Bears Coaching Confidential: Josh McDaniels

Bears Coaching Confidential: Josh McDaniels

With the Bears' beginning their head coaching search this week, NBC Sports Chicago Bears Insider JJ Stankevitz and producer Paul Aspan will examine 10 coaching candidates who could be considered by Ryan Pace and team ownership. The first on our list: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. 

JJ: Alright, let’s begin this list with perhaps the most obvious coaching candidate out there. He has prior head coaching experience, is only 41 years old and has been the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for not only Tom Brady, but also Jimmy Garoppolo while winning five Super Bowls. Ladies and gentlemen: Let’s talk Josh McDaniels. 

Paul: McDaniels is the clear “1-seed" for any NFL coaching opening. Teams will be lining up to talk to him and he even has the "Bill O'Brien, get in a sideline shouting match with Tom Brady" corollary going for him. But the Bears would be wasting their time for a number of reasons:

1. Does he even want to leave? I wouldn't. Go out, interview, get yourself another nice little raise, and then ride Brady's coattails until he retires. He may be Bill Belichick's successor in waiting, but even if Brady steps aside in the next few years, I'm not so sure Belichick rides off into the sunset - or upstairs into the front office - when that happens. Some guys are just career coordinators, so maybe he's just Patriots OC for life. Which brings me to...

2. The esteemed Belichick NFL coaching tree. Romeo Crennel (28-55), Eric Mangini (33-47), McDaniels (11-17) & Bill O'Brien (31-33). To be fair to O'Brien, he's had three winning (9-7) seasons and it might have been a different story for him if DeShaun Watson didn't tear his ACL, but two of the last three years O'Brien has gone into Week 1 with one starting QB and by the end of that same game he's made a change (Brian Hoyer/Ryan Mallett 2015; Tom Savage/Watson this season). There's some debate as to whether or not he actually wanted to start Watson from the get-go and was overruled, but those are some millennial-level commitment issues. Getting a great offensive mind for Trubisky would be ideal, but that's not necessarily a recipe for success as a head coach. Exhibit A....

3. McDaniels started 6-0 in Denver and went straight down from there. To the point that a lot of Broncos fans are still convinced he was a Patriots double agent. Sure, Belichick bombed in Cleveland before building a dynasty in New England, but that's the exception to the coaching retread rule. Crennel & Mangini each got two shots and got worse. And let's not forget “offensive genius" Chip Kelly who had some early success before bottoming out of the league.

As far as job appeal, I think the Bears are right at the top. New York is New York, but I do think the Bears job is more appealing than the Giants with an aging Eli Manning/ move on from Eli conundrum, high draft pick or not. Indy with his former pupil Jacoby Brissett? 

Bringing it back to the Bears - do they have to save face by going thru the motions and taking a shot at the most popular girl at the dance? 

I say rule him out for the simple reason that he's the guy that's responsible for the Jay Cutler era in Chicago by making the Cutty trade one of his first moves in Denver. And, oh yeah - he drafted Tim Tebow in the first round.

JJ: Another glass-half-empty point of view here: Couldn’t anyone successfully run an offense operated by the greatest quarterback in NFL history? But while Paul, you made some valid points here, McDaniels has a lot more going for him than against him. 

I would posit that McDaniels almost certainly learned something from his short stint as the Broncos’ head coach -- things to do better, things not to do next time, etc. You can poke holes in any of the resumes of the coaches the Bears could consider. 

As for the Belichick coaching tree: Mangini didn’t succeed in his second coaching stop, yes, but that was with the Cleveland Browns. Crennell? Also has the stench of the Browns on his resume. O’Brien’s Texans teams have only been a hair above average, but he’s had to work with quarterbacks off the scrap heap like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage before DeShaun Watson came in, lit up the league and cruelly tore his ACL. I think he could be the most successful coach off Belichick’s tree if paired with the right quarterback. 

The same could be said for McDaniels, who primarily worked with Kyle Orton as his starting quarterback with the Broncos. Yes, he drafted Tebow, but he also had the guts to come into a new job in his mid-30’s and trade away Cutler (sorry to bring that one up again) and Brandon Marshall (a notorious “bad” locker room guy). Things quickly went downhill for him in Denver but I’d be intrigued to see what he could build with a young, talented quarterback already in place in Chicago. 

That being said, there likely will be plenty of competition for McDaniels. The Colts already put in a request to interview him. But would he go anywhere with a general manager already in place? Would he demand full control of the roster to move away from New England (neither Indianapolis nor Chicago would fit, then)? 

So maybe Paul’s point that he’s not worth the time has some validity. But he’s at least worth some consideration given his impressive credentials.

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.