LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- After a frustrating 2019 season, maintaining the status quo on offense wasn’t an option for Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy.
The Bears -- fresh off their first NFC North title in eight years -- "regressed" in several areas last season, according to general manager Ryan Pace. The struggles were most pronounced on offense, where Chicago ranked 29th in points per game and total yards per game, 27th in rushing yards per game and 25th in passing yards per game.
“You look at some of the things specifically," Nagy said in December. "I look at the red zone, some of the struggles we've had this year in the red zone. That's where you get your points. ... Part of the process for us as we move through this thing is looking at really specifically all parts of the game, whether it's two-minute mode, whether it's the no-huddle stuff, whether it's the run game, the identity, then the red zone. Everything is on the table for us. It's about adaptation, it's about figuring out how to get to that point, not being satisfied. I think that's what we'll do.”
Part of the adaptation includes new staff members. Nagy fired offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand when the season ended. Then the Bears hired Bill Lazor as offensive coordinator and John DeFilippo as quarterbacks coach, and promoted Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator.
Lazor was out of the league in 2019 but held the title of offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017-18 and the Miami Dolphins in 2014-15. While Nagy is not expected to give up playcalling duties, Lazor is expected to have ample input in both the run and pass game. The 13-year NFL coaching veteran will also oversee the day-to-day operations of the entire offensive coaching staff.
Like Nagy, Lazor is a former quarterback (Cornell) who spent years coaching the position in the NFL for the Seahawks, Redskins, Bengals and Eagles. As the team attempts to salvage the career of former second-overall pick Mitchell Trubisky, Lazor's influence will be that much more important.
And Nagy prefers to have coordinators and quarterbacks coaches who can think like a quarterback. Lazor certainly checks that box.
The same holds true for Ragone (another former quarterback), who has been with the Bears since 2016. In his new role as passing game coordinator, Ragone will be able to focus entirely on working with Nagy to construct the Bears’ passing attack. Ragone’s ability to conceptualize and design passing plays is believed to be one his greatest strengths.
Ragone’s promotion also allowed Nagy to add DeFilippo to the staff. DeFilippo is coming off a pair of abbreviated offensive coordinator stints with Minnesota and Jacksonville, but the 41-year old assistant seems more philosophically aligned with Nagy than Mike Zimmer (Vikings) or Doug Marrone (Jaguars), his previous bosses. Nagy and DeFilippo have not coached together before, but DeFilippo spent two seasons working under Nagy’s close friend and former colleague Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. DeFilippo even interviewed for the Bears head coaching job before Pace hired Nagy. DeFilippo is another experienced quarterbacks coach who has a working knowledge of the Andy Reid system, so the attraction between the Bears and DeFilippo is easy to see.
Like most first-time, younger NFL head coaches, Nagy had to rely mostly on recommendations when he built his original coaching staff in 2018. Two years later, Nagy has a clearer idea about the kinds of coaches he wants: those who share his vision, but more importantly, assistants he can delegate more authority and responsibility to.
To rebuild a flagging offense into something that can complement a championship-caliber defense, Nagy needs these two hires to fit that bill.