Shortly after he was hired as the Bears’ play-caller earlier this year, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy tried to explain how he’d craft his new team’s playbook during the offseason. He wasn’t going to think about a call sheet at first.
“I just have probably a different mindset of what that means … what you guys are trying to portray as the playbook,” he said in February. “We’re gonna establish a culture. We’re gonna have an offensive philosophy that we’re gonna have an approach that we’re gonna attack these guys — and teach them conceptually to start.”
That teaching takes its next major step Tuesday, when the Bears hold the first practice of a three-day voluntary minicamp at Halas Hall. By NFL rule, the camp is granted only to teams with new head coaches.
Like the other new bosses, Bears head coach Matt Eberflus needs extra field work to install the basics of his system. For quarterback Justin Fields, that means beginning to work on Getsy’s playbook–or philosophy or attack plan or whatever you want to call it –in a practice setting for the first time. For the last two weeks, only strength and conditioning coaches were allowed on the field with Bears players.
“When you say the word, ‘playbook,’ yes, there’s gonna be conceptual learning that’s gonna happen, that we’re gonna put together,” Getsy said after he was hired. “And then as we get into the players and get to know them and they get to know us and we figure out what we do well, then we’ll start diving into more specifically as you would say, ‘playbook’ type of plays.”
Getsy, whose scheme figures to be a combination of Mike Shanahan-inspired outside zone runs and Joe Moorhead-style vertical passing, has promised a “quarterback-driven offense.” While championships aren’t won in April, Fields’ first minicamp in the new system will be important nonetheless. At this time last year, the Ohio State quarterback was awaiting the NFL draft. Once the Bears chose him, it took months –until the week leading into the Bears’ third regular-season game — for Fields to be the centerpiece of a single offensive practice.
Now, everything is about Fields — starting with how the offense is structured, and even installed, this offseason.
The Bears believe Fields can make a major leap in Year 2. He’ll have to for the team to show any sort of offensive progress. New general manager Ryan Poles hasn’t surrounded Fields with any significant upgrades in skill position players.
Out are receivers Allen Robinson, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin and Jakeem Grant; running backs Damien Williams and Tarik Cohen; and tight ends Jimmy Graham and Jesse James.
To replace them, Poles signed receivers Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown to one-year deals. He’ll add more receivers via either this month’s draft or ongoing free agency, or both; the Bears have six under contract and will need almost twice as many to operate a functional training camp in the summer.
Monday, Poles signed former Jaguars tight end James O’Shaughnessy — an Illinois State and Naperville North alum –to a one-year deal. Poles was part of the Chiefs front office that drafted O’Shaughnessy in Round 5 seven years ago.
O’Shaughnessy, 30, appeared in seven games last year after being slowed by hip and ankle problems. He’s caught 112 passes for 1,108 yards in his NFL career, and figures to compete with Ryan Griffin –another tight end signed to a one-year deal this month — for the backup job behind Cole Kmet.