There is a lot on the line for the Chicago Bears franchise. The fanbase is beyond frustrated and apathy is reaching a level never before seen since the early 70’s. Now 32 years between Superbowl titles, the natives are not just getting restless, they’re downright bouncing off the walls with fits of restlessness. It’s to the point where people are mentioning the Bears at the same level of incompetence as the Cleveland Browns. This is no way for the charter franchise of the league to be viewed. They should be right up at the top of the list.
Ryan Pace needs to hire the right guy at Head Coach to lead the charge into NFL relevance and perhaps dominance. There is no way a franchise with this history and prestige in the 3rd largest market and a loyal rabid fanbase with a worldwide brand should never go more than a year or two of rebuilding and a 30 plus year drought between titles. The time is now.
The Bears are looking at reaching a level of irrelevance in Chicago never seen before. Nationally they are but locally? If they don’t turn this around soon, the McCaskey’s better get used to those empty seats.
That being said, the Bears need to take advantage of this opportunity to reset the franchise with the understanding that they now have a young quarterback to build around and maximize this to it’s fullest. Whatever patience left with the fanbase, in particular, rest on the fact they are developing a young franchise Quarterback and are building a program around a new coaching hire.
Bears have never been good with their PR and the optics of how they do business, but they need to realize they can make a huge turnaround in both the standings and the perception of how they’re viewed both nationally and locally. John Fox is an easy figure to improve upon with media and fanbase as far as likeability goes. They need to do a better job with transparency and honesty to win back the fanbase even before the wins start piling up. So far, this is the list of candidates the Bears have chosen to see if he can turn this franchise around.
7.) Vic Fangio: Interviewing Vic Fangio may have been a token interview to do him a solid and to appease the defensive players who have been loyal to Fangio and their defensive staff. Players have developed and the defense has actually performed admirably in spite of a laundry list of injuries to key pieces of that unit. That is the cynical view of it as the Bears never considered placing him as the interim even when it was obvious they would never be able to sell retaining Fox to the media and fanbase without a detrimental backlash. One they can’t really afford as they’re already viewed as a joke locally and nationally.
Reasons to hire him: Hiring Fangio may help the Bears win back some of that respect as Fangio is loved by the fanbase, media, and his players as he is highly respected throughout the league. It also brings a level of stability and takes care of one side of the ball without having to make any drastic system or personnel changes. And who knows more about who to keep and how to use them than Fangio and his staff? He also brings the level of transparency with him media and fanbase crave as he has been very open about the state of his defense throughout his career. He’s also turned around a secondary almost everyone put down as a deficiency and made it a strength. This in spite of losing an important free agent signing they were counting on to mentor the secondary along in Quintin Demps for nearly the entire season. They rank in the top ten in many relevant categories as well in spite of losing so many players they were counting heavily on.
Reasons to take a pass: In spite of working under a defensive head coach and having most of the team’s resources devoted to that side of the ball, the Bears defense has, for the most par,t been pretty underwhelming. Also under his guidance, the Bears set franchise record lows in takeaways in his first two seasons consecutively. This season has gotten a little better but still nothing to shout out about. Especially with interceptions in spite of being known as an expert with coverages. He’s also conservative, rarely blitzes and only sends one guy. He’s also about to turn 60 and has never had a head coaching job in college or the NFL before. There’s also the risk of hiring a defensive conservative coach to follow a head coach with a similar profile. Also, Pace seems to be fixated on hiring a offensive minded head coach and Fangio is the odd man out.
6.) Steve Wilks: Another defensive coach added to the list. This, in my opinion, is encouraging as the Bears are not following some mainstream copycat schematic of the latest greatest trend and are indeed looking for the best head coach and not the best offensive coach.
Reasons to hire Him: Wilks is familiar with the Chicago Bears infrastructure as he was the Bears defensive backs coach under Lovie Smith from 2006 to 2008 and has served under Carolina Head Coach Ron Rivera from 2006 until now at three different stops. He has coached in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense and brings system versatility with him and would be able to work with the Bears current roster of players. He’s recently served as the Panthers Assistant Head Coach so he has handled a lot of the duties a Head Coach does on a day to day basis.
Wilks has experience as a play caller and game planner. The Panthers are running blitzes on over 40% of passing plays and with a great deal of success as the Panthers ranked 3rd in sacks with 50. He’ll be guiding a defense that has 42 sacks and ranked 6th without the high volume blitzing so they may be putting up some record numbers in sacks with someone who does apply a lot of pressure. They also are very good against the run, ranking 7th in the league. Wilks has been part of successful, if not dominant, defenses since being Ron Rivera’s right-hand man since 2006. The man knows what it takes to have a successful defense in the NFL.
Reasons to take a pass: Number one, he is and has always been a defensive coach and has spent all but one season in the NFL under Rivera as a defensive backs coach/assistant coach/Defensive Coordinator. One has to wonder how many contacts he has around the league and what kind of staff he’ll be able to assemble especially offensively which is a key focus to the Bears next coaching staff. He also has ties to the organization and one may wonder how much influence that was and by who made that influence be a factor. Whether true or not the hire will undoubtedly be heavily scrutinized right off the bat for that reason alone. Another issue is the low amount of interceptions they’ve gotten in 2017 in spite of running a heavy blitz system. Only 11 which is only 3 more than the Bears got in 2017.
5.) Josh McDaniels: This one can be picked apart to make a case for and against McDaniels hire and would make it hard to argue for or against him as the Bears next head coach. McDaniels is at best a polarizing figure. Most either hate him or love him. Below, I’ll explore the reasons for and against him being the Chicago Bears next head coach.
Reasons to hire Him: Being on a team with Bill Belichick as your head coach and Tom Brady as your Quarterback should rub some knowledge off on you. If you’re on a team like that for a decade you should learn a thing or two about football. He has been the Offensive Coordinator for a top 5 offense in both yards an scoring for the better part of his tenure, particularly with the passing game. He has been a part of developing some of the most productive offensive players in the league. Many of them started out as nondescript no names and have become stars. The Patriots have also done it with a pro spread system that has morphed in and out of different forms throughout his tenure since taking over as the Patriots top offensive mind. That comes in handy when trying to game plan for different personnel and against different defensive schemes not to mention being able to find a niche for every type of player on your roster.
Reasons to take a pass: Being tied to arguably the greatest Head Coach/Quarterback combination in NFL history could be even more of a negative than a positive. Of course, people will say how can’t you be successful riding the coattails of one of the greatest players and Head Coaches in the league’s existence. There is also historical evidence of this fact too as every single Head Coaching hopefully to fall from the Belichick tree has born rotten fruit. That includes McDaniels own epic failure with the Broncos. Something the Bears fanbase know a ton about as it’s his Megalomania that led to the historic trade between the Bears and Broncos involving one of the most polarizing athletes in all of sports, Jay Cutler.
He over drafted Tim Tebow and got rid of most of the Broncos offensive players that ranked 2nd best in the league just the season before boasting one of the youngest most talented up and coming rosters in the league. By the time he was through with Denver all he left behind was a pile of smoldering ashes and the stench of sulfur.
McDaniels has a reputation for being a control freak who would rather conquer and divide and stroke his king-sized ego than build comradery through unification. Not as interested in listening to ideas as he is implementing his own. Whatever team hires him needs to identify if his divisive nature outweighs his offensive brilliance and if he is more likely to build a sustainable program of success or completely destroys your franchise in quick measure as he did in Denver. I don’t think the Bears are in a position to gamble on a hire like this.
4.) Pat Shurmur: Interviewing Shurmur comes with the added bonus of gaining some intel on one of your chief rivals in your division even if it doesn’t produce your next hire. So in that regard, this is a no lose interview. However, if this does become your next coach you fill a lot of needs in one hire.
Reasons to hire Him: As I mentioned, he is the top offensive mind in the NFC. This means not only getting a quality Coach to run your team, but you get to subtract from a division rival while adding to yours. There is also the schematic and personnel familiarity he has with the Vikings and how they like to use their personnel not to mention knowing their strengths and weaknesses.
He has also done a fabulous job with the Vikings. Losing your top Quarterback and your top Running Back in the beginning of the season will spell doom for any teams offense, but they actually continued to thrive under Case Keenum’s leadership which alone tells you Shurmur is a quality coach and a sharp offensive mind. Keenum was never thought highly of around the league and most thought at best he was a solid backup. Now he is a legitimate MVP candidate who will get some 2nd, 3rd, 4th place votes. Maybe even a couple first place ones.
Shurmur has had success in the league running offenses in St.Louis, Philadelphia and now the Vikings. He has served under some of the top offensive minds of this era in Andy Reid, Chip Kelly, and Norv Turner. The man knows football. He also comes from the very successful Andy Reid coaching tree. He’s helped develop Quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb, Sam Bradford, and Now Keenum. He also has head coaching experience from his time in Cleveland as the top guy there. There is also the added possibility of him retaining Fangio to run his defense as the Tribunes top Bears beat reporter Brad Biggs reported in a tweet this morning.
Reasons to take a pass: Number one is his failed tenure as Head coach in Cleveland. Unlike the failed tenure of the previously mentioned Josh McDaniel, you can see him learning from that experience as he didn’t go there and restructure an already successful part of the team to serve his ego. He was also the Head Coach of the worst football organization in the NFL where everyone including Bill Belichick failed at. All in all, I can’t think of too many negatives in this hire should it happen. He’s at a prime age in his career too (52) where you think this will be his final stop but young enough to see the franchise through as the Head Coach for at least a decade before retirement or even taking an executive position.
3.) John DeFilippo: DeFilippo is one of the hotter names out there. A lot of people like him because because of age, energy, and ties to developing a young Quarterback. Most recently, he’s being credited with making a significant contribution to Carson Wentz’s development.
Reasons to hire Him: As mentioned above Defilippo’s name is red hot due in large part to helping Wentz reach MVP status pre-injury. He also has an interesting history. In spite of his relatively young age (39) Defilippo has really gotten around. Since beginning his coaching career in 2000, Defilippo has been at 11 stops along the way. Starting at Fordham and leading him to the present as Philadelphia’s Quarterbacks coach. He’s clearly been exposed to a variety of systems and a variety of people in the business. I would assume assembling a staff would be no problem for him at all. Kind of a coaching blue blood. His dad Gene was an A.D. at Villanova.
Another plus is he’s played Quarterback in High School. Being linked to Philadelphia Head Coach Doug Pederson also links him to Andy Reid which is a good place to be.
Reasons to take a pass: He is young and has been around a lot meaning he lacks a history of stability. I personally don’t find a problem with it. Variety is the spice of life after all. I love the fact he has a lot of varied experiences and has been exposed to a lot of systems. However, some may feel differently. Maybe thinking him as being a job jumper. A career job chaser. Someone who is looking for the next big gig. Someone who may leave sooner than you’d like looking for the next challenge. Some may also assume this makes him a jack of all trades and a master of none. A form of instability if you will. He’s also never been a head coach and only ranked higher than a Quarterbacks coach for one season where he shared the duty of Quarterbacks coach and Offensive coordinator at San Jose State before returning to the NFL to be Dennis Allen’s Quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders.
Some may even look at this as having a plot twist to it. There’s a connection to Ryan Pace through Dennis Allen. Some may even think this might be an interview for an offensive coordinator position after Allen Gets the Bears Head Coaching job? It’s a logical step from Quarterbacks Coach to Coordinator before becoming a Head Coach. Stay tuned.
2.) George Edwards: Another top-ranking member of the rival Minnesota Vikings. Bringing Edwards in the building allows Pace to possibly get some information on how the Vikings defense operates. Not necessarily scheme secrets, but their philosophy perhaps? That question has to be asked and answered right?
Reasons to hire Him: The most obvious reason is the success of the Vikings defense. Since Zimmer hired him to be his Defensive Coordinator in 2014, the defense has improved each and every season. This includes ranking 11th in 15′, 5th in 16′, and number one overall this season. He also has been a Coordinator at three different spots so he has leadership qualities and can scheme and call plays. There’s also the added bonus of weakening your division rival while strengthening yours on top of having someone with intimate knowledge of the Vikings organization.
Reasons to take a pass: Number one reason to pass on Edwards is he runs a 4-3 defense. There also is the fact that he has no buzz factor as a hire. No one knows anything about him. Sure you can look it up on Google, but to be honest, before his name entered the picture of him being a candidate for the Bears I knew very little about. Only knew him as the Viking’s Defensive Coordinator.
There’s also the fact that he is Mike Zimmer’s coordinator and may be perceived as someone who runs Zimmer’s defense with little to no ideas or input whether that’s true or not.
1.) Matt Nagy: Nagy is yet another name that is on the hot hire list. Young and on the offensive side of the ball, he fits the criteria most fans and media feel the Bears need to fill in their next coaching candidate.
Reasons to hire Him: As mentioned above , Nagy is a young coach who has made a rapid rise to the top and will likely be in charge of someone’s program shortly after the Chiefs are finished playing football. He also is a former Quarterback who played the position as early as 2008 with the Columbus Destroyers of the arena football league and likely would have continued playing beyond that if the league hadn’t folded in 2009. So he automatically brings a relatability factor for players and especially with Quarterbacks which would be a very attractive qualification for this team given what they have invested in with the drafting of Mitch Trubisky.
He went from one year as a Pennsylvania high school Quarterbacks coach (Manheim Central High) right to the Eagles where he apparently caught the eye of Andy Reid and was added as an intern. The Eagles did try to sign him as a backup Quarterback while he was interning but the league disapproved it and he continued on as an intern coach. This was in 2009. Took him less than a year to get a real coaching job with the Eagles as a coaches assistant and 8 years later, he’s about to be someone’s head coach. An absolutely incredible rise up the ranks and a legit one as Reid knows what good coaching talent is.
There’s also the fact that Reid actually gave up control of the playcalling duties (Not even given to Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson) to Nagy after the Chiefs hit a rut and the offense was sparked in dramatic fashion where they averaged over 400 yards and 28 points a game under Nagy’s play calling. This also includes the last game where Pat Mahomes started and absolutely opened some eyes with a stellar performance. Both Alex Smith and Mahomes have thrived under Nagy’s tutelage in spectacular fashion.
Reasons to take a pass: The biggest reason to pass on Nagy is the same reason for hiring him and that’s his quick rise to the top. This obviously means he isn’t as experienced as you’d like for a guy who is going to be put in charge of a franchise and responsible for saving the job of an entire front office as if this fails they are all gone!
There is a small resume in place albeit an impressive one. That also begs the question of what type of staff he can hire being in the league so few years and under only one coach his entire short career. Hiring a guy and putting him in charge of your future with only 8 years of NFL coaching experience and only 5 games of play calling experience may be a bit too much to overcome.
Coda: The short list of coaching candidates is an interesting one and one with some innovative minds. Young, seasoned guys, and connected to highly successful Quarterbacks. This is the first round of interviews. The Bears will undoubtedly interview more next week when the window to interview the possible candidates on teams with Bye’s opens up. I fully expect up to 3 candidates to interview for the job from the Saints staff alone.
I would also be shocked if someone like Matt Patricia doesn’t get interviewed who is being tied to the Lions job and at the very least gives you a chance to get into the mind of a possible division rival Head Coach.
Also, on the Speigal and Parkins show on 670 am WSCR The Score this morning Pro football Weekly founder and Cheif Publishing Executive Editor Hub Arkush and WSCR Score Football expert said his sources tell him a college coach will be interviewed next week and he speculated it could be Washington Head Coach Chris Petersen.
Danny Parkins also mentioned Michigan State Head Coach Mark Dantonio would be a good prospect which makes sense as Pace has been known to frequent Big Ten games scouting as they’re easy to attend travel wise from Chicago. I see it as a stretch as Dantonio is over 60 and has a defensive background and no NFL experience. I also don’t see him leaving a good situation at his age to chance to turn around a pro program with a lot of question marks.
Point being, this list may not even produce the Bears new Head Coach. This is also an opportunity to add to your Rolodex of possible future hires at coordinator positions and maybe even as a head coach later down the line. So I expect this search to extend to at least another week possibly longer.
So sit tight Bears fans. While wanting to move quick so that you can get the best candidate secured and his staff assembled with the best possible assistants available you also want to get it right. This is a pivotal moment in the history of the franchise and you can be assured it is not being taken lightly by the Bears.