Five things we learned from Bears coach Matt Nagy and his coordinators
After what new Bears coach Matt Nagy called “a fun process” during an “exciting time,” he introduced his top lieutenants — defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich and special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor — on Thursday.
Here are five things we learned during their hour spent with the media at Halas Hall:
1. General manager Ryan Pace and quarterback Mitch Trubisky played important roles in Fangio’s return.
Nagy sealed the deal with Fangio, but Pace’s influence should not be overlooked. Fangio tried to downplay it, but they have developed a strong relationship in their three years together.
Pace first approached Fangio about interviewing for the Bears’ head-coaching job.
“It was a little piece in a big equation,” Fangio said of his relationship with Pace. “It was part of it, and that was a positive.”
Trubisky — who was drafted by Pace second overall — also was a positive part of that equation, Fangio said.
“Because I think he has a chance to be a really good player, regardless of who is coaching him,” Fangio said.
Why is that?
“No. 1, he’s got talent and you’ve got to have talent to play in this league at any position, but particularly that one,” Fangio said. “He’s a good worker. I think football is important to him. He’s athletic [and] has ability to improvise and make plays, which you see each and every week you watch games in the league. It’s an important quality to have. And he’s got good leadership skills and will be a good leader.”
2. On film, Helfrich sees a player in Trubisky who is very coachable.
Helfrich has started to meticulously go through game film of Trubisky’s rookie season and his time at North Carolina. So far, it’s the details that tell him the most about his new quarterback.
“You can tell a quarterback is coachable watching his feet and his eyes, and his eyes are deliberate,” said Helfrich, who was Oregon’s head coach from 2013 to ’16 and offensive coordinator from 2009 to ’12.
“They’re going from one to two to three [as far as reads]. Or I’m looking here, high-low on this guy. Whatever it is, they’re deliberate.”
Helfrich said Trubisky tends to be inaccurate for the same reason quarterback Marcus Mariota was at Oregon: bad footwork.
But Trubisky’s decision-making stood out to Helfrich. He highlighted Trubisky’s 4-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in college. Trubisky also had a low 2.1 interception rate as a rookie.
“That works. That’s a good thing,” Helfrich said. “We need to continue that. We can’t put the defense in a bad situation — our team in a situation — because there’s times in the NFL they’re going to get you.
“And I think a quarterback kind of has that innate ability to take care of the football versus turning it over when he, for lack of a better word, panics.”
3. Nagy’s decision to hire Helfrich was partly the result of a lesson he learned under Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
Helfrich stood out to Nagy because of his ability to coach quarterbacks.
“It’s a delicate position that has to be done the right way,” Nagy said.
But Helfrich also was an appealing candidate because he has a different background. Schematically speaking, Helfrich’s heavy use of run-pass options at Oregon excited Nagy.
Helfrich also learned the vertical, deep-passing “Air Coryell” system under Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter in college at Boise State and Arizona State.
“Coach Reid has always taught me the value of being able to work off of your weaknesses and bring somebody in who can help strengthen your weaknesses and you can do the same for them,” said Nagy, who also is expected to retain quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone. “It was a perfect fit.”
4. The Browns inexplicably didn’t scout running back/returner Tarik Cohen, but Tabor sees a special player.
Cohen’s presence made Tabor’s decision to return to the Bears — where he was an assistant under former special teams coordinator Dave Toub from 2008 to 2010 — a more exciting one.
“Any time you have a ‘guy,’ you’re always going to be excited, and when you don’t have one, then you’re in the process of developing one,” said Tabor, who spent seven seasons with the Browns. “You want to take a good player and make him great.”
Tabor, of course, knows plenty about returners, having coached Pro Bowl talents Devin Hester and Josh Cribbs. Cohen was named a Pro Bowl alternate this year as a returner.
Tabor said he and the Browns were nervous to punt and kick to “Employee No. 29” in the Bears’ 20-3 win on Christmas Eve.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Tabor said.
But he is also one that the Browns mistakenly didn’t scout last year.
“His name did not come across my desk at that time,” Tabor said.
5. Similar to the coordinators, the addition of well-respected offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is an important one.
The Bears didn’t introduce Hiestand with their coordinators, but he is arguably just as important.
Just ask Nagy, who lured Hiestand away from Notre Dame.
Nagy called Hiestand “a complete technician” and “an integral hire.”
“You talk anybody in college and/or the NFL, the amount of respect that he has as a coach and as a person is out of this world, and so, I want that,” Nagy said. “You have to have that guy [for the offensive line], and being able to get him really made me feel good.”
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