The Buffalo Bills will square off against the Chicago Bears on Thursday hoping to avoid injury above all else. The fourth and final preseason game often prominently features players who are auditioning for a spot on another roster or practice squad. While this year’s preseason finale doesn’t quite have the intimate feel of Buffalo’s traditional preseason closing matchup with the Detroit Lions, there are some connections between the two teams.
The head coaches each rose through the NFL coaching ranks together, with new Bears head coach Matt Nagy and second-year Bills head coach Sean McDermott starting their NFL careers with Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles. Both men coached under Reid from 2008-2010. Nagy began as a coaching intern (2008-2009) before earning a promotion to coaching assistant for the 2010 season. McDermott was the Eagles’ linebackers coach in 2008 before he as named defensive coordinator, a position he held in 2009 and 2010 before he was fired.
Guard Vlad Ducasse and center/guard Ryan Groy each played for the Bears before coming to Buffalo. Ducasse was a Bear in 2015, playing in 15 games and making 11 starts. Groy signed with the Bears as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2014. He made 3 starts for the team and appeared in 4 games overall.
Another of Buffalo’s offensive linemen, Jordan Mills, began his career in Chicago, as well. Mills played for the Bears for his first two seasons (2013-2014) after the team drafted him in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Mills was Chicago’s starting right tackle out of the gate, starting 29 of a possible 32 games over his first two seasons.
Two assistant coaches have connections to each team, as well. Bills’ linebackers coach Bob Babich was with the Bears from 2004-2012, serving as linebackers coach from 2004-2006, then as defensive coordinator from 2007-2009, and then again as linebackers coach from 2010-2012. Bears’ tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride is the son of longtime NFL coach (and former Bills’ offensive coordinator) Kevin Gilbride, who was a member of Gregg Williams’ staff from 2001-2003.