Back in January, before the Bears promoted Dowell Loggains from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, CSNChicago.com took an advance look at Loggains and how he might fit with Jay Cutler were the Bears to make Loggains yet another in the long list of coordinators for Cutler. With the start of training camp at hand, a longer look at this pivotal coach-player situation comes into focus.
No change made by the Bears this offseason carries the weight of the one moving Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator to replaced departed Adam Gase. Quarterback Jay Cutler is coming off the best statistical season of his career, founded on the ball-security foundation instilled by Gase and Loggains. The Gase-to-Loggains succession plan projects to catapult Cutler, and with him the offense, to a next level.
For now, as they were when Mike Martz, Aaron Kromer and others took the Chicago O.C. job, all the right things are being said:
From Loggains on Cutler’s improvement under Gase and himself: “I don’t think Adam or I should take the credit,” Loggains said. “I think Jay made the choice to improve and work on the things that we asked him to work on. And I hope that process continues.”
From Cutler: “I’ve known Dowell like I’ve known Adam, for a long time… . The backbone of this offense is still the same. Even if Adam was here I think we still would have changed some stuff and got better in certain areas. So we’re just kind of continuing down that road.”
But Cutler having a positive relationship with an incoming coach means…nothing.
Indeed, his history is not encouraging, even with coaches he ostensibly thought highly of coming in, even ones already on staff or had worked with him previously.
Mike Tice was promoted from offensive line coach to coordinator when Mike Martz was fired after the 2011 season, Cutler’s previous best for avoiding interceptions. Tice had been instrumental in balancing the offense in 2010 when Martz’s schemes and protections were getting Cutler annihilated.
But by mid-2012, Cutler’s relationship and communications with Tice had deteriorated to the point of backup Josh McCown needing to serve as go-between.
Notably, the 2012 friction was developing even as the Bears were on their way to a 10-6 season, and with Jeremy Bates having been hired as quarterbacks coach. That was based in part on Bates’ relationships with Cutler from a 2006-08 overlapping stint with the Denver Broncos. Cutler’s relationship with Tice was toxic, and Bates went down along with Tice and the rest of Lovie Smith’s staff after that season.
The Bears have added Dave Ragone, a member of the Tennessee Titans staff with Loggains and having played two NFL games in 2003. But the Bears’ offense will turn on the Cutler-Loggains axis and it relationship elements, both football and inter-personal.
“There’s definitely some honesty there,” Cutler said, smiling. “He’s not afraid to tell me when I’m completely wrong and rightfully so. I like to tell him whenever I think we’re not doing things right or we need to change things.
“I think at the core of that we kind of cut through some stuff and we get things done a little bit quicker… .No one’s really sensitive. We just try to get it done.”
When Gase talked, Cutler listened. Will Cutler’s receptors stay open when something goes wrong, as something invariably will sometime in an NFL season? That is on Cutler, and his openness to yet another coordinator was at the root of his improvement to a career-best passer rating of 92.3.
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Loggains has been notably vocal during open practices, with more than Cutler alone. That is a departure from Gase’s demeanor, although Gase was more than capable of tough love when anyone on his side of the football needed it.
“I think it’s a mutual respect,” Loggains said of his Cutler relationship. “I think I respect him and he respects me. I think that when you have that mutual respect then all dialogue is legal. So whatever I say to him, he knows where it’s coming from and vice versa.”
Some questions hanging over Loggains have less to do with Loggains himself, but rather his background.
Gase came to the Bears from two years as offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos under John Fox. Gase, quarterbacks coach for the preceding two seasons, moved into that job when Mike McCoy was hired to coach the San Diego Chargers.
The Denver gig included three seasons working with Peyton Manning. While Manning needed scant coaching at that point in his career, the point was less how much Gase coached Manning as much as what Gase brought with him from his time with Manning. Gase knew from up close what a Hall of Fame quarterback looked like.
Loggains’ NFL career stops have accorded him time with no one approaching Manning’s stature. Not surprisingly, in time with three different teams, Loggains has not been involved with an offense that ranked in the top half of the league:
|2015||Bears||QB||21st ydg, 21st pass, 23rd pts.|
|2014||Browns||QB||27th pass, 27th pts.|
|2013||Titans||O.C.||21st ydg, 21st pass, 19th pts.|
|2012||Titans||QB/O.C.||26th ydg, 22nd pass, 23rd pts.|
|2011||Titans||QB||17th ydg, 15th pass, 21st pts.|
The Tennessee Titans’ quarterbacks during Loggains’ years there were Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. The 2014 Browns put up the seventh-highest passing yardage in franchise history, with Brian Hoyer, Connor Shaw and Johnny Manziel as their quarterbacks.
No slight of any of the quarterbacks, but a point around Loggains might be not how little the offenses achieved in his time with them, but rather, how much.
“I think that I’ve had an opportunity working with Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland and Adam Gase this last year, obviously there’s stuff I’ve taken from both of them,” Loggains said. “Going back in the quarterback room, I think it was good for me. It was a good experience. Things you obviously change are, ‘hey, in Tennessee I like the way we did this and we’ll bring that here. In Cleveland, I like the way we did whatever.’. So it’s gaining knowledge from being around other people and being in different situations.”
With the start of Notre Dame preseason camp fast approaching, we’re looking at what to expect from each unit that’ll take the field in primetime Sept. 4 against Texas at Darrell K. Royal Stadium.
1A. DeShone Kizer (Redshirt sophomore)
1B. Malik Zaire (Redshirt junior)
2. Brandon Wimbush (Sophomore)
3. Ian Book (Freshman)
All eyes will be on Notre Dame’s quarterback competition in August, with coach Brian Kelly saying after spring practice Kizer and Zaire were entering the summer on an even playing field. Zaire needed the spring to catch up to Kizer in terms of some of the offensive wrinkles installed after his season-ending ankle injury in the second week of the season.
Both quarterbacks will get an opportunity to win the starting job during preseason camp, though the slight edge has to go to Kizer given his experience (11 starts) against that of Zaire (three starts). While Zaire’s potential remains high (he did, after all, quarterback Notre Dame’s best win of the season last year, that 38-3 shellacking of Texas), Kizer showed last fall plenty of the traits Kelly has wanted out of a quarterback since arriving in South Bend in December of 2009. Kizer takes coaching well and rarely made the same mistakes on a week-to-week basis, and he accounted for 31 touchdowns with some solid other numbers, too.
That’s not to say Zaire can’t win the job next month, but he probably has more of an uphill climb to earn it than Kizer does.
Biggest question: When will a starting QB be announced?
Kelly said during spring practice he wants his offense to form an identity around a starting quarterback, so don’t expect this decision to drag on until right before kickoff of the Texas game (Ohio State’s handling of the Cardale Jones-J.T. Barrett competition last year stands as a lesson in how to not make a quarterback and an offense comfortable). The preseason camp portion of Notre Dame’s August practices usually runs for about two weeks, so with a start date of Aug. 6, expect Kelly to announce a starter sometime after Aug. 20.
Whether that announcement becomes public is another question, but Kizer, Zaire and Notre Dame’s offense likely will have have about two weeks of practice/meetings before the Texas game knowing who their starting quarterback is.
Wimbush appeared in two games last year, with Kelly, Mike Sanford & Co. seeing the necessity to burn his redshirt to get him in-game reps in case he needed to take meaningful snaps in a College Football Playoff race. Kelly in the spring walked back a comment he made in February about planning to redshirt Wimbush this fall, but if Kizer and Zaire both stay healthy, Notre Dame would probably prefer to keep the talented sophomore on the sidelines in 2016.
Book enrolled in Notre Dame this summer with far less hype than his predecessors (he was only a three-star recruit), but Sanford raved about his skillset and fit in the Irish offense on signing day in February. He’ll likely take a redshirt year and begin his quest to move up the rungs of the depth chart in 2017.
They said it
“They are both that good. I already know that. But there will be a day, and we're going to have to say: It's time to go, he's our quarterback, everybody's behind him and we need to go, and that's who the quarterback is.” — Brian Kelly
Nebraska punter Sam Foltz and former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler were killed in a car accident Saturday night in Wisconsin.
Both players were working at a kicking camp near Waukesha, Wisc.
Foltz, 22, was the Big Ten Punter of the Year last season and earned All-Big Ten First Team honors.
Sadler, 24, was an All-Big Ten First Team selection in both 2012 and 2013. He was the first student-athlete at Michigan State to earn Academic All-America honors four times.
Both schools mourned the losses of their respective family members.
"Last night, we lost one of the best young men who I have ever had the honor to coach and who has ever worn the Nebraska uniform," Nebraska head coach Mike Riley said in a statement. "Sam was universally loved and respected by everyone he touched and on whom he had a positive influence each and every day. His tragic loss is immeasurable to his family, his friends, his classmates, his teammates and his coaches, and our thoughts and prayers are with all of them. The young men in our football program are hurting, but I know that their strength of character and resolve will bring us together and we will honor Sam every day moving forward."
"Our prayers of love and support go out to Sam’s family during this difficult time, and we will do all that we can to help comfort them in this time of sadness," Nebraska athletics director Shawn Eichorst said in a statement. "Sam was truly a tremendous young man who represented everything that a Nebraska student, athlete, teammate and friend should strive to be. While his loss is devastating, his impact will be felt forever. Along with coach Riley, our focus is on providing Sam’s family, teammates and friends with the critical support and love that they need at this time."
"We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear the extremely tragic news about Mike Sadler's death," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Sadler family, his teammates, friends, coaches and Spartan Nation. We also express our deepest sympathies to the family of Sam Foltz and the Nebraska program for their loss. Mike impacted so many people not only as a football player but also from an academic standpoint and in the community, as well. The world has lost a rising star who dreamed big and was accomplishing those dreams, one after another. He was one of those people that brightened your day. I always say to try and be a light, and he truly was a light in this world. We will all miss him dearly. Once again, we find out that life is so fragile. The world will be a sadder and lonelier place without Mike Sadler in it. May he rest in peace."
"Today is a sad day for Michigan State, Nebraska and all of college football as we mourn the loss of two exceptional young men in Mike Sadler and Sam Foltz," Michigan State athletics director Mark Hollis said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends in this time of sorrow. Mike was the epitome of a student-athlete, excelling in the classroom and on the field, while his quick wit brought a smile to everyone's face. Most importantly, he represented Spartan Nation with great class, embracing his place as a role model for both kids and adults alike. On a personal note, he was more than just a student-athlete to me; he was a friend. His ability to make everyone feel special was but just one of his many special qualities. And that's the reason his impact will be felt by everyone who knew him for years to come. By all indications, Sam was the exact same role model for the Nebraska football family. While today is filled with sadness and reminders of the fragility of life, we can take solace in knowing that we are all better for having known Mike and Sam."
After Foltz's passing, Nebraska will not participate in Big Ten Media Days this week in Chicago.