The Chicago Bears recently announced the hiring of tight ends coach, Clancy Barone. Barone has been coaching since the late 1980s. Like most, he started in the college ranks and coached offensive line for the majority of his NCAA coaching career.
He got his first NFL gig as the offensive line coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2004 and moved to tight ends for the first time in 2005. He then coached for the Los Angeles (then San Diego) Chargers, Denver Broncos, and Minnesota Vikings, bouncing back and forth between tight ends and offensive line.
Barone is obviously here to get more production from the tight ends in the passing game, but it’s also clear he’s here to shore up the blocking scheme. Hiring Juan Castillo and Clancy Barone consecutively makes me think the Bears will double-down on the running game in 2020.
When Barone got to Atlanta in 2004, the Falcons went from the 14th-ranked rushing offense in 2003 to the first-ranked rushing offense for three consecutive years. Don’t get me wrong, the stats are a little skewed considering Michael Vick rushed for over 2,500 yards in that time span, but Warrick Dunn also rushed for a minimum of 1,106 in each of those seasons.
I won’t be able to give Barone all the credit, but you have to think the Bears will utilize some of the knowledge he gained working with a mobile quarterback like Michael Vick. I expect the Bears to finally double down on Mitchell Trubisky’s mobility in the upcoming season.
In Atlanta, Barone also coached Alge Crumpler for two of his four Pro Bowl seasons from 2005-2006. While Crumpler did receive Pro Bowl honors in the two seasons prior, Barone coached Crumpler during the best two-year span of his career. In 2005, Crumpler had 877 receiving yards, and in 2006 he posted eight receiving touchdowns, both of which were career-highs.
When Barone was in San Diego he had the pleasure of coaching Antonio Gates from 2007-2008. While Gates did post back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons under Barone, he did have a slight decline in production from the previous years. Antonio Gates was an All-Pro player for three consecutive years prior to Barone taking over the tight end’s room.
This can be due to a number of reasons, but those are just the stats. The Chargers also didn’t perform as well in the running game during Barone’s time in San Diego, but they never averaged less than 100 yards per game. Barone’s experience with Gates ties in very nicely with the Bears’ new signing, Darion Clark. Like Gates, Clark is a UDFA signing with NCAA basketball background.
The Bears are doing everything they can to find a red-zone target, and if Barone can get this six-foot-seven, 220-pound “tough rebounder” from USC to catch five touchdowns, he would be a legend. I’m not predicting Clark will make the team, but I find it funny Barone was hired just two days after the signing.
In 2009, Josh McDaniels brought Barone onto his staff with the Denver Broncos, and while it’s obvious the Broncos had their issues in that time, he also designed blocking schemes for a mobile quarterback in Tim Tebow. After McDaniels was fired, John Fox retained Barone as a tight ends coach in 2011. From there, the room started to improve. He was able to get some decent production out of Jacob Tamme, but he was also given Julius Thomas. While Thomas’s career was injury-ridden, his impact was known throughout the league.
In Thomas’s healthiest seasons (2013, 2014), he received Pro Bowl honors and posted a career-high 12 touchdowns in back-to-back years. The Denver Broncos had three different head coaches from 2009-2016, and Barone remained a constant. As you know, with a new regime comes an overhaul of positional coaches, but Barone was valuable enough to survive the cuts and ultimately win a Super Bowl.
After Vance Joseph took over the Broncos head coaching job, Barone was released, but it wasn’t for long. He was promptly hired by the Minnesota Vikings as their tight ends coach in 2017, where he helped Kyle Rudolph reach his second Pro Bowl.
Rudolph didn’t post any career highs and honestly didn’t have that impressive of a statistical season, but the Vikings did pound the rock in 2017, posting nearly 118 yards per game. When he became the Vikings’ offensive line coach in 2018, the offense fell apart. This isn’t all on him, however. The offensive line was battered and spread thin, and the Vikings went from Pat Shurmur to John DeFilippo at the offensive coordinator position.
As we know, DeFilippo tried to have Kirk Cousins sling the ball around like he was Drew Brees, and Zimmer fired him before the season ended. I won’t give Barone all the blame for being a co-offensive line coach for the 30th ranked rushing offense in 2018 the same way I won’t give him all the praise for having a top-ranked rushing offense in Atlanta to start his career.
The one thing Barone constantly did as a tight end coach: produce touchdowns. In eight of Barone’s ten seasons as a tight end coach, his tight ends were top-ten in touchdown production. In six of those seasons, his tight ends were top-three in the league. Imagine how much better the Bears red zone offense would have been if they got eight touchdowns from their tight ends. He was also part of some extremely powerful rushing attacks as both a tight ends and offensive line coach.
This leads me to believe that Barone was brought into Chicago to make the tight ends two-prong players. They will be blockers first, and then they will be given the opportunity to produce in the red zone.
Not every player will be Travis Kelce or George Kittle, but you’ll notice that both of those players are praised for their blocking ability as well as their numbers in the passing game. Clancy Barone has his work cut out for him, but his production and longevity as a coach makes one think the tight end room will be in better shape in 2020.
He has familiarity with an array of offenses, including the ones that gave birth to Matt Nagy’s scheme. He has developed multiple Pro Bowl players and designed schemes around mobile quarterbacks. He is known for implementing toughness in whatever room he is apart of.
Just look at him, he is 100 percent a football guy. Barone looks like the type of dude that would eat a right hook and laugh at you. Bears’ fans have to hope he is as tough as he looks and injects that into an underwhelming tight end room.