A loose trend line of sorts has formed over time around the belief in some NFL halls that rookie quarterbacks are best developed and handled by head coaches from the offensive side of the football (Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning notwithstanding): Bill Walsh and Joe Montana, Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre, Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb, Sean Payton and Drew Brees, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers, even Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick, and recently Jason Garrett and Dak Prescott and Bill O’Brien and Deshaun Watson.
The Bears, who lived through the Marc Trestman/Jay Cutler case study in dysfunction, have placed the care and feeding of the future of their franchise — Mitch Trubisky — in the hands of defense-based John Fox and more specifically offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, and under him quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone. Obviously more than only Loggains and Ragone are involved in whether or not Trubisky becomes what an organization expects from a No. 2 overall pick, but they’re the ones walking point right now.
The next several weeks and extending presumably on through the end of December will go a long, long way in establishing both Trubisky as an NFL quarterback and, by extension, the legacies of Loggains and Ragone.
The sometimes-dawdling state of the Bears’ offense under Fox ostensibly inspires at best tepid optimism. But a handful of developments suggest a little more. Consider:
— Separate from the Mike Glennon debacle, Trubisky has been developing at a dramatically faster rate than had been foreseen even by those involved in drafting Trubisky. The plan has been for Ragone, in addition to his general quarterback-coaching duties, to focus particularly on coaching Trubisky. If Trubisky's progress was non-existent or even sluggish, Loggains and Ragone would be in for hard questions.
That doesn’t appear to be close to the case. Apart from the kid’s talent, somebody apparently has been whispering good things in his helmet radio.
— The 2016 season was a disaster, in no small part because the Bears were forced to start three different quarterbacks. They even won a game with three different quarterbacks.
More to the Loggains point, Cutler, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley each had stretches of football that were the best of their respective careers — Cutler during the 2015 season and the other two during the 2016 season. The one common denominator/thread was not Adam Gase; it was Loggains. Gase’s experience with Cutler and without Loggains in Miami this year is with a Cutler showing signs of reverting to his career-base course.
Loggains has drawn occasional fire for play calling, but his quarterbacks aren't the only ones working with a receiver group in no danger of eclipsing Jerry Rice and John Taylor or Lynn Swann and John Stallworth.
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The quality of raw material is more than important; it is ultimately everything, since no amount of coaching can create talent that’s not there, only work to maximize what’s there. After replacing Terry Shea, Ron Turner was in that position with Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton in 2005 and arguably got what could be gotten from both before Turner’s exit after the 2009 season, the first year of Cutler. Gary Crowton and then John Shoop, who was in his final year when Grossman was drafted in 2003, were tasked with Cade McNown, who the Bears drafted back in 1999.
Loggains gets the landscape before him. “But I know this,” he said this week.
“The so-called quarterback ‘busts’ I don’t think exist. If you drafted the right guy, made of the right stuff, they battle through. Look at Eli Manning’s resume; he struggled, there were times as a rookie when he had a zero quarterback rating. And he’s won two Super Bowls and become one of the great ones.
“I don’t think there is a secret formula. I think we drafted the right guy and he’s going to play well. There’s no question: He’s going to make some mistakes. You know it; I know it. We’re going to learn from it, grow from it, rally around him. I gotta make sure I’m doing a good job putting him in the right situation and the 10 guys around him are playing well.”