Miller: Kelly, Saban among possible Bears candidates


Miller: Kelly, Saban among possible Bears candidates

It's been just hours since the Bears announced Lovie Smith's firing and already talks are circulating about who would be a good replacement as the team's new head coach.

Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst Jim Miller joined David Kaplan on Monday to discuss the team's decision to let Smith go and break down a list of possible candidates for the job.

"I think how they fared in the playoffs would have been a difference-maker for Bears GM Phil Emery. It's tough to fire a coach who's 10-6, but if he drives and makes a big push in the playoffs, you think it would have benefited Lovie Smith's chances to remain as head coach," Miller explained.

Now, whether the remaining coaching staff stays with the team is up in the air as well.

"Normally when you bring in a new head coach, they're going to bring in their guys," Miller said. "They may interview guys who are currently on staff and they could potentially retain them. But nine times out of 10, they're bringing in their own group of guys and their assistant coaches, and pretty much everyone goes.

"I think you're going to see major sweeping changes."

And there are plenty of names to go around that will begin those changes.

"A lot of people are talking about Rick Dennison, who was a former offensive coordinator out in Denver. Jay Cutler has a relationship with him. Jon Gruden, there's a coach that, say for instance, if the Bears were to hire him, he's got a past with Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and could retain him.

"Bill O'Brien, who I think is really getting a lot of notice in NFL circles with his work at Penn State, is also a possible candidate.

"And I'd keep an eye on the two national championship coaches," Miller added. "Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is a guy of interest because his offense travels well, doesn't matter if he has a passing quarterback or a running quarterback, his defenses are always played well. I think he and obviously Alabama head coach Nick Saban are of interest and are on NFL radar screens.

"Kelly knows how to deal with teams, he's all about winning that that seems to be his only goal as a coach. I don't think Notre Dame, quite frankly, is his dream job. I think the guy's always wanted to make a case and make a jump to the National Football League."

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But no matter who receives an offer to becomes the Bears' next head coach, Miller believes the team and the city of Chicago won't have a hard time finding a top-notch candidate who would want to come to the Windy City.

"The Chicago Bears job, out of all the openings right now, to me, is the most coveted," Miller said. "It's the biggest market, there's history, there's tradition, there's a great following, it's no doubt the marquee place that I think any coach would want to be."

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?


With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot. 

Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?


Under Center Podcast: Can Mitch Trubisky follow Carson Wentz’s path to stardom?

JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin are joined by NBC Sports Philadelphia Eagles reporter Dave Zangaro to offer an encouraging connection between Carson Wentz’s growth and that of Mitchell Trubisky.

Check out the entire podcast here: