Add another one to the list of vacancies on the Chicago Bears coaching staff.
Per multiple reports (Tribune, Sun-Times), wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson has left the team upon the expiration of his one-year contract. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Johnson and the Bears were talking about a new contract during the Senior Bowl last week.
It is a move that comes with peculiar timing considering Johnson’s role coaching and scouting wide receiver prospects at the Senior Bowl, particularly standout Zay Jones. Jones had particularly high praise for Johnson, telling the Sun-Times, “When it’s football time, it’s football time. But when it’s away from football, he’s fun. He’s energetic. A great vibe. Positive man. A man of god. You can really see it all over him. A lot of faith. you just love to play for someone like that.”
Johnson was hired in 2016 to replace Mike Groh, who left after last season to become the Rams passing-game coordinator, in addition to his duties as wide receivers coach.
The wide receiver group Johnson led was much-maligned and often short-handed. Alshon Jeffery missed four games because of a PED suspension, Kevin White played in only four games due to injuries, and whoever was healthy battled drops and inconsistency while learning on the job catching passes from inconsistent and unproven quarterbacks. Other than that, everything was great on the receiver front.
The Bears did however see Cameron Meredith blossom under Johnson into the team’s top receiver in the absence of Jeffery and White, leading the team in receptions, yards and tying for the team lead in touchdown catches. The undrafted free agent from Illinois State proved to be a usable piece in a pinch, and likely earned a role on the 2017 team with how he performed in 2016.
Johnson is the latest Bears assistant to leave, joining running backs coach Stan Drayton, outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, and offensive line coach Dave Magazu. It appears another offensive line assistant, Kevin Mawae, has also left the team.
Only offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, and tight ends coach Frank Smith are slated to return from the 2016 offensive coaching staff.