Bears

Coaching rumor tracker: Bears will double-dip interviews with Vikings coordinators

Coaching rumor tracker: Bears will double-dip interviews with Vikings coordinators

Updated, Jan. 3 at 3:16 p.m.

Our coaching search rumor tracker moves past Black Monday and into a week where teams are permitted to interview assistant coaches from four playoff teams that have byes: The New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles. 

Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio

The Bears announced Fangio was interviewed by Ryan Pace on Wednesday. Here's why he could and couldn't be a fit for the opening

Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards

The Bears are the first team we've seen Edwards' connected to, and it's sort of surprising he hasn't been the subject of more rumors before Wednesday. He's been a defensive coordinator for three teams: Washington (2003), the Buffalo Bills (2011-2012) and Minnesota Vikings (2014-present). The Vikings finished the 2017 season ranked No. 2 in defensive DVOA and have steadily improved (from 23 to 14 to 8 to 2) since Mike Zimmer hired him four years ago. The soon-to-be 51-year-old former All-ACC linebacker is the second defensive coach the Bears reportedly have requested to interview. 

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy

The 39-year-old Nagy has been on Andy Reid's staff in Kansas City since 2013, when he was hired to be the team's quarterbacks coach, and was previously an offensive quality control assistant under Reid in Philadelphia. Nagy was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2016, and his offense ranked 4th in DVOA this year. An interesting wrinkle here: Given the Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft, Nagy probably has done extensive research on Mitchell Trubisky, which could either sway him to come to Chicago or keep him away, depending on how he evaluated him. 

Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo 

Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported a timeline for the Bears to interview DeFilippo:

Check out the full breakdown of DeFilippo's credentials and fit for the Bears in the latest in our latest coaching confidential series. 

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels

Paul Aspan and I looked at McDaniels yesterday, and debated this: With Ryan Pace not relinquishing control of the 53-man roster, is he even worth a serious look? Read our breakdown here

Also included on the Bears' reported interview list is Shurmur, who was the mastermind behind a Vikings offense that had plenty of success despite losing its starting quarterback (Sam Bradford) and starting running back (Dalvin Cook) early in the season. If he can find a way to make Case Keenum a better-than-average NFL quarterback, surely he can do the same for Mitch Trubisky, right?

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

Wilks was the Bears' secondary coach from 2006-2008 under Lovie Smith and has been an assistant to Ron Rivera with the Carolina Panthers since 2012. While he only has one year of coordinator experience, he's highly thought of around the league, as evidenced by plenty of other teams already putting in requests to interview him. Check out our Coaching Confidential profile of Wilks here

This is worth noting, too, given Ryan Pace's connection to New Orleans:

And still dreaming about Jim Harbaugh coming to the Bears? There's this:

Arizona Cardinals

Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo

Briefly: So far, the Bears' only competition for DeFilippo is the Cardinals, who don't have a young quarterback in place yet. But perhaps the Cardinals could sell DeFilippo on drafting a young quarterback to develop, though the team might need to trade up from the 15th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to land that guy. But consider this: 

We'll see if that could pay off for Arizona in their pursuit of DeFillippo. But he's not the only name connected to the job opening in Glendale so far:

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz
New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia

New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores

Indianapolis Colts

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks 

Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel

Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy

Briefly: If McDaniels makes the jump back into the head coaching ranks, Indianapolis makes a lot of sense -- so long as he's willing to not demand full control of the roster. General manager Chris Ballard is highly regarded around the league, though, and McDaniels could be lured to the Colts by both Andrew Luck (if healthy) and Jacoby Brissett (his former pupil in New England). 

This is the first place we've seen Richard, who helped create the "Legion of Boom" in Seattle, be mentioned, and it's a little surprising he hasn't been connected to more openings yet. Don't be surprised if Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub gets a look here, too. 

Detroit Lions

New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur

Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin

Green Bay Packers linebackers coach Winston Moss

Briefly: The Lions have put the most requests out for interviews so far, with most of these guys on the defensive side of the ball. General manager Bob Quinn has New England connections that make Patricia an obvious choice. 

Detroit, though, is giving its own a chance, interviewing Austin and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter on Tuesday:

Oakland Raiders

Current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden

Briefly: The Raiders seemingly fired Del Rio with the knowledge they'd be able to hire Gruden, but Gruden will be on the ESPN call of this weekend's Titans-Chiefs playoff game, so this could take a little while to get done. 

New York Giants

New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia
New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks

Former Denver Broncos running backs coach/assistant head coach Eric Studesville

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur 

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz

http://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/bears/bears-coaching-confidential-steve-wilks

Briefly: The Giants are in an interesting position, with Eli Manning still there but holding the No. 2 overall pick to possibly draft his replacement. 

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive backs

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive backs

2017 grade: B-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Kyle Fuller (free agent), Prince Amukamara (free agent), Marcus Cooper (contract), Sherrick McManis (free agent), Bryce Callahan (restricted free agent), Quintin Demps (contract)

Possible free agent targets: Trumaine Johnson, Malcolm Butler, Bashaud Breeland, E.J. Gaines, Rashaad Melvin, Robert McClain, Darrelle Revis

There’s a wide spectrum of scenarios for the Bears at cornerback, ranging from keeping the status quo to blowing the whole thing up, and everything in between. Safety is far more stable, with Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson proving to be a reliable pairing, so that’s set for 2018.

Let’s start with one end of that cornerback spectrum: The Bears keep the top of this unit intact. That means, No. 1, retaining Kyle Fuller via the franchise tag and/or a long-term contract. No. 2, it means bringing back Prince Amukamara, who didn’t record an interception and committed a few too many penalties, but otherwise was a fine enough cover corner. No. 3, it means keeping restricted free agent Bryce Callahan as the team’s No. 1 slot corner.

On paper, this doesn’t seem like an altogether bad option. The Bears weren’t spectacular at cornerback in 2017, but the position was a little better than average, which isn’t the worst place to be for a single unit. Couple with solid play from the safeties and the Bears’ defensive backs were overall a decent enough group. Outside of Marcus Cooper -- who is a candidate to be cut for cap savings -- the Bears may not need to make wholesale changes to this group.

That, though, is a rosier look at this unit. The Bears can certainly improve the personnel in it with a healthy amount of cap space and a strong crop of free agent cornerbacks about to hit the market. Keeping Fuller and then signing a top-tier player like Trumaine Johnson or Malcolm Butler would upgrade this group, as would bringing back Fuller and Amukamara but then using a high draft pick on a player like Ohio State’s Denzel Ward.

Unless the Bears sign two big-time cornerbacks -- i.e. Fuller and Johnson, or even a guy like Brashaud Breeland or E.J. Gaines -- it would seem reasonable for them to use a first or second-round pick on a cornerback in an effort to find a longer-term solution at the position. That doesn’t mean the Bears would absolutely have to go that route, especially with other needs at wide receiver, guard and outside linebacker.

But here’s another thought: It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bears are able to sign a combination of two top cornerbacks in free agency. With plenty of cap space top-end free agents lacking at wide receiver and outside linebacker/edge rusher, could Pace allocate a good chunk of that money to, say, tagging Fuller and making runs at Johnson, Butler and/or Breeland? 2018 looks to be a good year to be aggressive in the free agent cornerback market, and that could play into the Bears’ strategy well.

Before we finish, we should carve out some space for Amos and Jackson. Pro Football Focus isn’t the only outlet that’s given Amos high marks -- Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 ranked him as the No. 1 free safety in the league, too. Jackson came in at No. 19 in B/R’s strong safety rankings, which is pretty solid for a fourth-round rookie.

But the larger point here isn’t exactly where Amos and Jackson are in outside evaluations -- it’s that, tangibly, the pair played well off each other on a consistent basis last year. Seeing as Amos didn’t enter the Bears’ starting lineup until Week 4 -- after Quintin Demps suffered a season-ending broken forearm against Pittsburgh -- how quickly and successfully he and Jackson meshed was one of the more impressive developments for the Bears’ 2017 defense. Amos needs to make more plays on the ball and Jackson has some things to clean up, but the Bears enter the 2018 league year not needing to address their safety position. That’s a good place to be for a team with other significant needs.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.