Maybe I’m crazy, but it seems like there is a path between Chicago and San Diego when it comes to football and I don’t just mean head-to-head match-ups.
Consider this: Since 2000, there have been three quarterbacks who played for the Bears before coming to the Chargers (Jim Harbaugh and Moses Moreno (1999-2000) followed by Doug Flutie (2001-2004). There was also a defensive tackle in 2011 named Tommie Harris. The year 2000 brought a wide receiver named Curtis Conway, now a studio analyst for the Bolts, who was catching what they threw at him until his 2002 release. Don’t forget that the Chargers had Ron Rivera as their linebackers coach/defensive coordinator during the 2007-2010 seasons. (Yes, that would be the same Rivera who is going to the Super Bowl as head coach of the Carolina Panthers). Ah, what could have been!
The Bears and Chargers have met five times since 1999, with the Monsters of the Midway leading the match-ups 4-1. That sole win, a 14-7 final score, was played in September 2007 at Qualcomm Stadium.
Chicago’s defense sacked Philip Rivers three times and racked up 70 tackles in that game. Do you remember who was the defensive coordinator for Da Bears that day? None other than the Bolts’ new linebackers coach, Bob Babich.
Babich has 33 years of coaching experience, with his first eight having been at the college level. He entered the professional ranks in 2003 as linebackers coach for the St. Louis Rams. The next year, Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith was named head coach of the Chicago Bears and took Babich with him. After coaching linebackers during his first three years, he took over the role of defensive coordinator in February 2007, when the Bears decided not to renew the contract of Ron Rivera. Babich spent three seasons in that capacity, until he was returned to his prior position of linebackers coach from 2010-2012. He then moved on to serve as the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive coordinator from 2013 until earlier this month.
Chris Harris recently joined the Bolts defensive staff as an assistant defensive backs coach. Harris is a former safety who played most notably for the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers. In Chicago, Harris was coached by Babich for three seasons (’05-06 and 2010). Chargers coach Mike McCoy was on the offensive side of the ball while Harris was in Carolina.
Harris played for eight years as a safety in the NFL after being selected in the second round (#181) of the 2005 draft by the Bears. His career statistics: 439 tackles (352 solo), 13 forced fumbles, 16 interceptions and one sack. Also known as “Hitman” during his playing days, Harris will most likely be coaching the Bolts’ own “hitman”, Jahleel Adddae.
Harris was an integral part of the Chicago Bears defense which participated in the 2007 Super Bowl against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. He intercepted a deep, third-down pass from Manning, and returned it 6 yards to the Bears’ 35-yard line. Unfortunately Chicago could not convert the pick into points. The campaign saw the Bears defense collect 87 tackles, a sack, defended 14 passes, two fumble recoveries and forcing one. That defense was pretty stout that year with guys like Harris, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Jerry Azumah and Nathan Vasher implementing Babich’s playbook.
I like these two hires on the defensive side of the ball. I like the experience Babich and Harris both bring. With the teaching that will take place when OTA’s and mini-camp arrive, the Chargers 2016 defense can be what we would all like to see: getting after the passer, stuffing the run, making picks, forcing fumbles – you know, stuff we have seen them do in the past.
I can’t wait to see how the DB’s progress! Bring it on!
Thank you for reading!
A few weeks ago newly appointed Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich announced a more attacking offensive philosophy. Big deal. All offensive coordinators say that. What he said next IS a big deal, and it has been a statement which seems to have been ignored by the rest of the league. The Chargers are going to run a no-huddle offense similar to the one Peyton Manning ran in Indianapolis during his rise to quarterbacking Godhood.
THIS. IS. HUGE.
We already know Rivers is a top-ten quarterback in the NFL, his laundry list of accolades and NFL records prove that point. What this means is Rivers will have on-the-field playcalling control. The Chargers thrived in a short pass, timing, ball-control offense that put the Chargers fifth in the league in yards per game (393) and first in time of possession (33:35). San Diego will be leaving the conventional style offense for one that is more explosive.
Who better to install this offense than Frank Reich? No one. Reich was Manning’s quarterback coach in Indianapolis. He knows the intricacies of that offense. During Peyton’s time in Indianapolis, he only missed the playoffs twice, in 1998 and 2001. The Colts averaged 11 wins a season and were at or near the top of the league in total offense annually. Reich was an assistant coach on the Colts from 2008-11. While Frank was Manning’s quarterback coach, horseface won the league MVP award in back-to-back years, 2008 and 2009. The Colts also landed in the Super Bowl in 2009, although they would lose to former Charger signal caller Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
During his playing days, Reich served as the backup to Hall of Famer Jim Kelly with the Buffalo Bills. He played in the famed K-Gun offense that would send the Bills to four straight Super Bowls. Although his starts were sporadic, when he came in the game he proved to be very capable. There’s no better evidence of this point than the 35-point second half comeback he engineered against the Houston Oilers in the 1993 playoffs. That win was key in getting the Bills to Super Bowl XXVII. That comeback is still the largest comeback in NFL history to this day.
Frank Reich knows offense. Giving the keys to these prolific offenses in a no-huddle format to Rivers will produce similar results. Manning was able to use the quick tempo to exploit matchups and take advantage of a defense that tired chasing fleet-of-foot backs and receivers for four quarters. Kelly and Manning were able to manipulate the defense by adjusting plays at the line of scrimmage without the defense being able to substitute.
Why doesn’t every team do this? Honestly, every team can’t. Only the most cerebral of quarterbacks have the ability and the personnel to be able to orchestrate such an offense. These quarterbacks have to know every single page of the playbook backwards and forwards. They have to be mentally quick enough to see and react to the defensive formations multiple times pre-snap and adjust to an advantageous play. They have to be able to process the accelerated pace for an entire game for an entire season.
We all know Philip Rivers has those qualities. With the added freedom of making his own calls, he will be even better than we’ve already seen. I have observed quite a few games last season where Rivers spotted the weak link on the defense and exploited it over and over.
In the preseason game against Arizona, he found a cornerback matchup he liked, and kept attacking that player until the Cardinals took him out of the game. Against the Chiefs, he exploited safety Eric Berry trying to cover Antonio Gates one-on-one and kept hitting Gates for completions until the Chiefs decided to take Berry off of Gates and double cover him for the rest of the game. In the playoffs against Denver, once Bronco cornerback Chris Harris was injured, Quentin Jammer took over the duty of covering Keenan Allen. Rivers attacked Bailey him away and Allen had two touchdowns in the fourth quarter after being nearly invisible for the first three quarters.
It doesn’t matter if they’re Pro Bowl players like Bailey and Berry, or a rookie corner, once Rivers sees a weakness he will attack it until the other team adjusts. With the defense being unable to substitute without sacrificing timeouts, Philip will find more flaws in the defense and the offense will look like the juggernaut we saw on the ’90’s era Bills and 2000-10 era Colts teams that dominated the AFC. Both teams were annual playoff entrants and made multiple Super Bowls. That makes me, and it should make all the Charger faithful, extremely happy.
This offense will be great for Rivers and the Chargers, and terrible for the rest of the league. Fans should not be bothered by the loss of former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to the Tennessee Titans. Rivers has been on record, via multiple media outlets, stating that he loves the fact that Reich is a former NFL quarterback and he brings an insight to the gameplan that only a former QB can. It appears as though the offense is moving full speed ahead and will continue to run a fast-paced playbook that will constantly keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Look out for the 2014 San Diego Chargers. Don’t be surprised if they play in Glendale twice this year. Is it our year? Leave me your thoughts below.
The Greg One