The Chicago Bears announced Monday afternoon that former Bengals offensive coordinator Bill Lazor had been hired to replace the vacant spot at offensive coordinator left by Mark Helfrich. Other prominent candidates for the job included Chiefs quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka, who played college football at nearby Northwestern University, and former Giants coach Pat Shurmur, who was ultimately hired as the Broncos offensive coordinator yesterday. Shurmur will be joining the staff of former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Lazor certainly isn’t the most glamorous hire for Bears fans, but his track record should give them some optimism. He has been around the NFL since 2003, starting out as an offensive assistant and later becoming a quarterbacks coach for various teams. In 2014, Lazor got his first big break as offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins.
Under Lazor, former Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill had the best two seasons of his career, throwing for 4,000 yards twice, the only times he’s ever done so. Tannehill also posted a touchdown to interception ratio of 2 to 1 or better in both seasons, which, excluding this recent breakout year, were the best two years of his career. After being fired towards the end of the 2015 season, Lazor joined the Cincinnati Bengals coaching staff as a quarterbacks coach.
During Lazor’s only full year as the Bengals’ quarterbacks coach, Andy Dalton made his third and most recent Pro-Bowl appearance while throwing for 4,206 yards. After a sluggish 0-2 start to the 2017 campaign, Lazor replaced Ken Zampese as the team’s offensive coordinator. Lazor served two mediocre seasons as OC before being fired.
The general reaction to the Lazor hire by Bears fans was disappointment. Some may have wanted Pat Shurmur, the most marquee name and undoubtedly the candidate with the best track record. Others may have been pulling for Kafka, the hometown kid who played high school football a mere 20 minutes away from Soldier Field. Lazor’s association with an organization that just finished the season 2-14 may disgust Bears fans, but he spent this past season out of the NFL.
Despite Bears GM Ryan Pace stating that Mitch Trubisky will be the starting quarterback for the 2020 season, the Bears are expected to bring in a veteran quarterback to compete for the job. If things head south early in the season, the Bears may even look towards said veteran quarterback, as the Titans did this year with Ryan Tannehill. Two prospective names include Cam Newton and Marcus Mariota. After the Bears fired Mark Helfrich, Mariota’s former coach at Oregon, the chances that Mariota will sign his second NFL contract with the Chicago Bears are seeming less likely.
On the flip side, two quarterbacks’ names that have become mentioned less frequently are the aforementioned Andy Dalton and Texans backup AJ McCarron. Both quarterbacks played for the Bengals during Lazor’s tenure. McCarron is slated to become a free agent while Dalton is still under contract. However, it is extremely unlikely that Dalton will be a Bengal in 2020 partly due to the $17.7 million he is set to make. If the Bengals can’t find a suitor for Dalton, he will likely be released.
The hiring of Lazor means that there will likely be change to an offense that finished 29th in points scored, 29th in yards per game, and 31st in yards per play. While Lazor will be changing up the offense a little, the presence of Matt Nagy’s scheme will be very heavily felt as the former Coach of the Year will retain offensive play calling duties, a move that has frustrated some Bears fans. Only time will tell whether or not the Lazor hiring will play out well, but needless to say, it will be an anxious offseason for those faithful to the Monsters of the Midway.