The biggest challenge of Dowell Loggains’ young offensive coordinator career looks a lot like the one Adam Gase failed last year.
Like Gase, Loggains lost quarterback Jay Cutler to a Week 2 injury. Like Gase, he’ll lean on a backup quarterback to try to win a road game and avoid an 0-3 start.
“I guess it was very similar in Week 3,” tight end Zach Miller said. “Hopefully we perform better than we did going out there.”
It will be hard to do worse. The Bears lost 26-0 in Seattle in Week 3 last year. They trailed 6-0 at halftime, as Gase tried to turn each possession into a rugby scrum; Jimmy Clausen went 9-for-17 for 63 yards.
The Bears punted on all 10 possessions, and were shut out for the first time since 2002.
“We had a delay of game on the first play,” tight end Zach Miller said Thursday after practice at Halas Hall. “I remember that, yeah.
“I feel like we’re in a better place than we were going out.”
Loggains’ offense has scored only 21 points this season, all in the first half. But the Cowboys defense isn’t last year’s Seahawks, and Hoyer’s 15-11 record as a starter dwarfs that of Clausen, who was 1-13 when he took the field in Seattle.
After Week 1, the Bears spoke of how hard it was to incorporate two offensive line starters — rookie Cody Whitehair and the recently signed Josh Sitton — in under a week. Sunday’s challenge is greater: to build a game plan around backup Brian Hoyer, who figures to start because of Jay Cutler’s sprained right thumb.
For added difficulty: receiver Alshon Jeffery sat out Thursday’s practice with a knee injury.
“If you do go through quarterback changes, it is different than doing other positions,” Loggains said. “But we’ve had different challenges every game up through the first two games, whatever position it may be in juggling that way. So having some experience with Brian, if he was the guy that ends up playing, definitely helps.”
Hoyer started 13 games for Loggains in 2014 when the latter was the Browns quarterbacks coach. When they reunited, Loggains discovered a more confident player; Hoyer led the Texans to the playoffs last year.
Even as the backup earlier this season, Hoyer would brainstorm with Loggains about Bears plays he liked best.
“You want to have that comfort level,” Hoyer said. “I want him to know what plays I like, what plays I’m not so familiar with.”
Loggains’ offense still lacks an identity. At this time last year, by contrast, Gase was already considered a top offensive mind, having come close to landing two head coaching jobs. At the end of last season, the Dolphins won out — from a long line of suitors.
“I think anything at this level is a little bit of a challenge, especially with the moving parts,” Miller said. “(Loggains) getting used to being able to call the game and just get into a rhythm — figure out where he wants to put guys in position to use his matchups. He’s doing a good job of it. We’re gonna get better.”
Despite the challenge, coach John Fox said Loggains’ planning was “business as usual” this week.
“I think any time you’re trying to improve your roster or adjust to injury, that’s all part of coaching,” he said. “I think there are a lot of teams in the league going through that, if not this week, they will in the future. And they probably have already.”
The Bears lived it at the same time last year. If Loggains gets the same Week 3 result as his predecessor did in 2015, there is some solace: the Bears recovered from the shutout, and so did Gase’s reputation.