OC Mark Helfrich finding his way in Chicago Bears offense

 
 
Updated 5/29/2018 7:33 PM
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  • Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, left, talks to quarterback Mitch Trubisky during OTAs last week. Helfrich is the Bears' new offensive coordinator, but it's head coach Matt Nagy's offense. Sure, Helfrich's fingerprints will eventually be prominently displayed on the playbook, but not right now. "They're on the playbook somewhere, and they're on the outside," said the innovative former Oregon head coach after a recent OTA (organized team activity) practice at Halas Hall.

    Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, left, talks to quarterback Mitch Trubisky during OTAs last week. Helfrich is the Bears' new offensive coordinator, but it's head coach Matt Nagy's offense. Sure, Helfrich's fingerprints will eventually be prominently displayed on the playbook, but not right now. "They're on the playbook somewhere, and they're on the outside," said the innovative former Oregon head coach after a recent OTA (organized team activity) practice at Halas Hall. Associated Press

Mark Helfrich is the Bears' new offensive coordinator, but it's head coach Matt Nagy's offense.

Sure, Helfrich's fingerprints will eventually be prominently displayed on the playbook, but not right now.

"They're on the playbook somewhere, and they're on the outside," said the innovative former Oregon head coach after a recent OTA (organized team activity) practice at Halas Hall. "This is 100-percent (Nagy's) system. That's part of being out here, too, with these guys, (understanding) the nuances of things, edits, the year-to-year editing that you do. That's a process that never ends. We're all a part of that, but this is absolutely his (offense). He's had a very successful track record for a long time, and we're supporting that 100 percent."

It's an offense Nagy developed over 10 years of working on Andy Reid's staffs in Philadelphia and Kansas City, including the most recent two seasons as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator. Helfrich spent the past eight years at Oregon, the first four as offensive coordinator and the last four as head coach. Now he'll have to become completely conversant in Nagy's system before he considers adding his own tweaks.

"He's learning a lot of it," Nagy said. "That's not going to happen overnight either. There's going to be different coverages. For every play that we have, there are seven different coverages that you can get on defense. You have to watch those plays seven different times before you can understand that one play. Well, we have hundreds and hundreds of plays. So it's gonna take time."

For now, Helfrich's contributions will be more nuanced; slight adjustment that will come from other coaches as well, as the Bears continue the installation phase of the offense during the offseason program.

"At this point, you're talking about a release, an angle of a release on a (pass) route that might change, or the width of a split, or a little schematic change on the interior of the offensive line," Helfrich said. "(It's) how you communicate things. Those are all things that change, they adapt. I think if it's something we can tweak a little bit and do differently or do better, I'll suggest it. If not I won't say anything."

In the offseason, GM Ryan Pace has provided Nagy and Helfrich with playmakers that were in short supply last season under the John Fox regime. WRs Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel came aboard in free agency, along with TE Trey Burton; and Memphis WR Anthony Miller was drafted in the second round.

They're all learning a new system, although Burton played in a similar scheme with the Eagles. Until Helfrich sees how each of the skill-position guys fits in the scheme, it's impossible to predict what the offense will look like, but as with any scheme, a few basics apply.

"You're trying to utilize playmakers, and have a bunch of different ways of doing similar things, to maximize a certain position or player," Helfrich said. "A lot is on the quarterback, as far as getting in the right play vs. the right look. (There is) a ton of pre-snap communication. It's different from what any of these guys have done before."

Obviously playing to each individual's strengths will be accentuated, and that's most important for QB Mitch Trubisky.

"You're always going to play to that guy's strengths, right?" Helfrich said. "If he can't do it, we're not very smart to try to do something that we think is some great, fancy scheme -- and we won't. But, by the same token, we're going to push and prod and poke and see what's in there, and so far, he's done a lot of good things."

• Bob LeGere is a senior writer at Pro Football Weekly. Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter @BobLeGere or @PFWeekly.

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