EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Before ultimately opting to go with in-house option Frank Cignetti as his new offensive coordinator, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher had a few phone conversations with Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase.
Gase was one of last year's top coaching candidates, earning a variety of interviews for head-coaching jobs and coordinator positions around the league. He very nearly landed the head-coaching job in San Francisco and was considered for other head jobs in Atlanta and even Chicago. Ultimately, some teams believed that Gase wasn't quite ready to sit in the No. 1 chair and had questions as to whether his success in Denver was mostly due to Peyton Manning.
But Fisher saw through much of that and made it clear that if things reached a certain point, he'd be interested in talking to Gase further. As it turned out, Gase ended up sticking with John Fox and heading with him to Chicago to handle the coordinator job there. But not before Fox had some moments of concern that he might lose out on the 37-year-old.
“It’s like everything, whether it’s position players or staff members, both downstairs and upstairs," Fox said. "This league is about finding the best human talent you can and then coaching them to be the best they can be every day. It’s competitive. I think it’s like that any time you’re trying to acquire quality people.”
Gase and the Bears will descend upon the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday afternoon as Chicago looks to get to 4-5 on the season. To do so, the Bears will need one of their best offensive performances of the season as they take on the Rams' No. 5 ranked defense. Chicago enters with the league's No. 22 offense, which doesn't sound like much but isn't bad considering they've been without quarterback Jay Cutler, receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Matt Forte at various points this season.
Cutler, in particular, has benefited from Gase's presence. Along with quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, it's clear that Gase and Loggains have helped Cutler play some of his best football. In his seven games this season, Cutler is on pace to have the best passer rating of his career.
“Jay’s playing really good," Fisher said. "Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains have done a great job with him. His feet, everything in the pocket. He looks like a different guy. So, making good decisions. His numbers are good. They’re running the football well.”
Schematically, Gase has shown some versatility this year without Manning as his quarterback. He once helped scrap an entire offense and build it around Tim Tebow before working with Manning but now he has the Bears playing a more ball-control style than in years past. Chicago ranks fourth in the league in time of possession in part because of a need to keep its defense off the field.
“First of all, he’s an outstanding assistant," Fox said. "At the end of the day, these aren’t one-man shows. Your staff is a critical part of winning in this league. I’ve obviously known Adam, he’s not new to me by any stretch. He’s a bright, young coach. He’s a tireless worker and I think he’s done a tremendous job.”
Fisher said he sees elements of the Denver offense in what Chicago is doing now though the approach has been a little bit different. The Rams played Gase's Broncos last year in a game that the St. Louis defense dominated on its way to a win though the Broncos were without key offensive pieces because of injury. In that game, Denver attempted just 10 running plays. That's almost certainly not going to happen Sunday.
“Well, he’s been in the I guess you could call it the Indy offense, that worked with Peyton," Fisher said. "He’s just got a good feel for it. They turn a lot over to the quarterback on the line of scrimmage. So, run-pass checks and then pass checks. Then, wherever he’s been, they’ve really been good on third down. We’re facing a team that’s well in the mid-40s from a conversion standpoint, so it’s going to be hard on our defense.”