Change feels inevitable at Halas Hall.
And while the Bears coaching change in the news isn’t the one folks are pining for, the pending departure of Assistant Offensive Line Coach Donovan Raiola feels ominous (in a way):
A coaching change is coming for the #Bears.
Just not the one everyone has been chattering about.
Assistant offensive line coach Donovan Raiola is expected to depart this week to become the O-line coach at Nebraska.https://t.co/rFKcWgPR9X
— Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) December 8, 2021
Raiola is reportedly leaving to coach offensive linemen at the University of Nebraska. Donovan’s older brother, Dominic, should be a familiar one to Bears fans old enough to remember the elder Raiola’s career with the Lions from 2001-14.
Donovan, the younger Raiola brother, has been working as an assistant coaching Chicago’s offensive line since 2018. Raiola began working under Harry Hiestand, whom he was paired with at Notre Dame. After Hiestand was let go after the 2019 season, Raiola stuck around to learn from Juan Castillo as his top assistant. Good luck finding two better apprenticeships than the ones Raiola had in Chicago.
Biggs points out that Raiola could leave by week’s end. Which, on the one hand, makes sense with college recruiting season well underway. But on the other hand, the optics of a NFL coach jumping ship to land at Nebraska aren’t great. In fact, it feels quite telling that Raiola is leaving the Bears — in season — to join a college team whose coach might as well be on the hot seat, too.
For Raiola, it’ll be a nice step up in responsibilities. Showing you can run a position room at the college level could open some doors for him. But for the Bears, this isn’t a good sign. This is not a great time to be losing assistant coaches. And it is definitely not timely to lose an offensive line assistant. Think about it. This group could start two rookies if Teven Jenkins gets the green light to give it a full go. Couldn’t the Bears use as much help as possible here?
Raiola’s departure is the latest in what has been a growing trend of Bears assistants fleeing in 2021. It began with Chuck Pagano’s retirement, followed with Jay Rodgers’ leaving for the Chargers, included the departures of Charles London and Dave Ragone to the Falcons, and Mark DeLeone crossing enemy lines and joining the Lions. Again, the optics aren’t good. It hasn’t even been one calendar year since last offseason began with the Bears losing their DL Coach, RBs Coach, ILBs Coach, and Pass Game Coordinator. So to already lose an offensive assistant before this year is over feels telling.
It’s almost as if folks at Halas Hall know what’s coming down the pipeline…