A key contributor on a lackluster Bears offense the past two years, running back Jordan Howard can’t wait to begin working with new coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.
“They’ll bring a lot of new ideas,” Howard said last week during an appearance in Minnesota prior to Super Bowl LII. “That’s very much needed given our struggles on offense last year.”
This past season the Bears ranked 29th in the NFL in points and 30th in total yards. With Nagy as Chiefs offensive coordinator, Kansas City finished sixth in points and fifth in yards while winning the AFC West with a 10-6 record.
“I talked to [Chiefs running back] Kareem Hunt and he said we’re going to love coach Nagy,” Howard said. “I’ve heard he’s very energetic. He’s a fiery coach. We’re definitely going to have fun with him.”
Howard has enjoyed individual success early in his career, becoming the first player in Bears history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons. But the Bears went just 8-24 during that span and hope to show marked improvement under Nagy.
Under Nagy’s direction in 2017, Hunt led the NFL in rushing with 1,327 yards and quarterback Alex Smith topped the league with a 104.7 passer rating.
“They put up a lot of points and a lot of yards,” Howard said. “They had two 1,000-yard receivers [in receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce], the leading rusher in the NFL and a 4,000-yard passer. So we’re definitely going to spread the ball around and put up a lot of points and yards.”
Howard is just as impressed with Helfrichs’s background. As head coach at Oregon from 2013-16, he led the Ducks—known for their explosive record-setting offense—to a 37-16 record.
Helfrich spent the previous four seasons as Oregon’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly from 2009-12. During that span, the Ducks averaged 44.7 points and 283.4 yards rushing while generating more than 500 total yards per game.
“They put up a lot of rushing yards at Oregon, so I’m definitely excited about that,” Howard said. “They scored a lot of points and it was always fun and exciting to watch.”
Nagy and Helfrich are both known for their ability to develop quarterbacks, an attractive commodity to a Bears organization that selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the second pick in last year’s draft.
“We’re going to build our offense around Mitch,” Howard said. “He’s going to be a star. We need to build around him and get him some more help so he can be as successful as he can be.”
Trubisky will look to take another step after completing 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 77.5 passer rating in 12 starts as a rookie.
“I’m very excited to see how he develops because getting out there his first few games, it’s kind of rough playing in the NFL,” Howard said. “It’s a grown man’s game, especially for a quarterback. But I felt like the more he kept playing, the more experience he got, the more comfortable he was and you could see his talent in a lot of those games.”
Howard, Trubisky and running back Tarik Cohen give Nagy and Helfrich a talented young nucleus to work with.
“I feel like the sky’s the limit for us,” Howard said. “We have so many young guys that can do a lot of different things. I feel like it’s going to be hard to game-plan for us.
“Learning the new offense is going to take some time because I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a lot of information to learn. But I’m excited to see the new things they’re going to have us doing.”