By Kris Dufour
CHICAGO, ILL. — What is an offensive quality control coach? Former Williams College quarterback Mike Bajakian knows. He acts as one, for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League.
“I assist in coaching the wide receivers, but mainly I analyze video of our opponents defense, create tendency reports and give them to our offensive coordinator (Terry Shea),” Bajakian said. “I enjoy it quite a bit.” Bajakian joined Lovie Smith’s Bears’ staff this year following coaching stints at Central Michigan, Michigan, Sacred Heart and Rutgers. The River Vale, New Jersey native began his coaching career at the Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., teaching math and coaching football, after graduating from Williams in 1996.
The former Ephs signal caller, — Williams put together an unbeaten string of 22 games (21-0-1) while he was behind center — joined the Bears after being let go from the Central Michigan University coaching staff when head coach Mike DeBoard decided to resign abruptly in December after having recently signed a contract extension.
But Bajakian wasn’t out of work for long. He signed on with Delaware State and was there three days when the Bears came calling. “I had thought about the NFL, but after the Central Michigan situation, I was willing to take anything at that point,” he said. “I’ve had seven jobs in eight and a half years, so you get used to moving around a lot and whittling your belongings down to whatever you can fit in your car.
“It’s a somewhat adventurous life, you get to see a lot of the country, but obviously it’s hard to put roots down anywhere.”
As opposed to many Williams graduates who have decided to go into coaching after they graduated from the institution, Bajakian said he always thought he would end up a coach, going back to his high school playing days.
What he did learn while at Williams, however, is how much he wanted to be a college coach.
“In general I had a great experience at Williams,” Bajakian said. “As far as football goes, my experience there really reinforced to me how much I enjoy the game of football and how badly I wanted it to remain a part of my life. I always respected the way Coach Farley seemed to have a grasp on our opponent’s defense, and I really enjoyed playing for (then offensive coordinator) David Caputi. It’s funny, he always wanted us to understand why we were doing something a certain way. At one point, he said, “Hey, you guys need to understand why we’re doing this so when you graduate and get a job, you can always go somewhere and coach football.”
Bajakian was a preseason All-American selection prior to his senior year at Williams, named so by College Preview Magazine and Don Hansen’s Football Gazette, but he suffered a dislocated shoulder in preseason and missed the first half of the season.
He started against Amherst in the infamous 0-0 tie game. “From time to time, Coach Farley would send me tapes of Williams-Amherst games after I graduated,” Bajakian said. Asked if the 1995 scoreless tie was among them, he laughed before replaying, “No, I burned that one long ago.”
Bajakian said that one of his most valuable coaching experiences came at Rutgers, where he was a defensive backs coach. It was there he began to understand defensive schemes and how to put together a defensive game plan, an experience that has proven invaluable to him now in his current position with the Bears.
For Chicago, he is constantly analyzing opposing defenses, studying what schemes and formation used for each different situation dictated by down and distance. He also studies what personnel are on the field at what time, and he does it all one week in advance.
For example, this week the Bears were coming off a Sunday night victory against the 49ers. On Monday morning, Bajakian already had his reports on the New York Giants, who the Bears play tomorrow, for his superiors. “I like the analytical part of it,” Bajakian said. “There’s a lot of technology involved with it, the different video systems used and what not. I guess the old math teacher in me comes out, I’m enjoying it, and not in a big hurry to move on.”
Your guess is as good as Bajakian’s on his next step. Since the offensive quality control position is considered an entry-level position, he said, the next logical step would be a full-time position coach somewhere.
“If the opportunity came up where I would have the full responsibility of coaching a position, that would be great,” he said. “But I also think I can be happy doing what I’m doing.”