A new world order: Bears ‘brainstorming’ cutting-edge offense for Mitch Trubisky
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On Oct. 2, 2010, Vic Fangio learned something about Mark Helfrich’s offensive philosophy. It was a lesson learned through a drubbing.
As Stanford’s defensive coordinator that season, it was Fangio’s job to slow down Oregon’s fast-paced spread offense, which was coordinated by Helfrich and called by then-coach Chip Kelly.
‘‘They were ahead of their time at that point,’’ said Fangio, the Bears’ defensive coordinator.
And the Ducks were ahead on the scoreboard, outscoring the Cardinal by 28 points in the second half en route to a 52-31 victory. It was Stanford’s only loss during a 12-1 season. Fangio’s defense pitched three shutouts that season in Pac-12 play.
Oregon’s impressive run eventually ended in a 22-19 loss to Auburn and quarterback Cam Newton in the BCS Championship Game.
‘‘They were at the no-huddle at a high-speed pace,’’ Fangio said. ‘‘The game was spread out more. They had — I don’t want to say an X and O advantage, but a method advantage that people hadn’t caught up to yet at that point. And they had good players doing it.
‘‘Now more and more people are doing it. It’s still a good scheme; it still has its good and bad points. But at that point, the newness was still in their favor.’’
But it will be new to the Bears. In fact, everything on offense will be under coach Matt Nagy and coordinator Helfrich. They don’t quite know what they’re building for quarterback Mitch Trubisky and Co., but they want to attack. They want to be innovative. They want to be cutting-edge.
It’s a playbook that will evolve through Trubisky’s successes and failures. But it’s safe to say it will be a more diverse approach because of all the influences Nagy and Helfrich bring with them.
Nagy learned the West Coast offense under Chiefs coach Andy Reid, but he said the Chiefs also implemented ‘‘some of the college stuff,’’ which included run-pass options. They wanted to be ‘‘new wave.’’
‘‘We were trying to be a little bit out of the box,’’ Nagy said.
Helfrich stood out to Nagy because of his experience with run-pass options at Oregon, where he was the offensive coordinator in 2009-12 and coach in 2013-16.
But Helfrich also spent eight years with Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter as his quarterbacks coach at Boise State and Arizona State. Koetter is a disciple of the ‘‘Air Coryell’’ system, a vertical passing attack.
Helfrich certainly faces an adjustment coming from college. But the NFL now is full of versions of spread offenses that have proliferated throughout college. That’s why Helfrich’s pairing with Nagy is an intriguing one.
‘‘You’ve seen what someone called ‘the trickle-up effect’ of college football to the NFL,’’ Helfrich said.
In a way, the Bears have been here before. Marc Trestman was hired after Lovie Smith to modernize the offense for Jay Cutler, but everything failed miserably.
There are important differences to consider, though, whether it’s the hiring process that landed Nagy and his staff, Nagy’s temperament compared to Trestman’s, the Bears’ ability to retain Fangio for the defense or the relatively blank slate that is Trubisky.
Helfrich also is a former quarterback who played a role in Marcus Mariota’s emergence and who has a reputation as an innovator. Aaron Kromer, who was Trestman’s offensive coordinator, previously had worked with the offensive line.
It’s early, but Nagy sounds open-minded to everything. He wants to learn from Helfrich, and Helfrich wants to learn from him. They have lots of ideas, and building an offense for Trubisky will be a collaborative effort.
Helfrich described the Bears’ offense as in an ‘‘infantile stage’’; Nagy said they’re still ‘‘brainstorming.’’
‘‘For us, that’s the fun part,’’ Nagy said.
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.