The Bears enter Week 2 of their coaching search having interviewed six candidates. Could the team's search expand beyond those six, and involve two coordinators with direct ties to general manager Ryan Pace? Today, Paul Aspan and I will look at New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael.
JJ: Carmichael has been in the NFL since 2000 and has been the New Orleans Saints’ offensive coordinator since 2009. He’s 46 and a Super Bowl champion, but hasn’t been the recipient of a whole lot of head coaching buzz in the last few years. The Bears haven’t interviewed him, and despite Ryan Pace’s connections to New Orleans, there hasn’t been anything connecting Carmichael to Chicago. But is there any chance Pace doubles back to the Big Easy for an interview here?
Paul: On the surface, it’s a bit surprising that we did not hear his name as Pace scheduled his first round of interviews….but then again, maybe it’s not. To your point about their familiarity, Pace already knows what he does -- or doesn’t -- have in Carmichael. Even if the Bears were interested, they did the right thing spending that precious first week getting to know the guys that they are not familiar with. Add the fact that the Saints had a playoff game yesterday and there’s no need for Carmichael or defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who we’ll get into tomorrow, to have this distraction hanging over them.
One offensive mind they did interview on Sunday is Chiefs offensive Matt Nagy, and honestly, after Kansas City's second half collapse on Saturday -- even without Travis Kelce -- the Bears probably only went through with the interview because it would be a terrible look to back out.
I never seriously considered Nagy as a head coaching candidate for the simple fact that he just started calling plays for the final five games of the regular season. That’s not nearly enough experience and Saturday’s abysmal second half was just the nail in his candidacy coffin.
JJ: There’s been far too much hand-wringing about the Bears interviewing Nagy less than 24 hours after his team blew a lead and crashed out of the playoffs. Good thing the San Francisco 49ers didn’t back out of hiring Kyle Shanahan after the Atlanta Falcons blew a bigger lead on a bigger stage, eh?
Were those two quarters of football bad? Yeah. It may have made for a slightly different conversation between Pace and Nagy than had the Chiefs won. But the focus of his interview likely wasn’t any different than the previous five interviews Pace conducted: What would your coaching staff look like? What’s your plan for Mitchell Trubisky? How do you plan to command a locker room?
If Nagy nails the answers to those questions...who cares if the Chiefs had two bad quarters in a wild card playoff game? Would it have been "better" for the perception of Nagy if the Chiefs lost 31-0?
Anyways, back to some thoughts on Carmichael...
Paul: As for Carmichael, one of the most interesting/bizarre/concerning things about him is the silence surrounding his name when it comes to head coaching openings year after year. I remember Drew Brees saying during the Bears-Saints week this season that he "loves Ryan Pace" and Carmichael and Brees clearly have had a long and successful working relationship, so you would think that would work in Carmichael’s favor.
But it is Sean Payton’s offense. We talked about this with Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady, but working with a future Hall of Famer sure makes him look pretty good. Carmichael has that in Brees, and watching the Saints wild card win against the Panthers on Sunday, it sure looked like it was Payton, not Carmichael, calling the shots for the New Orleans offense with the game on the line. So where’s that leave him if he goes out on his own?
But, JJ, I know when we first started going over names, this one caught your eye, so what’s your take on Carmichael?
JJ: Initially, before really doing any research, this one seemed to make sense: The guy who’s coordinated one of the best offenses in the NFL for years, won a Super Bowl and has an existing relationship with Pace. But diving a bit beneath the surface, this theme became clear: It’s Payton’s offense No. 1, and it’s run by a Hall of Fame quarterback No. 2.
This line, from a 2016 article on CBS Sports, seems telling: “Carmichael is not one to politic for jobs or kudos.” Perhaps this is a two-way street: Carmichael isn’t getting much interest because the league views him as, at best, the third-most important person on the Saints’ offensive totem pole; and he’s not actively trying to change that impression, either.
Nobody knows his organizational and motivational skills better than Pace, which doesn’t necessarily work in Carmichael’s favor. He may be one of those guys who’s a great coordinator but not a head coach.
One final thing working against Carmichael: The Bears appear to be moving quickly on their head coaching search, as our own John “Moon” Mullin explained here. The team has conducted six interviews already and won’t interview Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, indicating they’ve settled on their initial list and may already be zeroing in on their No. 1 guy.
If that’s the case, there’s no waiting out the Saints’ playoff run to avoid a distraction. Carmichael won’t be the guy.