Difficult to find common thread in departures of multiple Bears assistant coaches

Difficult to find common thread in departures of multiple Bears assistant coaches

NFL rosters undergo upheavals and turnover on an annual basis. NFL coaching staffs undergo their own changes, obviously when a fire-hire happens at the head-coach level, but also in some surprising situations – in this case, the Bears.

The Bears have seen five assistant coaches exit John Fox's staff since the end of the disastrous 3-13 season, the latest being wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson this week, as first reported by the Chicago Tribune. This follows departures of the team's running backs, outside linebackers, assistant DB's and offensive line staffers.

A 3-13 season creates different types of internal goings-on. But while once the hot topics were whether Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would return for a year three, those two have remained in place while others under them have split.

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If there is a common thread through it all, that thread is difficult to find. "Jumping ship" may be the convenient thought but not the accurate one, since O-line coach Dave Magazu and safeties coach Sam Garnes were not tendered contract extensions. And Stan Drayton wants to become a college head coach, so left the Bears to become associate head coach and run-game coordinator for the University of Texas.

Johnson, who was widely praised for his developmental work with Cam Meredith and Kevin White, had signed just a one-year contract with the Bears in what appeared to be a step to get back into the NFL from a disappointing stint as a college head coach (Tulane). Assistants typically sign two-year contracts but Johnson left himself an out to explore other options in the NFL.

The situation does raise questions of continuity as Fox heads into a pivotal third year after consecutive losing seasons for the first time in his career. What it really does, however, is keep the personnel work under GM Ryan Pace at a premium: Because of what they had in place player-wise, the Bears lost defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan after the 1985 season, replaced him with Vince Tobin and a different mindset, and proceeded to set the NFL record for fewest points allowed.

Bears coaching changes trickling out, for different reasons

Bears coaching changes trickling out, for different reasons

John Fox laid out the NFL reality that there would be changes in his coaching staff after a 3-13 season. In the day since the final loss, at Minnesota, four coaches have exited, for different reasons, but coming with interesting possible implications.

Exact details of any personnel move, staff or player, are difficult to ascertain.

Running backs coach Stan Drayton, whose career goal is to become a college head coach, left to join the staff at Texas. Outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, who was blocked by the Bears from considering a move to the Miami Dolphins and coach Adam Gase last offseason, passed on a contract extension from the Bears and is on the market. The Dolphins, who are at Pittsburgh on Sunday in one AFC wild-card playoff game, hired Matt Burke last January to coach linebackers after Hurtt was unavailable.

Fox said on Tuesday that his coordinators remained “intact” but the organization did not retain assistant secondary coach Sam Garnes, who played safety five seasons under Fox while the latter was defensive coordinator for the New York Giants. Garnes was an assistant DB’s coach under Fox in Denver, and he coached safeties there from 2011-14 and with the Bears the past two seasons.

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But Garnes was not a choice of coordinator Vic Fangio, who was not pleased with safety play during seasons marked by the two lowest takeaway totals in franchise history, including tying the NFL record for fewest takeaways with 11 this season.

Over Garnes’ two years working with safeties, the group had just two interceptions (both by Harold Jones-Quartey), four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in a total of 1,992 opponent plays.

The Bears also fired offensive line coach Dave Magazu, who oversaw a generally successful season that saw the Bears tied for seventh in fewest sacks allowed and No. 6 in rushing average. Magazu had coached with Fox since 2003, in Carolina, Denver and finally Chicago.

Bears keep coordinators Dowell Loggains, Vic Fangio 'intact'

Bears keep coordinators Dowell Loggains, Vic Fangio 'intact'

Shakeups are inevitable at the ends of football seasons, all the more so when the result is the 3-13 disaster that the Bears’ 2016 was. And a number of changes within the coaching staff were in process on Wednesday, although none at the highest levels.

Besides GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox being retained for the third years of their tenures – “Under Ryan’s leadership and with John’s coaching, we think we can get there,” said Chairman George McCaskey after coach and GM had addressed fans and media at Halas Hall – both offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will remain in place for 2017.

“I can tell you that our coordinators are intact,” Fox said. “There were different reports throughout the season. It's probably too early to say [as far as changes], almost like who you're going to sign as a player. We're in that process, guys are under contract.”

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Offensive line coach Dave Magazu and safeties coach Sam Garnes were let go after their two seasons here despite long working histories with Fox, who declined any comment on those situations.

Running backs coach Stan Drayton is leaving for a post at the University of Texas.

“His goal in life was to be a head coach in college and it was a great opportunity for him,” Fox said. “Those kinds of things happen when you have good coaches, but we're excited for [Stan].”