mariotti to his stupid face.

Speaking of Jay’s that I’ll never be cool enough to even insult, Jay Cutler’s 2015 Bears were a John Fox led 6-10 dumpster fire that shares an uncomfortable level of talent with Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy’s 2019 eventual 7-9 shitshow. Let it be noted once again, if prime Jay Cutler was under center for this team, they’d be playing a lot better until he inevitably got hurt and the Bears had to turn to one of their menagerie of garbage backups (the 2015 season being highlighted by Jimmy Clausen’s outstanding performance against Seattle- a game that might not look out of place this year).

The Bears were 3-5 going up against the then 4-4 St. Louis Rams, in a game won handily by the good guys, 37-13. Not only did Jeremy Langford out perform Todd Gurley in every statistical category, Ka’Deem Carey also gained more yards on the ground than Gurley. Langford caught a screen pass and took it EIGHTY THREE (shouts out to Clark from Des Plaines) yards to paydirt. Hell, even Zach Miller scored from over eighty yards out, grabbing 5 balls for 107 and 2 touchdowns. Zach Miller was the last capable Bears tight end and that’s sad because he was literally a journeyman though he played way above his pay grade in his time in Chicago.

It’s always been a testament to the various Bears offensive lines that so many mid-round, ostensibly just average running backs have found success in the blue and orange. Jeremy Langford got 537 of his career 762 rushing yards his rookie year despite backing up Matt Forte for more than half the season, and was then replaced by Jordan Howard three games into the next year. Jordan Howard is a beast and should be on an NFL roster, but he is about a league average running back depending on his situation. The John Fox-led Bears was the perfect situation for a relatively slow, grinding running back that gets more effective as the game goes on.

Jeremy Langford, Alshon Jeffery, and Marty Bennett are the Bears players on the offensive side of the ball for this team that the Bears turned loose for one reason or another, and the only one I really think could’ve stayed and made a difference on the field was Marty. Notable castoffs on defense are Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan, and of course a now retired Willie Young. Goddamn I loved Willie Young.

You can see some of the building blocks of last year’s NFC Champion Rams on this 2015 trash heap football team, mainly Gurley and Aaron Donald. Sure, Jared Goff is just blonde Mitch, but he had a core intact that made Sean McVay look pretty damn smart for a year. Sounds familiar, somehow. Also, we have a Big Dick Nick sighting, as America’s favorite cocksman was the godawful Rams QB of the week!

Also, James Laurinaitis was on this team! The son of BIG JOHNNY himself! This game took place years after the John Laurinaitis/CM Punk feud, but I’d still like to think the Bears won this one for Phil Brooks as well as themselves. Even though CM Punk ignored me when I yelled “HEY YOU’RE CM PUNK” while reeking of weed walking down North Avenue last spring, I still believe in CM Punk, and I think Zach Miller knew in his heart that breaking two tackles and racing down the field to score was basically hitting a Go To Sleep in the heart of one disappointed father.

It’s narratives like that, ones that I’ve just totally made up, that provide the much needed subtext to make this game between two shitty teams mean something to you in 2019. Zach Miller, CM Punk, John Fox, what does it mean? Well, for one, it means the Bears aren’t winning jack shit anytime soon.

We’ve already seen Todd Gurley break down, and the 2018 Rams lost all their momentum near the end of the regular season. The then red-hot Bears exposed the weaknesses Goff and friends had on primetime, and Sean McVay no longer looks like the greatest coach in the history of coaching. It’s entirely fatalistic and somewhat reasonable to suggest that Matt and Mitch are already at 2019 levels of McVay/Goff regression, with less to put on their resumes. It’s eerie to look at these two teams in 2015 and see foreshadowing somehow, but it’s there and it’s hideous.