Josh Bellamy has not been popular with Chicago Bears fans since he has entered the league.
After going undrafted out of Louisville in the 2012 NFL Draft, Bellamy was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs. He appeared in three games that season, but failed to make any impact at all; he finished the season with a zero in the reception column. The next season he moved to the Washington Redskins, where he appeared in five games, but again failed to record a reception. Bellamy changed teams once again prior to the 2014 season when he became a member of the Chicago Bears. That season, Bellamy appeared in four games and, once again, failed to record a reception.
It was the 2015 season where Bellamy made his first on-field impact. The Bears kept Bellamy around for the 2015 season after he made a solid special teams contribution the season before. In 2015, Bellamy appeared in all sixteen games for the Bears while recording 19 receptions for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns.
In 2016, Bellamy saw a similar role when he, again, hauled in 19 passes, but this time for 282 yards and 1 touchdown. The next year, in 2017, he saw a larger role, catching 24 passes for 376 yards and 1 touchdown, while being a major special teams contributor for the team.
After seeing his stat lines, it may be difficult to see why Bellamy has fallen out of favor in the Windy City. Well, his reason for unpopularity is his seemingly eternal struggle with drops.
Over the course of his career, Bellamy has recorded 62 receptions on 119 targets. That translates into Bellamy hauling in catches on 52.1% of his targets. Obviously, the 47.9% of the time when Bellamy does not catch a pass that was intended for him is not completely his fault. A chunk of that percentage can be blamed on poor throws from the quarterback *cough cough Jay Cutler* or passes broken up by the defender. But, Bellamy has had many drops throughout his career with the Bears, which lead some Bears fans to give him the infamous nicknames “stone hands Bellamy” or “butter fingers Bellamy.”
I can specifically remember watching the 2016 Week 12 matchup between the Chicago Bears (home) and Tennessee Titans (away). The Bears, led by 3rd string QB Matt Barkley, found themselves down big at the beginning of the 4th quarter. The Bears fought back until they were down 27 to 21 with under a minute to play with the ball placed inside the Titan 10 yard line. Barkley’s first and second down throws each fell incomplete. On third & goal, Barkley saw Bellamy wide open in the right shallow side of the end zone. Barkley hit Bellamy with a bullet pass right between the numbers of his jersey, but the pass fell incomplete after Bellamy failed to make the catch. One play later, Barkley’s fourth down pass to the back of the end zone fell to the ground and the referee’s whistle blew both the play and the Bears’ hopes of winning the game dead. But even with the displeasure of the fans, there still might be hope for Bellamy’s career.
After the 2017 season concluded with a 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Bears general manager Ryan Pace knew it was time to move on from head coach John Fox and his archaic, ultra-conservative mentality. The Bears had posted a 14-34 record during the three years under the veteran head coach and had produced one of the league’s worst offenses. Pace knew that he had to get some help for QB Mitch Trubisky, who he had traded up one spot for and selected with the #2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. On January 8, 2018, one week after Fox’s firing, Pace hired 39-year-old Matt Nagy, who had spent the previous season as the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs, who had boasted one of the NFL’s best offenses. Nagy went on to retain the entire defensive staff as well as QB coach Dave Ragone from the Fox regime. Nagy then made impressive hires such as OL coach Harry Hiestand, and former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich as offensive coordinator. Pace had followed the blueprint of the 2017 Los Angeles Rams and the 2016 Philadelphia Eagles and created a great environment for a young quarterback.
Nagy and Helfrich, two young, clever offensive minds, can fuse together their respective philosophies to create a cutting edge offense for the Bears, including Josh Bellamy. Matt Nagy, an Andy Reid disciple, uses a version of the West Coast offense that utilizes short to medium range passes that allow pass catchers to gain yardage after the catch is made. Throughout his career, Bellamy has never had issues getting open. He also boasts a 40 yard dash time between 4.37 and 4.47 seconds. Both of these traits make him a great fit in the new Chicago offense. If newly hired WR coach Mike Furrey can coach up Bellamy to make him a better pass catcher, there could be a lot of good in store for the 29-year-old wideout.