While football fans were treated to an outstanding weekend of games during the NFL’s divisional round, it came at the expense of five Chicago Bears head coaching candidates.
That’s because Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles were all on the losing end of those playoff games.
The good news for the Bears is that every coaching candidate they have interviewed is now available to be hired. The bad news is they still don’t have a general manager in place.
Here’s a look at where things stand with the five candidates who lost over the weekend and the impact it could have on the Bears’ search:
Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll
Daboll, 46, appears to be the next big domino to fall. He interviewed with the Bears over a week ago, but it is still not known if he will be given a second interview. If he is not considered a finalist, the Bears would have some questions to answer given Daboll’s strong track record in developing Josh Allen. It’s impossible to watch the Bills’ offense — specifically the way in which Allen is utilized as both a passing and running threat — and not think that Daboll would be a great fit for Justin Fields. Then again, the head coach has to coach more than just the quarterback and one can only project how good of a CEO-type Daboll will be.
The Bills offensive coordinator will reportedly go through a second interview with the Giants Tuesday and he’s considered a favorite in New York because the Giants just hired Joe Schoen away from the Bills to be their new general manager.
Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett
Like Daboll, Hackett interviewed with the Bears over a week ago and it is unclear if he’ll be brought back for a second interview. In the meantime, Hackett, 42, flew to Denver Monday for a second interview with the Broncos. The Broncos have long been rumored to be a player for Aaron Rodgers this offseason and securing Hackett could go a long way in convincing Rodgers that Denver is the place to go.
Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier
Frazier, 62, is the name that won’t go away in the Bears’ coaching search despite the fact that he’d be really hard to sell to the fan base. The ending of Sunday night’s game against the Chiefs did not exactly help his case either, as the Bills allowed Patrick Mahomes to throw for over 188 yards after the two-minute warning. Frazier’s defensive calls as the Chiefs picked up 44 yards in just 10 seconds to set up a game-tying field goal at the end of regulation were particularly bothersome. With only eight seconds left on the clock, the Bills knew Mahomes had to unload the ball immediately, and yet they dropped back into a soft coverage, allowing an easy 25-yard catch-and-run to Travis Kelce.
While Frazier’s ties to Bears consultant Bill Polian seemingly make him a realistic candidate for the job, I’m skeptical that is actually the case.
Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich
Leftwich, 42, was a rising star in the coaching ranks before Tom Brady went to Tampa, but the last two years have helped him get looks as a head coach. That said, he has only interviewed with the Bears and Jaguars this year so it’s not like the competition is fierce. The Bears interviewed him last Thursday.
Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles
Like Frazier, Bowles has some explaining to do after his defense allowed a 44-yard completion to Cooper Kupp to set up the Rams’ game-winning field goal Sunday. Bowles has always been a blitz-happy coordinator and despite the Rams not having any timeouts, he sent a heavy blitz at Matthew Stafford, allowing Kupp a one-on-one opportunity over the top against a safety. The call backfired and ended the Bucs’ season.
Despite the ugly ending Sunday, many believe Bowles, 58, will be much better with a second opportunity as a head coach than when he went 26-41 as the Jets head coach from 2015-18.
While the Bears have yet to hire a general manager, they have reportedly requested second interviews with three head coaching candidates: Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell. Eberflus is also a finalist in Jacksonville and Quinn is a finalist in Denver and New York.
There are certainly some mixed messages here, as the Bears continue to set up second interviews with head coaching candidates while also trying to wrap up a general manager search. Two strong GM candidates — Morocco Brown from the Colts and Omar Khan from the Steelers — interviewed Monday, and from what I’m told, it’s not a coincidence that those interviews were scheduled towards the end of the first round. Both are heavily in the mix.
Perhaps the Bears aren’t worried about losing Daboll to the Giants or Hackett to the Broncos. As good of an offensive fit as Daboll appears to be, it’s a sound process to get the general manager in place first. But then again, why are there more second interviews set up for the head coach position than the GM position?
With Chiefs executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles reportedly set for a second interview Tuesday and Brown and Khan interviewing Monday, it stands to reason that the GM portion of this search could — and probably should — be wrapped up this week.
Especially now that all the coaching candidates are available to be hired.