Maligned Ex-Bears Coach Played Key Role in Adding Top Playmaker: Report

Darnell Mooney

Getty Darnell Mooney of the Chicago Bears participates in warm-ups before a game.

Former Chicago Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey is now the head coach at Limestone University, a Division II school in Gaffney, South Carolina.

He served as Chicago’s WRs coach from 2018-2021 under ex-head coach Matt Nagy, who he has been friends with dating back to 2002. An eight-year NFL veteran, Furrey, who played wide receiver in the pros, also spent time in the Arena League, where he was teammates and roommates with Nagy.

Furrey has been coaching in some form since 2011, with his only experience at the NFL level coming with the Bears. He was criticized often by fans and analysts alike during his time in Chicago, but as it happens, Furrey is responsible for the team’s WR1, Darnell Mooney, being there at all.

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Furrey Thinks Mooney Has Isaac Bruce Qualities

During his four-year tenure in Chicago, Furrey’s WR groups finished 22nd in receiving twice (in 2020 and 2018) 24th once (in 2021) and 25th once (in 2019), never cracking the top 20 as a unit.

Gene Chamberlain of Sports Illustrated ranked Furrey 11th out of 12 Bears position coaches last season, citing the team’s lack of production at WR as the primary reason for his low ranking. “Bears receivers ranked last in the NFL. Their ability to avoid dropped passes decreased significantly,” Chamberlain wrote.

But Furrey did one thing very right during his time in the Windy City. As Dan Pompei of The Athletic reported on July 14, Furrey is primarily responsible for bringing Mooney in.

“In the spring of 2020, then-Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey studied a strong draft class of receivers,” Pompei wrote. “He slowed down when researching Mooney, whose mindset reminded him of his former Rams teammate Isaac Bruce, now a Hall of Famer. Furrey pushed for the Bears to draft him.”

Bruce spent 16 seasons in the league. He caught 1,024 passes for 15,208 yards, also scoring 91 touchdowns. If Mooney can mirror Bruce’s career even a tad, the Bears will have a significant weapon at WR for years to come.

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Mooney Has Been Putting in Major Work

In his two seasons in the NFL, the young wide receiver out of Tulane has become Chicago’s top playmaker on offense. “His desire and passion are rare,” Furrey told Pompei about Mooney. According to Pompei, Mooney has not taken a vacation at all in 2022. Instead, he has been adding more muscle to his 5’11” frame.

“He played his first two years in the low 170s. With the help of a daily creatine shake, a Muscle Milk in the evening and a bowl of Fruit Loops before bed, he hit 183 recently,” Pompei reported.

Furrey also says Mooney has “hidden strength,” which may not be so hidden now that the third-year receiver has taken over the WR1 role.

Mooney had his first 1,000-yard season last year, leading the team in receiving yards (1,055) and catches (81). If he can put together another strong campaign in 2022, Mooney will likely see a hefty extension coming his way.

“I want to be the best player in the league,” Mooney said, per Pompei. “You know how Aaron Donald stands out? I want to be that type of guy who stands out.”

So far, so good.

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