Evaluating Dowell Loggains is more complicated than you think

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Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. | Nam Y. Huh/AP

A fun fact about the 2016 Bears: Their three victories have come with a different quarterback at the helm.

Brian Hoyer beat the Lions. Jay Cutler beat the Vikings. And Matt Barkley just beat the 49ers.

“The identity of your offensive unit goes through the quarterback,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said recently. “What are his strengths? What are his weaknesses? What does he do well?

“Our games changed when it was Jay to Brian and back to Jay and now to Matt. The offense evolves a little bit. People are asked to do different things.”

There’s more, of course.

The Bears started rookie Cody Whitehair at center — a position he didn’t play in college — with less than a week’s worth of preparation. They’re down to their fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh wide receivers because of injuries to Kevin White and Eddie Royal and Alshon Jeffery’s suspension. No. 1 tight end Zach Miller is out with a broken foot. Whitehair and left tackle Charles Leno Jr. are the only offensive players to start (and finish games) every week.

“Continuity, it has not existed,” Loggains said.

It’s not a watertight excuse. Injuries happen in the NFL. But the Bears’ attrition has been the worst in the NFC, and they’re implementing a youth movement.

It’s all part of the context in which Loggains’ first season as the Bears’ play-caller will be evaluated. If coach John Fox’s season gets an asterisk because of injuries, shouldn’t Loggains’?

Outside Halas Hall, Loggains has become an easy scapegoat for the Bears’ woes. But seriously evaluating his performance involves more than suggesting that he needs to run the ball more.

Fox’s defense of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on Wednesday also was a defense of Loggains.

“Going on our fourth quarterback, I couldn’t be more proud of our staff,” Fox said. “I’ll just leave it at I’m very, very pleased with our staff.”

Fox did go a step further, though.

“I want our whole staff back,” he said.

Former offensive coordinator Adam Gase maneuvered through injuries last season, but he still had Cutler under center for 15 games.

Loggains was promoted, in part, because of his relationship with Cutler, but three of Cutler’s five starts were hindered by his injuries.

Loggains and his staff’s best coaching arguably came without Cutler.

Hoyer didn’t produce enough wins, but he had the best stretch of his career in his four full starts before he broke his arm. It included a career-best completion percentage and no interceptions.

Starting Sunday in Detroit, the difficulty level increases for Barkley, but he appears to have resurrected his NFL career under Loggains.

In the six games that Hoyer and Barkley have started and finished, they’ve combined to complete 65 percent of their passes for 1,826 yards and nine touchdowns with two interceptions. They’ve been sacked only five times.

Again, more wins are needed, but the success of Hoyer and Barkley still speaks to Loggains’ ability to adjust.

Loggains has been criticized for not running enough, but rookie Jordan Howard still should surpass 1,000 rushing yards. Howard didn’t start until Week 4.

Overall, the Bears’ defense has been better than the offense. Fangio has handled injuries well. But both sides are culpable in the team’s 3-9 record.

Complementary football?

It’s a nice idea to discuss. But how is Hoyer supposed to complement the defense against the Cowboys in his first start when the team falls behind 24-3 in the first half.

Hoyer admitted he missed throws in the loss to the Colts, but the Bears still led 23-19 midway through the fourth quarter before the defense allowed 10 more points.

That’s the past, though.

For now, all eyes should be on Barkley. The better he plays against better competition, the more credit Loggains and his assistants deserve.

Loggains has embraced his reality.

“I see it as an opportunity to grow; I see it as a challenge,” he said. “This is what we’re dealing with.”


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