By Chris Emma-
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — For years, the Bears failed to find an offensive coordinator who could get on the same page with franchise quarterback Jay Cutler.
Frustration came often for Cutler when Mike Tice got calls in too late. Cutler would yell back at the stubborn Mike Martz, who wouldn’t let him audible. The divorce with Aaron Kromer came suddenly after a leak to an NFL Network reporter, then Marc Trestman benched Cutler in an effort to save face.
Finally, the Bears found a fit in Adam Gase, who brought out better efficiency in Cutler in 2015. Still, the Bears knew Gase would be gone after a year, and he was eventually off to Miami to lead the Dolphins. After that, there was no doubt the replacement would be quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.
Through OTAs, mini-camp and now the first week of training camp, it’s clear that Cutler and Loggains are a quality match.
“It’s like Jay and mini-Jay,” Bears guard Kyle Long said of the quarterback and coordinator.
Now 33 and in his eighth season with the Bears, Cutler remains a fiery competitor. His passion was often misplaced or misconstrued when the offense stalled and he wasn’t seeing eye to eye with coordinators in years past. In 2015, that changed, as Gase and Loggains put Cutler in a better position to succeed.
Upon Gase’s departure, Cutler’s influence was the primary reason to promote Loggains. They’re competitive, intelligent and like-minded.
“I hate saying this,” Loggains joked, “We’re probably a little bit more similar than I’d like to be.”
Loggains is a week into his first training camp leading the Bears’ offense. He’s just 35 — two years older than Cutler — and entering his second stint as an offensive coordinator. He served in that role for the Titans in 2012 and 2013.
At some point this season, Cutler will throw a maddening interception and Loggains will approach him with some abrasiveness. Simply put, it’s how these two personalities work at times. They have an open relationship and understanding that allows for what Cutler termed as “honesty” between the two.
Bears coach John Fox had no problem trusting Loggains with the keys to the car. The Cutler connection was vital, but, more so, the Bears can continue on with what Gase started last season.
In leading the offense, Loggains will simply evolve Gase’s schemes into his own. Cutler, Long and others have each attested to how simple the transition has been.
“He’s getting better and better,” Cutler said. “I think he’s getting more comfortable with his role, what this team has and how to use it.”
What’s different for Loggains is that he’ll (ideally) have playmakers to work with. Gase’s offense last season became conservative by nature because Kevin White missed the entire season, Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal each missed seven games, the tight end position switched from Martellus Bennett to Zach Miller, the offensive line was in flux and so on.
Gase managed to bring competence to an offense that constantly had moving parts. Loggains should have weapons in the arsenal. In a perfect world, Jeffery and White are healthy deep ball threats for 16 games this season, Jeremy Langford can carry the load in the backfield, Miller can be a threat at tight end and the offensive line will stay steady.
Some semblance of consistency for the offensive personnel will allow Loggains to take the Bears from a conservative style to a more aggressive attack.
Of course, Jeffery and White are the two most important pieces. While Jeffery nurses what’s being called a minor hamstring strain, White is emerging as a major threat. In Wednesday’s practice, he made a tremendous catch deep downfield, with his speed pulling away from defenders.
“Whatever Dowell draws up, however Jay wants to run it, that’s what we got to do,” White said.
Eventually, Loggains will make his own adjustments to the Gase schemes. For now, he’s keeping it comfortable. The Bears are able to stay steady with their work because of the simplicity transitioning from Gase to Loggains.
The Bears offense will continue to evolve from the Gase system to perhaps something even stronger led by Loggains and operated by Cutler. They’re just getting started in training camp.
“It’s gotten better,” Cutler said. “He’s kind of a fine wine, better with age.”