As Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy grows, he must take QB Justin Fields with him

Getsy is out to prove he’s head-coaching material, and if he can spur Fields and the offense to leap forward next season, he’ll get the opportunity he covets.

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Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy coaching during practice.

Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy is aiming for his breakthrough as a head coach.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

MOBILE, Ala. — Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy considered himself a mastermind years ago, long before any NFL team thought about hiring him.

After a nice run as Akron’s quarterback and a training-camp stint with the 49ers, Division II West Virginia Wesleyan signed him to be their offensive coordinator for about $30,000. Getsy practically strutted into the job.

“I was a know-it-all,” he said with a laugh. “You’re the 24-year-old that thinks you know everything and you’ve figured it out.

“Then they start asking you questions and you don’t have answers.”

It was humbling and illuminating. Getsy ended up taking a fairly conventional path of working up from grad assistant to position coach to coordinator, but his stop at Wesleyan gave him an early glimpse of what he wanted to become.

“I learned more about myself as a coach that year than any other year,” he said. “It was an opportunity to really put myself in the fire and challenge myself to learn the entire thing, not just the quarterback.”

Fifteen years into his career, with influences ranging from Dave Wannstedt to Matt LaFleur, he’s as confident as ever — but with much more basis for it. And that’s good because he’s trying to solve a problem that has hindered the Bears for much of their modern existence: scoring.

If Getsy has the answer, he’ll get the head-coaching job he has coveted.

He got an interview with the Broncos last year, but that feels like forever ago to him after everything he picked up from coach Matt Eberflus this season.

“I’m so much more tuned in and dialed into the whole package,” he said. “Way more prepared for when that opportunity does come.”

Given that the Bears stripped their roster and had a second-year quarterback in Justin Fields, whose rookie season was mostly wasted, Getsy’s first season was good. The offense started slowly but averaged 25.3 points over a seven-game span before crumbling because of injuries.

But the criteria gets stricter now that the teardown is done. Like everyone else at Halas Hall, Getsy will be graded on concrete results like wins, points and Fields’ production next season rather than unmeasurable progress like “establishing championship habits,” as Eberflus says.

At the moment, he doesn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle. When asked this week, while he’s coaching the American team at the Senior Bowl, about scheming for next season, he asked the same thing everyone wants to know from general manager Ryan Poles: “Who do we have?”

The biggest component, though, is Fields. He’ll have as much at stake as Getsy next season.

“It’s important that you find that relationship,” Getsy said. “You lay it out and you put the work in and you find this trust between the two of you, and then that trust continues to grow.”

Fields took a step under Getsy this season, but it’s time to make a leap.

Going into his third season, and playing for an administration that didn’t draft him, he’s short on time. He was the most electric runner at his position this season and improved in his efficiency as a passer, but the passing production wasn’t there.

He averaged 149.5 yards passing per game, which was last among qualifying quarterbacks and simply not viable. It’s great that Fields can run like no other, but as Getsy noted this week, that needs to be merely a part of his game rather than the majority of it.

In some ways, this season wasn’t all that different from Getsy’s immersion as offensive coordinator at Wesleyan. A lot of it was new. He’d never worked with Eberflus, nor any of his position coaches. He inherited a quarterback fresh off a year of dysfunction under Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.

And he made it work.

Now, for the Bears’ sake and his own, he needs to make it better.

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