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What If the Bears Offensive Coordinator Leaves?

What can history tell us about the risk of the Bears Offensive Coordinator being hired away, and how they should fill the vacancy?

The Chicago Bears hiring Luke Getsy as offensive coordinator is a major key for the immediate future. Since the Bears elected to hire a defensive-minded head coach, the future continuity of the offensive staff is in question. And because the development of Justin Fields is paramount, any question mark on that side of the football is a concern. Therefore, I felt the need to dig a little deeper into the history of poached offensive coordinators and the impact felt by their absence. 

Offensive Coordinator to Head Coach

In my research, I found 19 instances of offensive coordinators being hired away from a defensive-minded head coach since 2005.

On average, an offense ranks 3 places worse the year after losing their play calling offensive coordinator.
Offensive Coordinators under Defensive Minded Head Coaches to be hired away since 2005.

To determine “Offensive Rank”, I averaged each team’s Offensive DVOA, Yards, Points For, EPA per Play, and Success Rate rankings. On average, these teams dropped three places in the ranks the year after they lost their offensive coordinator. The average does not seem all that bad to me, especially considering that the standard deviation for offensive rankings from 2020 to 2021 was to move about five ranks up or down. Additionally, the averages were stable across all categories. The average drop in DVOA ranking was three spots, while the drop-off in points scored was four spots. Yards dropped three spots in the ranks, while EPA per Play dropped four spots and Success Rate dropped only two spots. 

A few notes on the data:

  • 2021 TEN: Derrick Henry, the most important player on the Titans offense, missed half of the season. Before the injury, the Titans ranked top 10 in most offensive categories.
  • 2019 TEN: Tannehill replaced Mariota at QB, sparking the Titans’ offense.
  • 2016 CHI: Cutler only played three games and the Bears were one of the most injured offenses in the NFL.
  • 2014 BAL: Joe Flacco only played 10 games.
  • 2013 DEN and 2009 NE: Does Offensive Coordinator matter when you have Peyton Manning and Tom Brady?

I can’t help but think there is another factor at play here. Therefore, I looked at each coordinator’s replacement to see if there were any trends.

Internal Replacement vs External Replacement

There are two ways for an organization to fill an offensive coordinator vacancy. An internal promotion or an external new hire. The data makes it clear that internal promotion is the more effective route.

Internal offensive coordinator replacements fared much better than external replacements.
Sorted by Offensive Coordinator Replacement. Either internal or external.

There are twelve instances where the offensive coordinator was replaced internally, versus seven instances of an external hire. On average, the internal promotion offenses only dropped two spots in the rankings. Meanwhile, the external hires dropped an average of five spots. But averages are not always the best tool, so let’s look at medians to smooth out larger deviations. The internal promotion group dropped a median of three spots in the rankings. On the other hand, the external new hires dropped seven spots in the ranks based on the medians. 

Why Planning for a Replacement Matters

Internal hire success might be due to atmospheres that develop lower-level coaches more successfully. Meanwhile, going outside the organization for a replacement opens a lot of variables. Will that new coach want “his guys” in there? What if he changes the fine details of the offense or language in the huddle? Will he even have chemistry with the quarterback and other offensive players?

In looking at the Bears’ new offensive staff, they have hired Luke Getsy as offensive coordinator and Andrew Janocko as QB coach. Janocko is 33 years old and comes to the Bears with a fair amount of praise for his time in Minnesota. The Bears might plan to develop Janocko as a replacement for Getsy in case he finds success with Fields and is hired away. From what I can tell, that is the correct plan. 

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I like spreadsheets and football. I aim to take an analytical approach to my football research while also realizing the physical nature of football and how that impacts the numbers. While my main focus is Chicago Bears, I also write about the NFL as a whole.

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