Dannehy: Scheme Alone Can’t Fix Bears Offense

| May 18th, 2022

Relying on a scheme change to fix a broken offense has proven to be a broken philosophy, especially when the person in charge of that scheme has never done the job before. Luke Getsy made reference to scheme being a reason to believe the offense — specifically the pass catchers — will be better, and while he should have confidence in his own ability, he surely knows the Bears need their players to be better if they’re going to score more points. Getsy is well regarded, but new play callers generally struggle and almost never get time to figured it out.

In the last decade, 26 non-offensive coaches have been hired. Nine of those went with offensive coordinators who were new to the job and the success rate of those coaches is not good. Of those nine, three were fired after just one season and two were canned during or after their second seasons. One was fired with the entire staff after the second season.

There are two young play callers entering with their jobs on the line in 2022.  Mike LaFleur needs his Jets to improve from being in the bottom six of the league pretty much across the board. Scott Turner took over in Carolina during the 2019 season and went to Washington with Ron Rivera, but his offenses have all been near the bottom-10.

The one real success story so far is interesting, as Matt LaFleur had a bottom-10 offense in his lone season running Mike Vrable’s unit in Tennessee before becoming the head coach of the Packers. LaFleur, of course, has been dominant in Green Bay, but we don’t need to talk about that.

As highly thought of as Getsy is, the same could be said for the likes of Joe Brady, Rich Scangarello, Geep Chryst and Rick Dennison.

For the most part, the bright young offensive minds have come from staffs led by an offensive coach. Kyle Shanahan got his start under Gary Kubiak, Sean McVay under Jay Gruden. Some — Zac Taylor, Frank Reich, Nick Sirianni, Doug Pederson and others — have gone directly from offensive coordinators who didn’t call plays to head coaches. Arthur Smith is an example of a coach who got his first gig under a defensive head coach; though Vrable had already began implementing the offense he wanted.

But every bright offensive coach gets a start somewhere and the lack of recent success doesn’t mean the Bears should’ve gone after a retread. Those haven’t proven to guarantee success either. Mike Zimmer thought he had it right with Norv Turner. Vic Fangrio went with Pat Shurmur after canning Scangarello. Chan Gailey has gotten multiple chances.

Indications from the Bears seem to be that the offense wasn’t THAT broken and there is some data to back that up.From Week 5 to Week 16, the Bears were top 10 in explosive play rate in games Justin Fields quarterbacked per Sharp Football Stats. They were eighth in rushing, 14th in passing and eighth overall. As I wrote last December, the offense showed some really promising signs and it could be argued that the quarterbacks, more than anything else, is what held them back.

If that’s genuinely the case, it could be great news for the Bears simply because everyone should expect Justin Fields to take a huge step in his second year. If he doesn’t, that will tell us more about him than anything else.

The Bears are also probably safe in guessing that Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet are going to take another step. Mooney might have already taken that step, totaling 45 catches for 605 yards in the team’s last eight games — most of which came without Allen Robinson playing. Kmet had remarkable production for a 22-year-old tight end.

The Bears have also indicated they plan on using David Montgomery more in the passing game, something that was thought to be a strength of his coming out of Iowa State but has gone relatively under-utilized in the NFL. While much has been made about the Bears lack of weapons, it’s certainly reasonable to argue that Byron Pringle is going to be better than Robinson was in 2021 and that Velus Jones Jr. will be better than the Damiere Byrd and Marquise Goodwin combination.

Where a new scheme and play caller could really help is along the offensive line, where the wide zone has been known to make journeymen look like starters. At least in the run game.

A scheme change is fine, but ultimately, it’s players who score points in the NFL. It would take a Herculean effort for Getsy to get his group in the top ten, but if they can build off of last year and the scheme changes provide even subtle improvements, the Bears will be better.

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