A year ago, the Chicago offensive line was a position of strength, as the team had the same five starters for all 16 games. This season, injuries have forced massive lineup changes, as Chicago has had nine different starting line combinations through the first 16 games. Michael Ola, a first-year player who was signed May, has started at four of the five spots on the line at one point or another.
The game of offensive line musical chairs has meant a lot of work for Brendan Nugent. The Bears' offensive quality control coach works specifically with the offensive lineman, preparing them for upcoming opponents and helping to install game plans. Nugent, who at 31 is one of the youngest coaches on the staff, recently chatted with ChicagoBears.com about working with the lineman, his evolution as a coach and his goals as a coach.
You played linebacker in college and have coached tight ends and receivers previously. So how did you end up coaching offensive linemen with the Bears?
I've kind of done a little bit of everything on offense. I have kind of moved towards the offensive line/tight end, the up-front guys, towards the end of it there. So when I came here with (offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer) and (offensive line coach Pat Meyer), I stuck with it. I enjoy it.
Does your knowledge of other positions help you coach the line?
I think it does, just with overall big picture stuff. To be able to go big with ideas and then bring it down small, to what we do up front.
How has this season gone for you, with the constant changes up front?
We got kind of spoiled last year, having the same five guys play all 16 games. So it has been a challenge, but it's been fun. We have a good group of guys, the guys are always ready and prepared. So guys have stepped in and been ready to go.
Where have you seen development from second-years guys like Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, but also first-year players such as Michael Ola?
Kyle has had a real big jump. You go back and watch any of the Detroit games from last year and then watch him in the first Detroit game this year, what he was able to do with Ndamukong Suh and just the technique difference. How it totally is like night and day between last year and this year. Jordan's been steady, he got steadily good last year. Then he got hurt, but has come back and still played at his steady pace, so he gets better every day. I don't know if anyone works harder at his pass sets, Jordan is out there early every day. He probably gets a 1,000 pass sets a day. Michael came here in the spring, he's still young, still learning, still a rookie. But he has a great set of tools that he needs to keep developing and keep getting some more work in here and he has a chance to be a really good player too.
Then there's Roberto Garza, who is actually a few years older than you are. What has it been like to work with him?
That's kind of a cool thing, because he's trying to extend his career and we are trying to help him any way we can to keep it going. So it's kind of a mutual – we're all trying to get to the same goal. So age doesn't really play a factor. I'll ask him questions and get his ideas on stuff and say how would you do this or what do you think about this and different things like that.
As one of the youngest people on the coaching staff, has your age impacted your coaching style at all?
I don't think so. This is my 11th year coaching, I got in it right out of college, so I've been doing it for a little bit of time here. It's just learning, just being around all these guys that have all this experience. All I'm trying to do is soak it all in and learn as much as I can and keep moving forward.
What do your duties entail as the offensive quality control coach?
A lot of it is week-to-week, when we game plan the runs, I'll draw them versus all the different fronts for the players, so they have their game plan packet. Then break down the opposing team on film. And on the field, setting up the scout team the way need to do and other than that, working with (Kromer) and (Meyer) to coach the offensive line.
Finally, what are your long-term coaching goals?
I think I'd like to be a head coach someday. Keep learning and trying to work my way up. Keep working and good things will come, hopefully. If you aren't growing every day, you are doing something wrong. Even if you aren't learning what to do, or it's 'Oh, we shouldn't have done that.' There's different things every day that you kind of file away and say, 'That worked well, keep that one. Or hey, maybe I need to re-think this.' Just like I said, with the many years of experience of all the guys around here, you kind of get different views on how guys have done things to keep learning and keep moving forward. Whether that be what to do or what not to do.