Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside the Huddle” column appears in Sunday editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.
It took roughly 30 seconds for Bears coach John Fox to get his first “short” joke in with Dowell Loggains. And it happened during Loggains’ interview for quarterbacks coach.
Their conversation, as recalled by Loggains, went as follows:
Fox: “All right, dude. I have to ask you. What position did you play? They said quarterback.”
Loggains: “I was a quarterback, but I also held for field goals. That’s what I did.”
“How did you play in so many games?”
“I was a holder.”
“I wouldn’t have recruited you. I would have been embarrassed. Oh, that’s your recruit. That’s who you’re bringing on campus.”
“Coach, I was a walk-on.”
Loggains took it all in stride. He has always been short, and he has spent his life in locker rooms. Stories detailing his decision to walk on at Arkansas had him listed at 5-5, 165 pounds.
“Football has been part of my life since I was playing Pop Warner, and I’ve always been short,” Loggains told the Sun-Times. “To me, it made me who I am. I know as a high school football player and in college, I had to do more than everybody else. I had to be smarter than everybody else. I had to work harder than anybody else to start at a 5A high school in Texas.
“I walked on at Arkansas, and very few people thought I could create the niche that I did and to be able to play in 50 games, to find a way on the bus or the plane. I eventually earned a scholarship in the [Southeastern Conference]. The doubters kind of motivate you.”
They’ve returned after Loggains was promoted from QB coach to offensive coordinator when Adam Gase left for the Dolphins.
Gase came to town with Peyton Manning’s endorsement. Loggains will call plays for the first time since having mixed results with the Titans in 2012-13.
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The differences between Gase and Loggains start with the yelling. Gase was reserved at practice. Loggains can be relentless.
“When you step on the field, to me, it’s competition,” Loggains said. “I’m kind of an old-school guy. My dad and mom raised me that way. I don’t think conflict is a bad thing at all. I believe in accountability.”
He can be fiery (his word). Gase’s enthusiasm showed up more in meetings, where Loggains is more calm.
“That’s just my personality,” Loggains said.
But when it comes to the X’s and O’s, Loggains and Gase are on the same page. Bears players speak about Loggains as they did Gase.
“He’s a really good football mind,” tight end Zach Miller said. “He’s really good about bringing out certain traits in different players and using his creativity.”
Loggains, who’s from Abilene, Texas, has an impressive list of influences, starting with his high school coach, Randy Allen, one of the most successful in Texas history. His coaching foundation was formed in 2005, when he was a scouting assistant for the Cowboys. Coach Bill Parcells’ staff included future head coaches Sean Payton, Todd Haley, Mike Zimmer and Todd Bowles.
Offensively, Loggains points to his time with the Titans, specifically mentioning Mike Munchak, Mike Heimerdinger and Norm Chow.
Popular opinion says the Bears will be a run-first team, but that’s not coming from Loggains. The Bears will be a “game-plan based” offense. Game plans will change because matchups change. Everything is fluid.
“I’ve never said [run first] — other people have said that,” Loggains said. “There’s going to be games where we think it’s going to be advantageous to throw 40 times.
“Coach Fox is the same way. I’ve never heard him one time or the other say, ‘Run it! Pass it!’ It’s that these are our matchups. We feel like this is the best chance it gives us to win.”
Loggains wants the offensive line to drive the team, and he’s better equipped for that than Gase was last year. The entire starting five from last year’s opener is different than this week’s against the Texans. He’ll be using Pro Bowl guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton — but not Matt Slauson, Patrick Omameh and Vlad Ducasse — as he focuses on preserving the pocket and creating pass protection from the inside out.
That’s what the Saints did when Bears general manager Ryan Pace was in their front office, Loggains points out. And it’s why the Bears have invested in Sitton and Long.
Tight ends and backs can assist tackles, but it’s hard to help guards, Loggains said. The Bears have elite guards, and they rave about rookie Cody Whitehair’s potential at center.
“It’s like baseball: You want to be strong down the middle,” he said.
The offensive line also has become more athletic, which allows for more zone blocking concepts, in which the line moves in unison.
“I would never classify us as a run-first team,” Loggains said. “But I’m not going to complain if that’s how the season plays out.”
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Loggains sees everything on game days. Unlike Gase, he’ll call plays from the press box.
“If I could not talk to [quarterback] Jay [Cutler] in his helmet, I would be on the field,” said Loggains, who called from both places for the Titans. “I trust our assistants a lot.”
And he trusts Cutler, who trusts him. They chat over FaceTime at all hours.
“I don’t worry about that I’m going to hurt his feelings,” said Loggains, who’s two years older than Cutler at 35.
Some of it stems from how Fox deals with Cutler, who had a career-best 92.3 passer rating last season.
“I’ve not seen anyone coach the quarterback the way that coach Fox does,” Loggains said. “He’s not afraid to say anything. But you know it’s coming from a place of, ‘Hey, I’m on your side.’ ”
Fox, who has historically picked his staffs well, is on Loggains’ side, too.
“He’s a very, very good young football coach who has a very bright future,” Fox said. “I think he’s done an outstanding job.”
Long working the phone
Guard Kyle Long isn’t just one of the Bears’ best players — he’s their best recruiter, doing things that former Bulls guard Derrick Rose famously refused to do.
Long was buzzing Josh Sitton’s phone almost immediately after it became known that the Green Bay Packers would release their veteran guard last week.
“He sent me a text pretty quickly,” Sitton said.
Long, who’s regarded well by other players and figures to continue to be a regular at the Pro Bowl and other league events, said he embraces a recruiting role and wouldn’t let himself become out of the loop on Sitton’s negotiations with the Bears.
“You just want to make sure that whatever you do, you never want to negatively impact your team from a public-perception standpoint,” Long said. “You never want to be a pain. And the thing you can do is, when the opportunity arises, you can use what you’ve earned to be able to sway people’s decisions.”
Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler spent 37 days this year working with local quarterbacks coach Jeff Christensen, who runs Throw It Deep academy.
Christensen has tutored a number of NFL quarterbacks, including current starters Jimmy Garoppolo (Patriots), Kirk Cousins (Redskins) and Trevor Siemian (Broncos). His strong suit is fundamentals, particularly footwork. Christensen said Osweiler has improved substantially.
“When he misses, he now misses in the right spot,” he said. “You’re going to miss. You’re going to throw incomplete passes. It’s the guys who miss and throw interceptions — that will get you beat.
“He’s putting the ball in the right spots and throwing guys open. I’m looking for a really big year [from him].
“And all the things that matter outside of playing the game, on scale of 1 to 100, I would put Brock’s intangibles at about a 92, if not higher.”
This past week, Bears rookies were moved from their basement locker room into the main one at Halas Hall.
Lockers are grouped by position. But guard-turned-center Cody Whitehair’s placement was significant, if not telling: He was set up between starting guards Sitton and Long.
“Off the field, I learn a lot from those guys, as far as studying,” Whitehair said. “And they’re always studying in here, too. It’s always good to be in between those two.”
Communication is instant.
“It helps coming off of practice, when it’s fresh in their mind, if they’re upset or they want to talk to you about something, to get settled in here,” Whitehair said.