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Bears: Evaluating the Potential Candidates at Quarterbacks Coach

Evaluating the list of potential candidates to fill the quarterbacks coach position on Matt Nagy's staff for the 2018 season.

UPDATE: According to multiple sources, the Chicago Bears have retained Dave Ragone as their quarterbacks coach, making Ragone one of the few holdovers on the offensive side of the ball.

The Chicago Bears coaching staff has been a main talking point around the league since the new year. What Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have been able to construct has been widely applauded. With most of the major Bears’ coaching positions already filled for 2018, one last question mark remains, the quarterbacks coach. Who will be tasked with managing Mitchell Trubisky’s development in his sophomore season?

Current quarterbacks coach, Dave Ragone, is still under contract with the Bears. However, it has been widely reported that the team has been actively searching for other options. The list of coaches the Bears are considering has added to the intrigue surrounding the offseason at Halas Hall.

Late Wednesday morning, Darrell Bevell’s name was the latest to be added to a shortlist of possible Bears hires. If the name Darrell Bevell sounds familiar to Bears fans, it’s because he was once a finalist for the Bears’ head coaching position in 2013, ultimately going to *gulp* Marc Trestman. At the time, Bevell was the offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl winning Seattle Seahawks.

However, after a very successful run, Bevell was fired last week as part of sweeping changes taking place on Pete Carrol’s staff. Bevell is still believed to be one of the bright minds in the NFL. The 48-year old coach would be a valuable addition to a staff tasked with overhauling an offense ranking dead last in passing this past season.

Quarterbacks coach would be the most logical spot for Bevell given that Mark Helfrich was installed as offensive coordinator last week. A tandem of Nagy, Helfrich, and Bevell to monitor the development of the young Trubisky, would give the Bears one of the strongest offensive staffs in the league.

Besides Bevell, the Bears have also been linked to former Raiders Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing, as well as Houston Texans’ Quarterbacks Coach Pat O’Hara. Let’s take a look at these coaches and what they can bring to the table.

Darrell Bevell

Notable NFL Experience: Seattle Seahawks – Offensive Coordinator (2011 – 2017), Minnesota Vikings – Offensive Coordinator (2006 – 2010), Green Bay Packers – QB Coach (2003 – 2005)

Notable Quarterbacks Coached: Brett Favre & Russell Wilson

Out of the three candidates, Bevell seems to have the most significant experience. Career highlights include a Super Bowl with the Seahawks, as well as overseeing Brett Favre’s career year in 2009, which culminated in over 4,000 yards passing and 33 touchdowns.

Most impressive has been Bevell’s work with Russell Wilson. Wilson was largely an afterthought coming out of Wisconsin in 2011. Bevell identified his talent immediately, and got the Seahawks front office to spend a third-round pick on the small but athletic prospect. In their six years together, Bevell and Wilson have been a great match. Wilson accumulated four Pro Bowls in that span, and put up solid career averages: 64 percent completion percentage, 3,696 passing yards, 26.8 touchdowns, 9.3 interceptions, 98.8 QB rating.

If Mitchell Trubisky puts up any semblance of these numbers as Bears signal caller, there will be some very happy Bears fans in Chicago.

Style-wise, one of the hallmarks of Bevell’s offense has been efficiency through the air. His passing offenses in Seattle finished top five in interceptions four straight years. Bevell preaches west coast tendencies, which includes a balanced offense, highlighted by intermediary passing routes. The athleticism of Wilson, allowed Bevell to run a good portion of his offense through run-pass option sets. A style which many can expect Trubisky to undertake more in 2018 under a Nagy-Helfrich offense.

In terms of athletic ability Trubisky and Wilson are not too dissimilar. Both players are extremely quick and can throw accurately on the run. If Bevell signs onto the Bears staff, one would hope he can instill the same principles in Trubisky that made Wilson a star in Seattle.

Todd Downing

Notable NFL Experience: Oakland Raiders – Offensive Coordinator (2017), QB Coach (2015 – 2016), Buffalo Bills – QB Coach (2014), Detroit Lions – QB Coach (2011 – 2013)

Notable Quarterbacks Coached: Derek Carr, EJ Manuel/Kyle Orton, Matt Stafford

Though only 37 years of age, Todd Downing is a well-traveled coach throughout the National Football League. His latest stop in Oakland experienced both the highest of highs and lowest of lows.

When Downing teamed up with Derek Carr in 2015, Carr was coming off a rookie season that showed promise, but left more to be desired. Under Downing, Carr was able to take huge leaps, ultimately vaulting him to franchise player status. By looking at Carr’s numbers, it is clear that his development in 2015 and 2016 was masterful.

2014: 58.1% Comp %, 21 TD/12 INT, 3,270 Passing Yards, 76.6 QB Rating

2015: 61.1% Comp %, 32 TD/13 INT, 3,987 Passing Yards, 91.1 QB Rating

2016: 63.8% Comp %, 28 TD/6 INT, 3,937 Passing Yards, 96.7 QB Rating (15 Games)

According to Pro Football Focus, Carr’s performance was enhanced by his improved ability to read the blitz. In Carr’s breakout year of 2015, he recorded a 108.7 quarterback rating when facing pressure. Downing has widely been credited with his quarterback’s improvement in this area.

Enter 2017, and Downing was promoted to offensive coordinator, replacing Bill Musgrave who left for Denver. Downing’s tenure as offensive coordinator was underwhelming. Offensive regressions occurred across the board. Most concerning was Carr’s regression to numbers similar to his rookie year.

Downing was ultimately let go at season’s end, feeding fire to questions about whether it was he or Musgrave who actually manned Carr’s initial ascent. Regardless, Downing still remains one of the most respected young minds in the game. His experience with successful quarterbacks would be a welcomed addition to a staff tasked with developing Mitch Trubisky.                                                                            

Pat O’Hara

Notable NFL Experience: Houston Texans – Quarterback Coach (2017 – Present), Offensive Assistant (2015 – 2016)

Notable Quarterbacks Coached: DeShaun Watson

When comparing O’Hara with Bevell and Downing, his NFL experience is vastly different. O’Hara has only spent three years on an NFL staff, but is still highly regarded. As quarterbacks coach in 2017, O’Hara oversaw the development of Rookie, Deshaun Watson. The results were very promising, as seen in Watson’s rookie numbers: 2017: 61.8% Comp %, 19 TD/8 INT, 1,699 Passing Yards, 103.0 QB Rating (7 Games).

Before Watson was installed as starting quarterback, questions began to circulate about Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s job security. Watson’s unbelievable performance alone helped earn O’Brien a contract extension at years end. O’Hara also deserves a ton of credit for acclimating the young rookie quarterback so quickly.

Prior to joining the Texans’ staff, O’Hara’s coaching experience was mainly in arena football and high school football. There really is not much history casual fans can look at to get excited about O’Hara. However, insiders close to the Texans have reported that he is thought of very highly within the organization. For now, reputation and the development of Watson are really the only things non-experts have when considering O’Hara for the Bears staff.

Final Thoughts

The quarterbacks coach is not a position that any staff takes lightly. For a staff and a front office that have their futures invested on a second-year quarterback though, the position takes on higher importance.

The Bears look to understand this importance, based on the interest they are showing in top coaches available. Any of these three candidates would be another welcomed addition to an increasingly elite staff.

Any optimism Bears fans have about the direction the team is going should continue to grow as top coaches are clearly showing interest in a team that looks to be primed for a big jump in 2018.

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