The Bears are expected to hire Bill Lazor as their new offensive coordinator, replacing Mark Helfrich, who was one of three offensive assistants fired by Matt Nagy following the team’s four-win regression to 8-8 last season.
Lazor, 47, has four years of coordinating experience at the NFL level, most recently in 2018 with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he spent 2016-18 helping in the development of three-time Pro Bowler and potential free agent QB Andy Dalton. Lazor coordinated the Miami Dolphins in 2014-15, working with Ryan Tannehill, who set a franchise record with 392 completions and tossed a career-high 27 touchdowns in their first season together.
The well-traveled Lazor, once a record-breaking Cornell QB, has been an NFL quarterbacks coach in Cincinnati (2016), Philadelphia (2013), Seattle (2008-09) and Washington, cutting his teeth under Dan Reeves and Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs, in addition to former Super Bowl-winning coach Mike Holmgren.
Lazor’s new role in Chicago is likely to be a hybrid between QB coach and offensive coordinator. Nagy has given no indications he’ll cede play calling despite a major step backward on offense last season, ranking last in the NFL in passing, 31st in yards per play and 29th in points.
It’s worth noting that Lazor has no connections to the Andy Reid tree, from which Nagy found Bears new O-line coach Juan Castillo last week. The Bears also hired 15-year NFL coaching veteran Clancy Barone — like Lazor in his first job with Nagy — to coach tight ends. None of the three worked in the NFL last season.
Lazor will bring some different scheme backgrounds to Halas Hall, having worked in Air Coryell in addition to West Coast and Spread systems. Like Helfrich, he’s another former assistant of Chip Kelly hired by Nagy as coordinator with plenty of RPO, spread and play-calling experience but unlikely to call plays.
Lazor was named Bengals interim offensive coordinator in Week 3 of the 2017 season and helped spark a slumping Dalton and Bengals offense that had been shut out in its first two games. Under Lazor’s guidance, Dalton tossed 25 touchdowns against eight interceptions in the final 13 games, when the offense averaged 20.1 points.
There was already some dot connecting between Dalton and the Bears this offseason. The 32-year-old Bengals career passing TD leader has no remaining guaranteed money on his contract but would save the Bengals $19M in cap space if he’s released.
In 2013, Lazor was the Eagles QB coach under Kelly who oversaw Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles’ NFL breakout season including an NFL-leading TD percentage (8.5), yards per attempt (9.1) and 119.2 passer rating that remains the third highest in league history. Foles, who also worked with Nagy in Kansas City in 2016, lost the starting job to Gardner Minshew last season after signing a four-year, $88 million contract, making him very difficult to move.
The Bears remain committed to former No. 2 overall pick Mitch Trubisky despite his stark Year 3 regression yet don’t have any other quarterbacks under contract. After flopping in their centennial season that began with Super Bowl talk, the pressure is mounting to maximize a playoff-ready defense in 2020, starting with improved QB play and a much-improved offense.
Nagy thinks he’s made the necessary fixes to his coaching staff. Without the necessary personnel upgrades in and around the QB corps, they’re unlikely to be enough.