One strong positive on the resume’ of quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to succeed Adam Gase as the next Bears offensive coordinator is his relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler, and his role in helping Cutler reach a new level of quarterbacking.
“Dowell is good,” Cutler said. “He started at a young age. He’s still pretty young -- he’s only two or three years older than me, so a lot of football in his short span of coaching career and playing career. Innovative guy, lot of energy, like the rest of our offensive staff, which is good. He’s not afraid to push the group and try to get everyone better."
But a presumed relationship with Cutler is not a presumption of success or even harmony within the offensive family.
Jeremy Bates was Cutler’s Denver Broncos quarterbacks coach in 2007-08, came to Chicago in 2012 as Mike Tice’s QB coach, and was gone in the mass firings that followed Lovie Smith’s 10-6 final season.
When Mike Martz served as offensive coordinator, he was hired only after he’d flown to Nashville to interview – or be interviewed by? – Cutler. His relationship with Cutler was outwardly positive through the run to the 2010 playoffs. But by the time of Cutler’s thumb injury in mid-2011, the quarterback had directed F-bombs toward the coordinator over in-game disagreements.
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Reality is that coach John Fox is not going to tailor any coach hiring to suit one player. Still, Loggains has been an NFL offensive coordinator, called plays in games and would step into the job with an offensive system and philosophy already in place, which was not the case in the changes from Ron Turner to Martz and Martz to Tice, for example.
What this means is that Cutler would be going into an offseason preparing to work with his sixth different coordinator in just eight Chicago seasons, but this one comes in with the baseline of, as Fox said, “our systems are our systems.”
And Loggains has understood both Cutler, working with him on the specifics of technique, footwork and the rest, and also the hugely significant overall mindset that a quarterback needs and that Cutler hasn’t appeared to truly have in the past.
“I think it’s just getting him comfortable,” Loggains said last season. “The key to playing quarterback is getting the other 10 guys around you to do their jobs. When everyone’s where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there, it helps him and that’s a credit to a lot of his teammates, these younger guys who’ve stepped up, and credit to the assistant coaches, battling injuries and it’s a group effort.
“I do believe the No. 1 thing in quarterback play is getting the other 10 guys to do their jobs first.”
That holistic thinking subtly shifts the role of the quarterback, which obviously has “playmaker” at the top, to one of facilitator. The genius of the greats at the position is what they did/do to get the football into others’ hands and making the offensive line better. Even with the tumult on the Bears’ offensive line this year, the Bears still were still middle of the pack in pass protection, one of five teams to allow 33 sacks, two of which (Carolina, Pittsburgh) are in the divisional round of the playoffs.
“[Loggains is] extremely talented,” Cutler said, adding, “bright, has a lot of energy as well, has been around quarterbacks for a long time, played the position in high school, has been around really good coaches his entire career, been blessed in that regard. He’s a sponge. He took all the good stuff from all the coaches.
“I’m not saying that he doesn’t make his mistakes because we all do. But he’s done a really good job of managing our room, from the ‘3’ to me and he works well with the rest of the coaches developing the plan. I think Adam [Gase] would testify to it that he’s been a large help to me and him both.”
The Bears arguably were well served with a reserved, prove-it approach to Cutler in the weeks after Fox, Gase, Loggains and even GM Ryan Pace were hired. For the first time in Chicago, Cutler’s situation wasn’t guaranteed by virtue of being traded for by a Jerry Angelo or handed a $122 million contract by a Phil Emery.
But for whatever credit is due Loggains for the changes in Cutler and his game, the coach is pointing the finger rather than the thumb.
“[Cutler] deserves all the credit because he’s worked his tail to be better at it,” Loggains said.