Bears

Bears promote Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator in continuity statement

dowell-loggains-bears-insider-0111.png

Bears promote Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator in continuity statement

Bears coach John Fox said in his season-ending remarks last Monday that the team’s systems are in place and not dependent solely on coordinator Adam Gase as far as the offense is concerned. Fox was saying without saying it directly that not only the systems, but also the key coaching personnel were in place.

In a move that marks a clear statement of direction for the offense and makes a statement that continuity as well as talent will matter, the Bears promoted quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator to replace Gase, who took the job of head coach for the Miami Dolphins late last week.

“Dowell played a critical role on our offense last year,” said coach John Fox in a statement. “He’s an excellent coach with experience as a play-caller and a broad knowledge of offensive football.  He has earned the respect of our players because they know he can help them get better.

The Bears last season took a first step toward developing true continuity in their offense when the Fox coaching staff, including Loggains, took the quarterback abilities of Jay Cutler to another and sustainable level.

The next step came Monday when Loggains succeeded Gase.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“As I mentioned at the end of the season, our systems are in place,” Fox said. “We will always look to evolve because the NFL is fluid and adapting is key to good coaching.  Dowell will help us build on what we started as we head into the 2016 season.”

What the Bears under Fox started was a solid, consistent philosophy built on his mantra of running the football. Loggains was working with Gase and Cutler as the architects of game plans consistent with that philosophy, regardless of what personnel were available for the passing offense. The Bears under Gase ran the ball consistently (45.7 percent running even in games with a healthy Alshon Jeffery, for example) with or without their top receivers, and Loggains can be expected to continue in that direction.

The Bears typically ran at least 25 times per game and never threw more than 45 passes (once, at Kansas City) in a game. Loggains has maintained a simple grasp on that factor in the overall priority of ball security.

“The unfortunate thing is that if you throw the ball enough, if you’re calling 44-45 passes in a game, you are going to throw interceptions,” Loggains said during last season. “Nobody in the history of the game has gone without one.”

With Loggains as Bears quarterbacks coach, Cutler reached a career-high 92.3 passer rating, with 64.4 completion percentage (311-of-483), 2.3 interception percentage and 7.58 passing yards per attempt all second-bests in his NFL career. His 11 interceptions were the fewest in a season in which he appeared in at least 15 games.

[MORE: Inside the Loggains-Cutler relationship and its effect on the Bears]

“I think Adam and Dowell and all the coaches have been selective in our gameplans,” Cutler observed late last season, “and then on game day as far as me going through my reads and not trying to do too much and force the ball to guys and just letting them naturally make plays because we have some playmakers even if we’ve lost some of our other playmakers.”

Loggains has eight years NFL coaching experience including two seasons as offensive coordinator and five as a quarterbacks coach.

In 2014, Loggains was the quarterbacks coach for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns finished the 2014 season with 3,678 passing yards, 11th-most in franchise history. Their 7.33 yards per attempt in 2014 was the highest for the franchise since 1992. Their 21 pass plays of 25 or more yards were tied for the second most by the franchise in the last 21 years and the most since 1995.

From 2008-13, Loggains was on the coaching staff of the Tennessee Titans, including serving as offensive coordinator in 2013 and during the final five games of the 2012 season. In 2013, the Titans were off to a 3-1 start as starting quarterback Jake Locker had a 99.0 passer rating, before injuries derailed his season. Locker finished with an 86.7 passer rating in seven starts (4-3 record).

From 2010-12, Loggains was the quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator of the Titans, working with Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck and Locker. The Titans’ 4,113 passing yards and 84.4 passer rating in 2011 are sixth and seventh-highest in franchise single-season history, respectively. In 2010 he helped Collins post the third-best passer rating of his career (82.2) and Vince Young register the highest passer rating of his career (98.6).

[ALSO: What offensive free agents could fit with the Bears?]

Loggains joined the Titans in 2006, working as a coaching administrative assistant for two seasons before being named a quality control coach in 2008, a role he held for two years. Prior to his time in Tennessee, Loggains spent the 2005 season as a scouting assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. His duties included assisting with opponent film breakdown, self-scouting and statistical analysis to be used in game-plan preparation.

Loggains has worked with several successful NFL coordinators during his time in the NFL, including Gase, Sean Payton, Norm Chow, Mike Heimerdinger and Chris Palmer.

The Newport, Ark. native was a four-year letterman as a quarterback and holder at the University of Arkansas, where he appeared in 50 games. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science and master’s degree in education. He was a two-year starter at quarterback for Abilene Cooper (Texas) High School.

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

jlandry.png
USA TODAY

Report: Bears could be a potential landing spot for Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry

The Bears are looking for an upgrade at wide receiver this offseason, and there may be one available.

The Dolphins used the franchise tag on wide receiver Jarvis Landry on Tuesday, in a move that many believe signals the team's desire to deal him instead of losing him in free agency for nothing.

Landry put up excellent numbers last season, catching 112 passes for 987 yards and nine touchdowns. He led the league in catches and was fourth in touchdown receptions but was just 17th in yards. His yards per reception ranked 108th of 139 qualifying players.

Still, it's no secret he'd be an upgrade for the Bears at wide receiver. Though they'll get Cam Meredith and Kevin White back from injury, the corps largely struggled and didn't give rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky much help.

Luckily, they may be interested in Landry, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

"There are a couple teams that we should keep an eye on as far as a potential Jarvis Landry landing spot......the Chicago Bears are looking for receviers," he said.

Rapoport also mentioned the Titans, Panthers and Saints as options for Landry. The franchise tag will pay Landry about $16 million before he becomes a free agent in 2019 (or has the franchise tag used on him again).

 

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 Bears position grades: Management

2017 grade: D+

For these purposes, “management” encompasses the coaching staff and front office. We don’t need a lengthy re-litigation of the failures of the John Fox era, so briefly: The offense was unimaginative, predictable and unsuccessful; there were too many head-scratching coaching decisions, punctuated by that backfiring challenge flag against Green Bay; the defense was solid but not spectacular; special teams had plenty of highs (three touchdowns) and lows (Marcus Cooper’s gaffe against Pittsburgh, Connor Barth’s missed field goal against Detroit). Fox didn’t win enough games to justify a fourth year, even if he left the Bears in a better place than he found them back in 2015. But that 5-11 record drags the management grade down. 

But the larger thing we’re going to focus on here is the hits and misses for Ryan Pace in the 2017 league year. The hits: 

-- Drafting Mitchell Trubisky. Will this be a long-term success? That’s another question. But Pace hitched his future in Chicago to a quarterback last April. For a franchise that hasn’t had a “franchise” quarterback in ages, what more can you ask for? If Trubisky pans out, nobody should care that Pace traded up one spot -- effectively losing a third-round pick for his conviction in his guy -- to make the move. 

-- Moving quickly to hire Matt Nagy. As with Trubisky, Pace identified his guy and made sure he got him. The Bears hired Nagy just two days after the Kansas City Chiefs’ season ended with that playoff collapse against the Tennessee Titans, and with the Indianapolis Colts -- who eventually got burned by Josh McDaniels -- sniffing around Nagy, Pace made his move to hire a young, energetic, offensive-minded coach to pair with Trubisky. It’s tough to argue with any of the coaching hires made by Nagy, who had a head start on the competition: He retained defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and that entire defensive staff, kept Dave Ragone to be Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach and hired Mark Helfrich to bring some different concepts as offensive coordinator, and hired a special teams coach in Chris Tabor who must’ve been doing something right to survive seven years and a bunch of coaching changes in Cleveland. Like with Trubisky, it’s too early to say if Nagy will or won’t work out long-term, but it stands out that Pace had conviction in getting a franchise quarterback and a head coach who will make or break his tenure in Chicago. 

-- Drafting Tarik Cohen and Eddie Jackson in the fourth round. In Cohen, the Bears found an offensive spark (who was nonetheless under-utilized) who also was a key contributor on special teams. In Jackson, the Bears added a plug-and-play 16-game starter at safety who looks to have some upside after a solid rookie year. Both picks here were a triumph for the Bears’ amateur scouting department: Cohen wasn’t on everyone’s radar (special teams coach Chris Tabor, who previously was with the Browns, said Cohen’s name never came across his desk in Cleveland), while Jackson was coming off a broken leg that prematurely ended a solid career at Alabama. These were assuredly two hits. 

-- Signing Akiem Hicks to a four-year contract extension. The Bears rewarded Hicks a day before the season began; Hicks rewarded them with a Pro Bowl-caliber season (despite him only being a fourth alternate) and was the best player on the team in 2017. 

-- Signing Charles Leno to a four-year contract extension. Leno may not be an elite tackle, and still has some things to clean up in his game, but he’s 26 and his four-year, $37 million contract is the 14th-largest among left tackles (for what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Leno as the 20th best left tackle in the NFL). The Bears believe Leno is still improving, and could turn that contract into a bargain in the future. But this is important to note, too: Players notice when a team rewards one of its own, especially when that guy is a well-respected former seventh-round draft pick. 

-- Signing Mark Sanchez to a one-year deal. This wasn’t a miss, certainly, and while it’s not much of a “hit,” Sanchez was exactly what the Bears wanted: A veteran mentor to Trubisky. While Sanchez was inactive for all 16 games, he and the No. 2 overall pick struck up a good relationship that makes him a candidate to return in 2018 as a true backup. 

-- Releasing Josh Sitton when he did. Whether or not the Bears offensive line is better off in 2018 is a different question, but file cutting Sitton on Feb. 20 -- when the team had until mid-March to make a decision on him -- as one of those things that gets noticed by players around the league. 

-- Announcing the expansion to Halas Hall. The plan has Pace’s fingerprints on it, and should help make the Bears a more attractive destination to free agents in 2018 and beyond. 

And now, for the misses:

-- Signing Mike Glennon. That completely bombed out. While the Bears weren’t hurting for cap space a year ago, and Glennon’s contract essentially was a one-year prove-it deal, his play was so poor that he was benched after only four games -- when the initial plan was for him to start the entire season to give Trubisky time to develop. The wheels came off for Glennon on his seventh pass in Week 2, when after completing his first six he threw the ball right to Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander for an interception from which he never seemed to recover. He’ll be cut sometime soon. 

-- Signing Markus Wheaton. After signing a two-year, $11 million deal in the spring, Wheaton struggled to stay healthy, with an appendectomy and finger injury limiting him in training camp and the early part of the season, and then a groin injury knocking out a few weeks in the middle of the season. When Wheaton was healthy, he was ineffective, catching only three of his 17 targets. That places him with eight other players since 1992 who’ve been targeted at least 15 times and and caught fewer than 20 percent of their targets. He’s another one of Pace’s 2017 free agent signings who’s likely to be cut. 

-- Signing Marcus Cooper. The Bears thought they were signing an ascending player who picked off four passes in 2016 and would be a better scheme fit in Chicago than he was in Arizona. Instead, Cooper was a liability when he was on the field and didn’t live up to his three-year, $16 million contract (with $8 million guaranteed). Dropping the ball before he got in the end zone Week 3 against Pittsburgh was a lowlight. The Bears can net $4.5 million in cap savings if he’s cut, per Spotrac. 

-- Signing Dion Sims. Sims isn’t as likely to be cut as Glennon and Wheaton, and even Cooper, but his poor production in the passing game (15 catches, 29 targets, 180 yards, one touchdown) puts a spotlight on how the Bears evaluate how he was as a run blocker in 2017. If that grade was high, the Bears could justify keeping him and not garnering a little more than $5.5 million in cap savings. If it was low, and the Bears are confident in Adam Shaheen’s ability to improve, then Sims could be cut as well. 

-- Signing Quintin Demps. The loss here was mitigated by the strong play of Adrian Amos, but Demps didn’t make much of an impact on the field before his Week 3 injury besides getting plowed over by Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1. He’d be a decent guy to have back as a reserve given his veteran leadership -- he was a captain in 2017 -- but given how well Amos and Eddie Jackson worked together last year, he’s unlikely to get his starting spot back in 2018. 

-- The wide receiver position as a whole. Kendall Wright led the Bears in receptions and yards, but his numbers would’ve looked a lot better had he been surrounded by better players. The cupboard was bare at this position, and after the worst-case scenario happened -- Cameron Meredith tearing his ACL in August, and Kevin White breaking his collarbone in Week 1 -- the Bears were left with an overmatched and underperforming group of receivers. For Trubisky’s sake, Pace has to work to make sure 2018 isn’t a repeat of 2017. 

-- The kicker position as a whole. Since we’re focusing solely on Pace’s 2017 moves, the decision to release Robbie Gould and replace him with Connor Barth doesn’t fall into this grade. But Barth had struggled with consistency prior to this season, and Roberto Aguayo didn’t provide much competition in his short-lived stint in training camp. The Bears eventually released Barth after he missed a game-tying kick against Detroit in November, then replaced him with a guy in Cairo Santos who was coming off an injury and, as it turned out, wasn’t completely healthy yet. So the Bears then had to move on from Santos and sign Mike Nugent to get them through the rest of the season. Better consistency from this position will be important to find in 2018. 

A couple moves fall into the neither hits nor misses category:

-- Drafting Adam Shaheen. Tight ends rarely make a significant impact as rookies, but Shaheen was only targeted 14 times last year. He did catch three touchdowns and flash some good chemistry with Trubisky before suffering an injury against Cincinnati that wound up ending his season. The gains he makes with a year of experience under his belt and during his first full offseason as a pro will be critical in determining his success in Year 2, and whether or not taking him 45th overall was a hit or a miss. 

-- Signing Prince Amukamara. This was neither good nor bad, with Amukamara playing solidly in coverage but not making enough plays on the ball and committing a few too many penalties. 

Pace still has decisions to make on a few other potential cuts, including right tackle Bobby Massie ($5.584 million cap savings per Spotrac) and linebackers Willie Young ($4.5 million cap savings) and Pernell McPhee ($7.075 million cap savings). Whether or not to place the franchise tag on Kyle Fuller and potentially pay him $15 million in 2018 is another call Pace has to make before the official end of the 2017 league year. 

But for Pace, did the hits out-weigh the misses in 2017? The Glennon signing imploded, but Trubisky showed signs of promise during an average season for a rookie quarterback. Cooper was a bust, but Fuller emerged as a potential long-term option to cover for that. The most glaring misses, then, were at wide receiver and tight end where, after injuries sapped those units of Cameron Meredith and Zach Miller, there weren’t reliable targets for Trubisky. 

We’ll probably need more time to determine if Pace’s “hits” on Trubisky and Nagy truly are “hits.” But if they are, the misses of 2017 -- Glennon, Wheaton, Cooper, etc. -- will be nothing more than amusing footnotes to a successful era of Bears football.