LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- New Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy filled the role of offensive coordinator by hiring former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich on Thursday, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Helfrich, 44, had spent his entire coaching career in the collegiate ranks, finishing 37-16 as the Ducks' head coach before the school fired him at the end of the 2016 season.
Nagy is expected to call his own plays in Chicago, but the addition of Helfrich could impact how the Bears look offensively with young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky heading into his second year as the starter.
To get a better feel for Helfrich, I sat down with veteran ESPN college football reporter Adam Rittenberg, who covered Oregon during the Helfrich era.
What impact can Mark Helfrich have on Mitchell Trubisky?
Adam Rittenberg: Helfrich has worked with several quarterbacks who possess similar skill sets to Trubisky. Although Marcus Mariota is his most notable former player, Helfrich also mentored Andrew Walter at Arizona State, and then moved to Oregon, working with Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas, Mariota and Vernon Adams, among others. He also recruited current Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert, who many think will end up in the NFL in a few years. Helfrich understands the dual-threat quarterback but also recognizes they can't do the exact same things in college when they move to the NFL level. He's very smart, down to earth and relatable, and his experience in the college level should help with Trubisky, who is only 23. Oregon fans don't give Helfrich enough credit for the quarterback development in the program because of how his head-coaching tenure ended in 2016, but he played a huge part in Mariota's success.
What can Helfrich add to the Bears' offense given that Nagy has already said he’s calling his own plays?
AR: He's already been in this position with Chip Kelly at Oregon, so there shouldn't be any surprises. Helfrich isn't an egomaniac and works very well with other coaches. Even after Oregon fired him, he tried to make sure his staff would find other jobs or be taken care of financially. Playcalling is often a collaborative process, and Helfrich will be able to provide input from many years as a coordinator/playcaller. He has seen the college game evolve for many years as a coach and, last season, as a television analyst. He also has connections to longtime college coaches who have made the jump to the NFL, whether it's Kelly or Dirk Koetter, for whom Helfrich worked at Arizona State and Boise State. I really think Helfrich will thrive in managing a smaller group of players rather than an entire locker room, as there were obvious problems in his last season at Oregon.
What kind of system did Helfrich run at Oregon?
AR: It was very similar to what Chip Kelly used with the Ducks, although the passing game opened up with Mariota and Herbert toward the end of his time in Eugene. Oregon operated with incredible tempo, rarely letting a defense set up before the snap. The Ducks typically featured smaller, faster wide receivers but also had some bigger players at skill positions, including running back Royce Freeman and tight end Pharaoh Brown in recent years. Helfrich knows Bears offensive linemen Kyle Long and Hroniss Grasu from their time at Oregon together. He should be able to adapt to Matt Nagy's overall vision for the offense, but it shouldn't be a dramatic adjustment for either side.