Deep Dive: Bill Lazor, the Bears New Offensive Coordinator
Diving into Bill Lazor’s coaching history to better understand what the Bears new offensive coordinator will bring to the table.
When the Bears announced the hiring of new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Bears Twitter went nuts. 2020 will be filled with Dr. Evil ‘Lazer beams’ memes, and I fully welcome that. Personally, I couldn’t get the song “Keep it Goin’ Louder,” by Major Lazer out of my head, but I digress. Everyone looks at his most recent stints with the Dolphins and Bengals and thinks, ‘great, we have a coach that contributed to losing franchises.’ Everyone thinks that he will be another ‘yes man,’ especially after Pat Shurmur decided to take the Broncos job where he would get full play-calling duties. Obviously, Shurmur is the more experienced play-caller and more accomplished coach, and everyone’s idea of Matt Nagy being the egotistical coach that won’t let go of play-calling duties grew tenfold. While on the surface all this may seem true, sometimes you have to look a little deeper to find out why a hire makes sense.
Lazor started his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons in 2003 as a quality control coach and transitioned to an offensive assistant for the Redskins from 2004 to 2005. He was promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2006, where he managed to help Mark Brunell to the third-highest completion percentage of his career (62.3%) at the age of 36. Brunell broke the record for most consecutive completions with 22 and also broke the Redskins single-game completion percentage record (88.9%). Even though he was completing a ton of passes, the team and offense were still underperforming, so he was benched and replaced by the Redskins 2005 first-round pick, Jason Campbell. From 2006 to 2007, Campbell saw a significant increase in yards per game (185.3 to 207.7) and completion percentage (53.1 to 60.0).
After the 2007 season, the Redskins cleaned house and Lazor was hired by Mike Holmgren as a quarterbacks coach in 2008. This is Lazor’s first connection with Matt Nagy. As some may know, Mike Holmgren gave birth to the system that was inherited by Andy Reid and eventually Matt Nagy. Holmgren has ties to the original West Coast system ran by Bill Walsh with the San Francisco 49ers. In Seattle, Lazor coached Matt Hasselbeck during an abysmal, injury-ridden season in 2008. After the conclusion of that season, Holmgren stepped down as head coach. Jim L. Mora took over as head coach in 2009, and Lazor was retained as quarterbacks coach. Hasselbeck had a better season, but it was far from his best. In 2010, Pete Caroll took over the Seahawks and cleaned house, leaving Lazor looking for work again.
He settled in with the University of Virginia and got his first offensive coordinator job in 2010. From 2010 to 2013, Virginia’s offense went from being ranked 77th to 95th, which ultimately led to his release. To this point, Bill Lazor’s production as a coach has been limited, to say the least. He was part of several bad units. If you want to take away one positive, from year one to year two, most of his quarterbacks showed some improvement.
In 2013, Chip Kelly hired Lazor as his quarterbacks’ coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. In Philly, Lazor coached Michael Vick, Matt Barkley, and Nick Foles. Although the room had a revolving door due to injuries, the quarterbacks performed well. When Barkley came in as a relief option, he posted his best completion percentage as a pro (61.2%). Nick Foles had his only Pro Bowl season under Lazor, completing 203 of 317 passes (64%) for 2,891 yards with 27 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in ten games. In 2013, Foles posted career highs in yardage, touchdowns, yards/attempt, and QB rating. Luckily for Lazor, his work with the Philadelphia quarterbacks landed him his first offensive coordinator job in the NFL before the downfall of Chip Kelly in 2014.
The Dolphins offense improved from 27th in the league to 14th during Bill Lazor’s first year as offensive coordinator. From 2014 to 2015, Ryan Tannehill had his two best statistical seasons as a quarterback in Lazor’s offense. He posted back to back 4,000-plus yard seasons with a total of 52 passing touchdowns. He also had his best two-year span as a rusher from 2014 to 2015, mainly because of Lazor’s RPO design and use of moving pockets as well as bootlegs. Even though Lazor was released prematurely by the Dolphins in November of 2015, he got the most production from Tannehill by a decent margin.
Lazor’s work with the Dolphins and Ryan Tannehill was recognized by the Cincinnati Bengals, and he wasn’t unemployed for long. The Bengals hired him as the quarterbacks’ coach to help mentor Andy Dalton. In 2016, Dalton had arguably his best season, in which he posted a career-high in completions (364) and a career-low in interception percentage (1.4%) in addition to a Pro Bowl nod. After Ken Zampese was fired in 2017, Lazor took his place as offensive coordinator. Lazor kept the job for two years but was ultimately released after Marvin Lewis was fired as the head coach. When Lazor was the quarterbacks’ coach, the Bengals had the 12th-ranked offense, but after he was promoted to offensive coordinator, the Bengals ranked 32nd and 26th in offensive production. This leads me to the overall theme of Bill Lazor’s career as a coach and how he fits in with the Bears.
As a quarterbacks’ coach, Lazor is solid. He was able to squeeze the most out of quarterbacks like Foles, Tannehill, and Dalton. However, when he was given the keys to an offense and play-calling duties, he was underwhelming. The Bears already have their play-caller in Matt Nagy, so he won’t shoulder as much responsibility in that regard. He has ties to the system, so he will likely help Dave Ragone further Mitchell Trubisky‘s development. He has experience with RPO’s and developing a quarterback-friendly offense.
Essentially, he is kind of a perfect fit for what Nagy is looking for in his offensive play-caller. He won’t be stepping on Nagy’s toes, but he’s going to be there to assist him. While I think fans are overblowing the “yes man” coaching hire, he will be in a role that suits his strengths. I know it sounds crazy, but he has had very little to work with, and realistically, Mitchell Trubisky will undoubtedly be the best ‘raw talent’ at quarterback he will coach thus far. Many people are already seeing the tie between Lazor and Dalton, but I think his best years are behind him, although he would still be an upgrade as a backup quarterback. Dalton’s orange hair would defiantly make the orange trim of a Bears jersey pop, but let’s be real here, he isn’t the answer to the Bears becoming a Super Bowl contender. If Lazor does bring along anything from his former team, let’s hope it’s A.J. Green. Such an addition would make the Bears receiving corps absolutely stacked!