© Matt Cashore | 2018 Nov 18
After an 8-8 season that GM Ryan Pace said was “about regression and inconsistencies in too many areas” — especially throughout the NFL’s 29th-ranked offense in points scored — the Bears fired offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and TE coach Kevin Gilbride, as well as special teams assistant Brock Olivo on Tuesday.
The Bears confirmed the news — first reported by The Athletic’s Adam Jahns — an hour or so after coach Matt Nagy said he was stll reflecting and “working through” those decisions.
All four assistants were hired as part of head coach Matt Nagy’s new staff in 2018, with Hiestand returning for a second stint with the Bears after serving in the same post under former coach Lovie Smith for five years, including the franchise’s last Super Bowl season.
For Helfrich, the ex-University of Oregon head coach, it was his first NFL opportunity, and though he technically was the Bears’ offensive coordinator, he really held the title in name only with Nagy calling his own plays. But in light of the vast success Helfrich had designing run games in college with the Ducks and the fact that the Bears finished 29th and 27th in the NFL in yards per attempt during his tenure, it’s perhaps safe to assume that was one of the deciding factors.
Hiestand is a longtime NFL assistant whose unit sharply regressed this season despite returning all five starters, albeit with Cody Whitehair and James Daniels flip-flopping positions to begin the season. But Whitehair was moved back to center around midseason, in part, the Bears said, to supply more experience at the pivot next to RG Rashaad Coward, a converted collegiate defensive lineman who took over the starting reins following Kyle Long’s season-ending IR trip.
Hiestand was also supposed to be a key figure in designing and orchestrating the Bears’ run game that has yet to gain traction under Nagy.
Gilbride, the son of former Super Bowl-winning Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride Sr., arguably had the least among the jettisoned assistants to work with this season, when Trey Burton never recovered from offseason sports hernia surgery and Adam Shaheen basically cemented his bust status as the 45th overall pick in the 2017 draft out of tiny Ashland University.
There’s no question the Bears offense was wholly disappointing, but Olivo helped special teams coordinator Chris Tabor oversee a much improved third phase, where Chicago had the NFL’s best return tandem and overcame injuries to Sherrick McManis and playtime promotions on defense for Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis to field a very competitive unit.
The report comes only an hour or so after Ryan Pace called Eddy Pineiro’s growth this season “something we’re very proud of,” and in addition to the kicker, praised “the collective effort from our coaches and scouts to thoroughly go through that.”