Bears QBs coach John DeFilippo steps into complicated, crowded quarterbacks room

With Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky angling for the starting job, DeFilippo is one of at least four voices they’ll be hearing often.

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John DeFilippo was an NFL offensive coordinator with three teams before joining the Bears as quarterbacks coach.

John DeFilippo was an NFL offensive coordinator with three teams before joining the Bears as quarterbacks coach.

Bruce Kluckhohn/AP

On paper, landing John DeFilippo as quarterbacks coach is a great get for the Bears. He has been an offensive coordinator for three teams and had put together an impressive enough career that the Bears interviewed him for their head-coaching vacancy in 2018. Plus, he already had two seasons working with new quarterback Nick Foles.

But it’s never as simple as it looks.

DeFilippo joins a revamped offensive staff under coach Matt Nagy and a new chorus of voices in the ear of Mitch Trubisky, as well as Foles.

He’ll essentially be one of four co-quarterback coaches — the others being offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, passing game coordinator Dave Ragone and Nagy — who need to keep their message straightforward and streamlined enough for Trubisky and Foles to follow.

Organizing that aspect of the job might be almost as difficult as molding Trubisky or Foles into a viable starter.

“The first thing is there is no agenda there with all of us,” DeFilippo said.

“I think we all know our roles. . . . It’s a very positive atmosphere in terms of there’s a lot of ideas being thrown out there.

“If I throw an idea out there, and coach Lazor or coach Nagy doesn’t like it, no one’s sticking their tail between their legs and taking their ball and going home. There’s not a lot of sensitivity there. . . . Coach Nagy’s done a fantastic job of defining what everybody’s roles are going to be.”

One complication will be navigating pre-existing relationships as they try to form an objective assessment of whether Foles or Trubisky should be the starter.

DeFilippo was Foles’ offensive coordinator with the Jaguars last season and his quarterbacks coach with the Eagles in 2017, and Lazor was Foles’ position coach in Philadelphia when he had a career year in 2013. Ragone had been Trubisky’s quarterbacks coach since the day the Bears drafted him.

Fittingly, Nagy has ties with both. He has been loyal to — albeit soberly critical of — Trubisky the last two seasons. He also was the offensive coordinator in Kansas City when Foles was there in 2016 and factored heavily in the Bears’ decision to trade a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for him.

DeFilippo enters the picture optimistic about both players. While the bulk of the competition is on hold until players actually take the field, which is expected to be late next month for the start of training camp, he has done some virtual work with the quarterbacks.

He hasn’t coached Trubisky but knows his game well. He scouted him before interviewing with the Bears in 2018 and again in this job. They had a long Zoom call this offseason to discuss where he stands. Reading defenses, which Nagy highlighted as a concern at the end of last season, was a prominent topic.

“I had a really good conversation on what he does well and what he feels like he struggles with,” DeFilippo said. “I think there is a routine to calling the play and [getting] the ball in your hand until you release the football. We’re going to continue to work on that with Mitch, and obviously just the defensive recognition and all those things.”

As for Foles, he played only four games under DeFilippo last season. Fresh off signing a four-year, $88 million deal, Foles suffered a broken left clavicle early in the season opener and was out until November. The Jaguars reinstated him as their starter when he returned but quickly benched him for Gardner Minshew.

“The thing Nick needs to do is just come in here and embrace the situation he’s in,” DeFilippo said. “I mean, he’s in a really good situation again with people that he knows. He’s in a situation where he’s battling with a guy that’s a fantastic player and a fantastic person, so it’s not going to be one of those cutthroat competitions where it’s going to be uncomfortable.”

Again, though, facilitating that battle is only part of the equation.

With Trubisky, DeFilippo has to accelerate a development that has been too slow for everyone’s liking -after the Bears picked him No. 2 overall. He showed progress in 2018, then dipped across the board last season and finished with an 83.0 passer rating.

For Foles, it’s more a matter of getting him back to what worked when he made the Pro Bowl in 2013 or when he caught fire in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run and followed it with a solid five-game fill-in the next season.

They’re two very different quarterbacks at very different stages in their careers, and DeFilippo must find a way to get the most out of both of them. Sure, there will be a host of coaches coming in and out of the quarterbacks room, but DeFilippo is the one the players will be hearing from the most. Whatever they do this season, it’ll start with him.

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