So the Bears fired Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace. It’s a serious first step in getting the franchise on track to open their Super Bowl window. But it is just a first step. If the Bears truly want to contend for a division title, and a Lombardi trophy, they’ll need to make many more decisions in the coming months. They’ll need to move quickly, but they can’t rush. It’s a delicate process that can determine the success of the next five years, or more, before the Bears even report for rookie minicamp this summer. So no pressure, but it’s kind of a big deal. Here’s a roadmap of what remains on their docket:
ASSEMBLE THE BRAIN TRUST
George McCaskey and Ted Phillips have previously leaned on outside consultants when making big decisions, like the ones they have ahead, since neither man comes from a football background. This offseason should be no different. When making the decision to hire Pace, the Bears relied solely on Ernie Accorsi to help. While there’s nothing wrong with asking for Accorsi’s advice, it clearly didn’t work out, and this time the Bears should try to hear from as many different voices as they can. Call Trace Armstrong who knows every coach in the world. Talk to Tom Thayer who’s already in-house and will have great insight for how to improve the offensive line. See what you can glean from Art Rooney II, another family owner who’s been far more successful sustaining success in Pittsburgh. The more people the Bears talk to, the less each individual’s personal bias influences the process. It’s also an opportunity to see if there are any consensus candidates that the Bears must interview.
Hopefully the Bears have already begun this process. If not, time to get to it.
HIRE A NEW GM
Before conducting serious head coach interviews, McCaskey will likely want to get a new general manager in place. After all, what coach will want to come to a team that doesn’t have its front office set? Hiring a GM is an important early step, because it will be the GM, along with Pace/New head of football operations/whatever, who puts forth a new vision for the Bears. What are the qualities the team wants to seek out in its personnel? What kind of culture do they want in the locker room? How does the team want to groom Justin Fields? Those are all questions that should be considered before thinking about the next head coach.
HIRE THE NEXT HEAD COACH
With the front office sorted, the Bears will finally be ready to hire their next leader. But before conducting their first interview, the Bears will have to answer another set of questions. Do they want a coach who’s a CEO/leader-of-men type, or do they want a man who will get in the weeds and have his fingerprints all over the offense? Do they want a quarterback whisperer, or someone who will focus on the team as a whole? Do they want a coach dedicated to analytics, or someone who trusts his gut? Do they want a no-nonsense leader, or a players’ coach? Once they build out the framework of the coach they’re after, they can interview candidates with much more clarity and focus.
Now the team finally gets into X’s and O’s a bit. With all their leadership in place, and a clear vision of where they want to go, the Bears can now take a close eye to their roster. It’s time to look at the tape, and look at the salary cap, to make some tough decisions. Who’s worthy of an extension? Who’s a cut candidate? After these decisions are made, the Bears will have the core of their team, but they’ll also have plenty of roster holes. They’ll also have a much clearer picture of how much money they’re playing with for the next step on their roadmap.
SIGN FREE AGENTS
With many of the big decisions inside Halas Hall already made, it will be time for the Bears to turn their attention outward. By now, the rest of the league will have made similar internal moves too, so it will clear which players are actually hitting the free agent market. Then it will be up to the new GM to pitch the players on the Bears, negotiate and begin reshaping the roster in the team’s new image. There will likely be a mix of big-time contracts and patchwork one-year deals. After this, the 2022 Bears will truly begin to take shape.
DRAFT BEST PLAYERS AVAILABLE
Even after free agency concludes, the Bears will likely have many holes on their roster. This can be a positive or negative depending on how you look at it. On one hand, the team will likely not be in a place to address one or two needs, then hit the ground running. On the other hand it should free up the front office to select the best player on their big board every time they’re on the clock. Without focusing on one or two positions, the team can add quality players across the field to ensure they’re infusing their entire roster with young talent.
After that it’s already time to gear up for rookie minicamp and the rest of the summer program. Then, it’ll be the preseason before you know it!