Chiefs’ and Bucs’ impressive coordinator trios give Bears something to shoot for
The two Super Bowl teams have head-coach-caliber assistants at all three coordinator positions, freeing up Andy Reid and Bruce Arians to think about the big picture.
Every Super Bowl, as the NFL pares down to its two best teams, the rest of the league takes notes on how it measures up.
The Bears have a long list of upgrades to make if they want to contend with the Chiefs and Buccaneers. Nothing stands out more than the gap at quarterback, but the Super Bowl teams’ coaching staffs are also something to which the Bears should aspire.
Not only do the Bucs and Chiefs have proven winners at the top in Bruce Arians (.619 career winning percentage, including playoffs) and Andy Reid (.623), respectively, but they’re stocked with coordinators who are head-coaching material.
While those coaches deserve head-coaching opportunities, especially Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, their teams have been fortunate to hang on to them.
‘‘The best guy in the world to work for is Andy Reid,’’ said Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who was the Rams’ head coach in 2009-11. ‘‘I’m very fortunate to have the job that I have.’’
With Bieniemy, Spagnuolo and special-teams coordinator Dave Toub — a longtime Bears assistant who interviewed for head-coaching vacancies with them, the Dolphins, the Chargers and the Broncos — in place, Reid is free to focus on big-picture issues.
Bieniemy, by the way, is in a position similar to where Bears coach Matt Nagy was when he worked for Reid. After three seasons as quarterbacks coach and two as coordinator, Nagy got the Bears’ job in 2018. Bieniemy spent five seasons as Reid’s running backs coach and is wrapping up his third as a coordinator.
Nonetheless, Bieniemy has become a symbol for Black coaches’ struggle to get a fair shot. Given the Chiefs’ incredible offense during his tenure, it’s inexplicable that no one has hired him. To his credit, his frustration hasn’t derailed his work.
‘‘Once that interview is over, it’s time to turn the page,’’ he said. ‘‘I can’t sit here and dwell in pity because . . . I have a responsibility to the Kansas City Chiefs.’’
Reid has campaigned for Bieniemy and said, ‘‘Whoever gets him — whenever they get him — will be very, very lucky,’’ but he has benefitted tremendously from being able to retain him.
Arians’ crew is equally impressive, with former Jets head coach Todd Bowles as defensive coordinator, rising star Byron Leftwich as offensive coordinator and veteran Keith Armstrong — a former head-coaching candidate for the Bears, Chiefs and Eagles — handling special teams.
Both coordinator trios stack up imposingly against Nagy’s staff. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has had a hit-and-miss career and was out of the league when Nagy hired him. Sean Desai is a first-time defensive coordinator at 37. Special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor is arguably Nagy’s most accomplished assistant.
Desai’s role is the most interesting and crucial. Because of his inexperience and the extreme high stakes of a win-or-get-fired season, Nagy might not be able to give him the autonomy enjoyed by predecessors Vic Fangio and Chuck Pagano.
Choosing the right defensive coordinator is typically one of the most difficult decisions for an offensive-minded head coach, and the Bucs seem to have found a match in Arians and Bowles.
‘‘You’re looking for someone who matches your personality and what you want out of your football team,’’ Arians said. ‘‘For us, it starts with, ‘Attack.’ We want to attack in all three phases. Todd does a great job of that.
‘‘I do trust him totally. The only time [I get involved] — and I have to do it very seldom — is I tell him to go cover-0 and blitz more. That’s about it.’’
That’s the kind of trust Nagy had with Fangio in 2018. Now he’s betting his job on the hope he can establish it with Desai, too.