By Robert Zeglinski
It wasn’t long ago that Jay Cutler enjoyed his best professional campaign with a 92.3 passer rating in 2015. Cutler helped lead the Bears to a surprising 6-10 in John Fox’s first season as head coach. Cutler did it thanks to the tutelage of a young Adam Gase at offensive coordinator, who was looking for a springboard to a head coaching gig himself after being passed over for during the 2015 off-season. There’s no better way to sell yourself as the mastermind of an organization than making Cutler, of all quarterbacks, look consistently competent.
Gase channeled his work with Cutler into a head coaching job with the Dolphins after one season at Halas Hall. He brought Cutler along with him a year later in 2017, trying to get the band back together. It’s not often you see a 6-10 team lauded so much, but those upstart Bears did deserve praise for how they were able to fight thanks to Gase’s stabilization. While the Cutler-Gase reunion didn’t quite work out, you’d be remiss if you thought Gase didn’t appreciate how Cutler helped get him set up in South Beach.
“I don’t care what anyone says,” Gase said to the Palm Beach Post early last October in defense of Cutler. “I’m going to do what I want to do, and what is best for the team. That is how we operate. That is how we did it last year.”
That fiery relationship started with the Bears and helps Gase come full circle and head-to-head with the organization that helped him land a full-time headset this Sunday in Miami. Not many positive things came about from the 14-win era of Fox. Gase’s launch into a relatively successful career, even amongst the rampant failure, can’t be ignored.
It also wasn’t too long ago that Dowell Loggains was trying to make it work with three separate quarterbacks in one season from Cutler, to Brian Hoyer, to Matt Barkley in 2016. Those Bears finished 3-13 but it was through no fault of Loggains as Gase’s successor at offensive coordinator, and certainly not for a lack of effort on his part. The 2016 Bears were 15th overall in offense despite a franchise-worst record in a 16-game season. 15th overall despite a carousel of quarterbacks and no established, consistent offensive identity, beyond giving the ball to Jordan Howard and hoping, praying, he would find a hole to run through. The Bears were competitive in more games than they should’ve been then, like in a late-season 30-27 defeat to the Packers where Barkley threw for 362 yards in relief. All thanks to Loggains.
How the Bears were able to stay afloat offensively was because of how similar Loggains was to his predecessor. It was the continuity, the offensive west coast roots, and the youth of both offensive minds that resonated with Bears quarterbacks in 2015 and 2016.
“I hate saying this,” Loggains joked to CBS two years ago. “We’re probably a little bit more similar than I’d like to be.”
Most will remember Loggains for the run-run-pass Bears offense debacle of 2017 that deliberately hindered Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie campaign, and rightfully so. That, however, ignores the fact of how much Loggains’ boss in Fox had dominion over the hamstringing game-plan as revealed by The Ringer’s Kevin Clark. Tension that permeated and never let the 38-year-old Loggains unleash the same kind of success he enjoyed in 2016.
“I remember we ran another trick play against the Vikings,” Loggains said. “And Coach Fox says, ‘Is this the reverse thing? This better work. I don’t know about this,’ and I had to say, ‘It’s gonna work!’”
That tumultuous relationship started in Chicago with the Bears and helps Loggains come full circle and head-to-head with the organization that let him reestablish somewhere else in the NFL. The Bears offense was an aberration last year, but even the Dolphins could see it didn’t have much to do with a lack of ingenuity from Loggains. If anything, he may have been a moderately lit light amidst the shadows of Fox’s over-conservative mindset.
Together, the duo of Gase as Dolphins head coach and Loggains at offensive coordinator face the Bears for the first time in a new gig this Sunday. Together, they face their ultimate Chicago successor in Matt Nagy. The man that’s theoretically supposed to be better at everything in offensive scheming and overall leadership than they ever were.
Saying that so firmly and declaratively of Nagy pushes off relevant modern history for the Bears, though.
If not for Gase, the man many had clamored for as head coach in the midst of Fox’s ineptitude, the Bears never have a baseline to work with at quarterback. If not for Loggains, the Bears don’t have a foundation to work with as to build an ideal offense around Trubisky and take their attack into the 21st century after his ouster. If the Bears weren’t there for both Gase and Loggains, the two never land on their feet in a more comfortable, sunny setting. This is as give-and-take of a relationship as it gets in the NFL: all three sides benefitting off each other.
Watch Nagy coordinate and play-call this Sunday and appreciate the charismatic strategy he brings to the table for the Bears. A brand of football not seen around Chicago for a long time. None of it happens without the assistance of the two main offensive men on the opposing, beaming Miami sideline.
Robert is an editor, writer, and producer. Read more of his work at The Blitz Network. You can find him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.