For the third time in three seasons, the Chicago Bears have a new wide receivers coach: Zach Azzanni.
Indeed, the Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs reports the Bears are set to hire Azzanni to replace Curtis Johnson, who left for the same position in New Orleans days after the Senior Bowl ended.
Azzanni joins offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn and running back coach Curtis Modkins as the newest assistants on the offensive side of the ball in an offseason that has featured plenty of turnover among the coaching ranks.
Azzanni had been at the University of Tennessee since 2013, where he was, most recently, the wide receivers coach/passing game coordinator. Prior to that, he worked at Wisconsin (wide receivers coach, 2012) and Western Kentucky (offensive coordinator, 2011). He also has ties to Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who he worked for at Bowling Green (2001-03) and the University of Florida (2010).
Prior to his stop in Gainesville, Azzanni served as an assistant head coach/wide receivers coach at Central Michigan from 2007 to 2009. There he coached Steelers star receiver Antonio Brown, who caught 305 passes for 3,199 yards and 22 touchdowns in three seasons for the Chippewas.
Azzanni’s role as receivers coach will be an important one, no matter what the Bears do with regards to Alshon Jeffery’s future. The rest of the group also struggled with consistency, drops, etc, and former first-round pick Kevin White hasn’t been able to stay healthy long enough to get the kind of hands-on coaching that could help him catch up after missing 28 games in his first two seasons.
And in the end, Chicago had three receivers (Deonte Thompson, Eddie Royal, Josh Bellamy) who graded below average on Pro Football Focus’ grading scale. The Bears could clearly stand to add some coaching talent, and it looks like they have.