Bears' new offensive coaches ready to accept roles
When the Bears finally reconvene inside Halas Hall, there will be four former quarterbacks trying to fix whatever went wrong with Mitch Trubisky last season.
Or they'll settle on the alternative, turning the offense over to veteran Nick Foles, who was added in a trade from Jacksonville.
The panel of judges includes head coach Matt Nagy, new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, new quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and pass game coordinator Dave Ragone, who spent the past four years as the Bears' QB coach.
Lazor and DeFilippo spoke to reporters Wednesday when the Bears made offensive assistant coaches available.
"I think the first thing is there's no agenda there with all of us," DeFilippo said. "I think we all know our roles. I was in a very similar situation in Philadelphia with Frank Reich and Doug Pederson, so I know kind of how to operate in this atmosphere and it's a good atmosphere to have. There's a lot of ideas being thrown out there."
All four of the coaches mentioned above played quarterback. Nagy (Delaware), Lazor (Cornell) and DeFilippo (James Madison) were college starters at the FCS level. Ragone was a three-year starter at Louisville and a third-round draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2003.
Lazor and DeFilippo each have a history with Foles. DeFilippo was quarterback coach in Philadelphia the year Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory, and was the offensive coordinator in Jacksonville last season when Foles played just four games due to injury. Lazor was QB coach during Foles' first stint in Philadelphia, when he battled Michael Vick for the starting job.
"Well, I've been a part of certainly lots of competitions," Lazor said. "I don't know if it sounds like a cliché, but you just have to let the thing play out. You've got to let guys earn it. Sometimes your gut tells you, sometimes it helps to look at the statistics every day. You just take in all the information."
Lazor also has a bit of history with Trubisky. He was working at the University of Virginia and paid a recruiting visit to Trubisky's coach at Mentor High School outside of Cleveland.
DeFilippo was asked if the quarterback competition will be an equal 50-50 proposition once the Bears open training camp.
"I think so, for sure," he said. "Now Mitch is going to start off, it's been well-documented, with the first string when we go out there. But this is as open competition as I've been involved in for sure."
Both Lazor and DeFilippo talked about the process of helping Trubisky, who is headed into his fourth pro season, get better. Their suggestions ran the complete gamut of a quarterback's job description, from mechanics to attitude to others around him performing better. DeFilippo explained his request that signalcallers play with some "juice."
"Passion, energy and swagger, baby. That's what we're defined as in our room," DeFilippo said. "We have a passion for the game. We have a ton of energy with the same people every day. Then we walk around with a little bit of swagger to ourselves in terms of we know we're the best quarterback room in the National Football League.
"It doesn't mean that we go out and we're cocky and arrogant. It just means we have a swagger about ourselves that the only people that can beat us is if we beat ourselves."
Lazor spent two years as offensive coordinator in both Miami and Cincinnati. He was between jobs last season when he spent a couple of days visiting with the Bears' coaching staff, so he has familiarity with Nagy. And he knows ultimately, Nagy has final say in play-calling and how the offense runs.
"One of the most impressive things about coach Nagy is the very quick willingness to evaluate himself, to humble himself and to ask the question, 'Did I make the right call here? Am I doing it the right way?' And opening himself up to criticism," Lazor said.
"I've been in good staff rooms and I've been in staff rooms that weren't a lot of fun. To me, this was a really good staff room in the spring. We have a leader (Nagy) who's open to evaluating and wants to get better."