2020 NFL coaching changes: Chicago Bears

2020 NFL coaching changes: Chicago Bears

NFL Coaching Change with fantasy football impact

2020 NFL coaching changes: Chicago Bears

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(Sam Greene/The Enquirer via USA TODAY NETWORK)

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy’s pass offensive success under Andy Reid hasn’t thoroughly translated to the Windy City over two seasons, and in 2020, long-time NFL coach Bill Lazor will take over for Mark Helfrich as the new offensive coordinator.

Lazor’s immediate plan will focus on getting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to take a massive step forward with his command of the offense and overcome a penchant to screw up what should be the “easy plays.” While nothing is cake in the NFL, Trubisky has notoriously struggled to get the most out of what a defense hands him. He tends to make difficult scenarios seem easier than they should, and it all appears to come at the sacrifice of conventional advancements. Consistently being better will go a long way for how efficient and effective the Bears can be on offense from week to week. Improving his mechanics will go far in limiting wasted opportunities.

Before looking ahead, it helps to understand how we came to this point in time. Nagy, as mentioned, is a student of Reid’s West Coast-based spread system, and while we have seen moments of Reid’s coaching genius bleed through into Nagy’s designs, putting it together on a weekly basis has been a real struggle.

Replacing Helfrich with Lazor feels like one of those moves out of a sense of urgency to make a move rather than give it one more try to improve with the continuity of having Trubisky in the same system for a third straight season. Keep in mind, Trubisky didn’t have extensive quarterback experience entering the NFL. It was not meant to be, and Lazor will get a chance, in conjunction with new quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo to get Trubisky on track.

A former three-year starting signal-caller at Cornell, Lazor was once a quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia (2013) under the Chip Kelly regime. He doesn’t have a direct tie to Reid. However, he has worked with gifted minds in Mike Holmgren, Marvin Lewis, Joe Gibbs and Dan Reeves. While all of those men but Lewis cut their teeth on the offensive side of the ball, having the chance to learn defensive tendencies under the former Cincinnati Bengals head coach was a plus for Lazor’s development.

Despite all of the that experience under proven coaches, Lazor was unable to survive two full seasons in Miami as the offensive coordinator, getting fired Nov. 30, 2015. He’d become the quarterbacks coach in Cincinnati the next year and take over for the fired Ken Zampese in September of 2017. Lazor managed to make it through the two full seasons before being dismissed with the end of the Lewis regime in Cincy. Lazor sat out of football in 2019.

Coaching tendencies

Lazor likes to incorporate West Coast elements into a spread system, similarly to how Reid designs calls. The three-plus years of calling plays is an advantage, even though the results weren’t exciting. It is unclear how much of a role in actually calling plays and scripting game plans Lazor will have in relation to Nagy.

During the 2017 season, Lazor’s Bengals threw 57.5 percent of the offensive snaps, or the 12th-highest percentage of all teams. This number grew to 60.2 percent in 2018, ranking eighth. One upside to the increase in passing attempts was an extremely efficient backfield, and RB Joe Mixon led the AFC in rushing yardage.

In 2018, when Cincinnati ran the ball, 67 percent of the plays came from three-wide, one-TE sets, with 22 percent of the action being worked out of a two-tight end formation. The passing attack ran 79 percent of plays out of the 11 personnel grouping (three wide, 1 TE).

Table: Bill Lazor team rankings as offensive coordinator (lower number is better)

Offense
Rushing Off
Passing Off
Year
Tm
Role
Yds
Pts
TO
Att
Yds
TD
Y/A
FL
Att
Yds
TD
Int
2014
MIA
OC
14
11
13
22
12
14
2
19
12
17
12
8
2015
MIA
OC
26
27
8
32
23
16
9
2
17
19
19
11
2017
CIN
OC
32
26
19
29
31
28
29
22
25
27
12
11
2018
CIN
OC
26
17
5
26
21
16
8
1
18
24
16
18

A consistent theme is the need for efficiency from the running game to generate meaningful yardage, and despite being a pass-centric offense, the aerial yardage returns haven’t been impressive, either. Protecting the football has been a regular aspect of his teams.

Personnel changes

Right guard Rashaad Coward and his backup, Ted Larsen, are both set to become free agents in March, but Coward is of the restricted variety. The core of this team returns unscathed, and Chicago should not have to make major cuts to sign rookies and look at the open market. The offensive line will need to be improved after giving up 12th-most sacks (45) in 2019. Some of that can be done via coaching and playcalling. More concerning, perhaps, would be the 3.7 yards per carry averaged by this rushing game. It tied for third worst in the league, and it was quite apparent rookie David Montgomery needs the blocking to improve. He is an NFL-caliber talent but isn’t the type to create yardage on his own.

An upgrade at tight end is a must. This offensive system is at its best when the position finds success. Trey Burton’s experience in a similar offense is encouraging, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. The same injury concerns go for Adam Shaheen. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bears make a bid to sign former Lazor tight end Tyler Eifert in free agency. Other options could include Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Austin Hooper or Hunter Henry.

Another receiver will help, but getting the most out of soon-to-be third-year wideout Anthony Miller will be the key. If he can stay healthy and play at his best, Allen Robinson will have a strong complementary target by his side. It will be intriguing to see the development of 2019 rookie WR Riley Ridley over the course of the upcoming offseason.

Backup quarterback Chase Daniel is a free agent and didn’t provide much of a spark when given the chance in 2020. Andy Dalton spent three years with Lazor in Cincinnati and is on the verge of being released. Could Chicago bring him in to compete with Trubisky, or at least help teach the system?

Fantasy football takeaway

An emphasis on getting more from the ground game will be valuable, despite the limited utilization of the position in past Lazor stops. With a few tweaks, Chicago’s defense can get back on the right path. Regardless, expecting a major step forward in 2020 from Trubisky could be asking too much from him.

As discussed, the theme of Lazor’s duties will center on getting the most out of Trubisky. Look for more short-area passing to get the ball out quicker and prevent him from having to do too much. Expect the Bears to let Trubisky utilize his mobility more than he has to date, and he could be sneaky in fantasy because of added value on the turf (think Josh Allen’s surprising value). Trusting all of it coming together in the first year is understandably a gamble most owners aren’t going to be keen on taking in 2020 fantasy drafts. Trubisky remains a low-end QB2 who will flash a few times at worst and start to show signs of being a fringe starter at his best.

Montgomery has RB2 potential and is a capable dual-threat back. Given the limited money tied up with him and Tarik Cohen, it’s not a crazy idea to think Chicago could trade for Arizona Cardinals back David Johnson. He and Montgomery offer similar skills, but at least Johnson has proven capable of playing at an elite level in the NFL. Much could change in this scenario before the dust settles. Presuming Montgomery is indeed the primary back in 2020, draft him as a flex and be prepared for another disappointing season.

Cohen should benefit from the move and is a PPR flex in traditional formats. Of course, a move, such as adding Johnson, would hamper this outlook.

At receiver, we witnessed Robinson return nicely on a WR3 or flex fantasy draft investment and post quality No. 2 stats in standard (No. 7 PPR). He finally started to show signs of his pre-ACL tear self. Even though there is always concern in changing offensive systems, it is clear Trubisky favors Robinson over all others.

Miller’s season didn’t start off well, and the 2019 second-year receiver struggled to overcome offseason rehab that lingered late into the summer. He finally picked up the pace from Weeks 11-15 to give a glimmer of hope that we’re poised to see a true breakout from the talented Memphis product. Keep in mind, he scored seven times as a 2018 rookie. Miller is a risk-reward decision as a No. 3 target come 2020 fantasy drafts.

Ridley didn’t really get a chance to showcase his abilities, landing only six catches as a rookie. The Georgia standout effectively red-shirted in 2019 and will be in the mix for an increased role in a three-wide base, as well as expanded packages. He’s no more than a late-round flier in conventional drafts at this stage, yet a strong summer could bump him up considerably.

There’s nothing of value to be found in the current crop of tight ends, and unless the Bears drastically upgrade the position, gamers can skip over this position for all intents and purposes. Track the personnel decisions before putting the final nail in this coffin.

With regards to Lazor being the right hire, his pedigree is impressive. One has to question whether the relative lack of results were more his fault or due to having inferior talent at his disposal.

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