How Bears and Offensive Coordinators Rarely Mix

Gene Chamberlain

In 1977, the Chicago Bears hired the great Sid Gillman as first official offensive coordinator.

Prior to that the head coach might call plays or an "offensive assistant," but not someone with an official coordinator title.

So one of the greatest offensive minds of all time came to Chicago for what was possibly Walter Payton's greatest season.

And coach Jack Pardee took away Gillman's play-calling responsibilities.

It was like if the Bears had told Dick Butkus to play defense but not hit anyone.

"I was hired to come in and control the offense, but the way it was finally resolved, I had no control over it on game day, calling plays," Gillman told the Tribune after the season. "That just kind of completely turned me off."

Only in Chicago could this type of thing happen.

Muhsin Muhammad once said, "Chicago is where wide receivers go to die. "

It's probably a bit harsh, but it is where they treat offensive coordinators like chewing tobacco–they're chewed up and spit out.

Offenses and the position of offensive coordinator have just not fit well together here.

This is the legacy Bill Lazor steps into as the team's new offensive coordinator.

From Aaron Kromer crying at a team meeting while apologizing for blasting Jay Cutler in an NFL Network interview; to Mike Martz arrogantly insisting on one seven-step drop after another as Cutler absorbed severe beatings, to Terry Shea giving his last-ranked offense a "B" grade, Bears offensive coordinators have been lightning rods for controversy or criticism.

The defensive coordinators usually get off easy, but in Chicago it's always the offensive coordinators.

Ron Turner somehow survived two stints of this and helped the Bears get to a Super Bowl, while Ed Hughes stuck around seven years and won a Super Bowl under Mike Ditka. Successes and relatively quiet tenures like theirs have been rare.

Instead, things happen like Gary Crowton or John Shoop experiences. 

Crowton arrived from college coaching with a "razzle dazzle" attack before quitting with three games to go in his second season so he could go coach BYU–after its season had ended. The Bears offense had just stopped dazzling.

Successor John Shoop loved his cliches like "it takes a village to run the ball,"  and owned head coach Dick Jauron's undying support for three-plus seasons as the offensive coordinator. He seemed to have the support of no one else. "Fire Shoop" signs sat front and center in the Bourbonnais crowds on the first days of his last two training camps, before a preseason game had even kicked off.

Lazor isn't expected to call plays. That's OK. Sid Gillman didn't get to call them, either. 

It might let Kazor avoid much of the criticism. 

It doesn't guarantee longevity, though.

His predecessor, Mark Helfrich, found out this much.

Bears offensive coordinators 

2020 - Bill Lazor

2018-19 - Mark Helfrich

2016-17 - Dowell Loggains

2015 - Adam Gase

2013-14 - Aaron Kromer

2012 - Mike Tice

2010-11 - Mike Martz

2005-09 - Ron Turner

2004 - Terry Shea

2000-03 - John Shoop

1999-00 - Gary Crowton

1997-98 - Matt Cavanaugh

1993-96 - Ron Turner

1989-92 - Greg Landry

1982-88 - Ed Hughes

1981 - Ted Marchibroda

1978-80 - Ken Meyer

1977 - Sid Gillman

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Gene Chamberlain