Mark Helfrich's ability to develop quarterbacks at the University of Oregon made him the ideal candidate to become Bears offensive coordinator under new head coach Matt Nagy.
The Bears are hoping that Helfrich can make the same impact on promising young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky as the coach did with Marcus Mariota and others at Oregon.
"It was a perfect fit," Nagy said. "Not just the run game and the things that they do off of that, but just knowing how to develop quarterbacks and handle quarterbacks.
"It's such an important position in this league and it's a delicate position that has to be done the right way. It was a slam dunk the second I knew he was interested and got to talk football with him and people skills. It was a no-brainer."
Helfrich helped multiple quarterbacks excel at Oregon, first as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 2009-12 under head coach Chip Kelly and then as head coach from 2013-16.
Darron Thomas compiled a 23-3 record as a starter, set a school record that Mariota later broke with 66 touchdown passes and led Oregon to a 45-38 win over Wisconsin in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
Mariota started for the Ducks the next three seasons, amassing a 36-5 record and passing for 10,796 yards with 105 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. He became the first Oregon player to win the Heisman Trophy and was selected by the Tennessee Titans with the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Helfrich feels that the key to develop a young quarterback is to "have a talented guy who wants to be coached, and then when you have a talented guy that wants to be great you get him to say that and then hold him to that standard."
"As a coach, I think you're constantly trying to find ways to communicate; how they learn, get them to," Helfrich said. "He's a young guy. Just imagine walking into the huddle at Soldier Field and there's a 31-year-old and a 20-something-year-old and all these veterans around you. That's a challenging deal.
"You have to get in their corner at the beginning, challenge them like heck until that first snap and get them thinking about as little as possible at the snap. That's a challenge again with a defense like coach [Vic] Fangio's every single day. He's going to be confused, and our job is to dwindle that down to think about one thing.
"We talk about a flight simulator. We put the quarterback through lightning and thunder and bad weather and winds and darkness and it's not every day is blue sky. But we want him on the snap thinking, 'I need to look at A and then B and then C.'"
Trubisky gained valuable experience as a Bears rookie in 2017, starting the final 12 games after replacing a struggling Mike Glennon. The second overall pick in the draft completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,193 yards with seven touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 77.5 passer rating that ranked 28th in the NFL. Trubisky also showed his athleticism by rushing for 248 yards and two TDs on 41 carries.
"The biggest thing that jumped out to me as I watched him on film is he's coachable and you can tell a quarterback is coachable watching his feet and his eyes," Helfrich said. "His eyes are deliberate. They're going from one to two to three or I'm looking here, high-low on this guy, whatever it is, they're deliberate.
"The other thing that jumped out is his accuracy and taking care of the football. He had I think a three-to-one or maybe even a four-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio in college. That works. That's a good thing. We need to continue that. We can't put the defense in a bad situation, our team in a situation, because there are times in the NFL they're going to get you and I think a quarterback kind of has that innate ability to take care of the football versus turning it over when he—for lack of a better word—panics."
Helfrich sees a lot of similarities between Trubisky and Mariota.
"Mitchell has a tight release. He's an accurate passer," Helfrich said. "They also have a couple things similar that makes them inaccurate; their feet take them out of position.
"I sense from talking to a couple of offensive linemen—and this was unsolicited—when your offensive linemen are talking about how hard your quarterback works, that's a great sign. So he needs to do that and continue to challenge himself and improve."