Looking at a few important coaching topics that came up during Black Monday’s media sessions with various players, Ryan Pace, Ted Phillips and George McCaskey…
1. Who has the final say on the coaching hire?
“I just have a very good understanding of our roster right now, just the inner workings of our team,” Pace said. “I feel extremely prepared right now. It will be a collaborative effort with George, Ted, myself, with me spearheading that effort and me ultimately making the final decision on this.”
This coaching search is Pace’s show to run, but Phillips and McCaskey will still have input.
“Ted and I are both available to Ryan as sounding boards, to play devil's advocate, to make sure that he's considering all aspects of a particular candidate's makeup, approach, strategy, philosophy,” McCaskey said. “Making sure that we're looking at every candidate that may be available and making sure that we leave no stone unturned to get the best possible head coach for the Chicago Bears.”
Pace has to be the one to make this hire, though, given he’s hitching himself to whoever he hires. While Phillips and McCaskey will be part of the process, this group positioned Pace as *the* guy.
“He’s going to lead the search,” McCaskey said. “He’s going to make the decision.”
2. How does Pace’s contract extension affect the coaching search?
While Pace, like John Fox, has a 14-34 record to his name with the Bears, he was rewarded with a two-year contract extension while Fox was fired. Phillips and McCaskey, though, espoused the benefits of continuity with Pace, despite the poor record.
“I think any head coach, you got to have that relationship with the general manager to even want to come into the organization, and to know the organization is behind the general manager is critical,” Phillips said. “I approached Ryan because I thought it was important. He’s a humble guy, so he never talks about his own situation. But I thought it was important and he deserved it.”
There’s validity to this thought process — Pace, prior to his extension, only was under contract though 2019. Stability is important, especially when it’s easy to see with the Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions and New York Giants, among others.
“We wanted to make sure that we presented the best possible landing place for any candidate, and we thought that was appropriate,” McCaskey said.
3. Will Fox’s buyout affect how much the Bears can pay a coach?
The Bears still owe Fox upwards of $4 million for his 2018 salary. Not all coaches who’ve been connected to the team will make more money than that, but some — like New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels — could command $5 million or more, potentially, per year.
McCaskey, though, said the money owed to Fox is “not at all” a factor.
“We’ll be competitive, and we’ll get the right guy for the Bears,” McCaskey said.
4. Does the next coach have to be an offensive mind?
As of Monday night, the Bears reportedly have requested to interview four coaches: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks. While 75 percent of those coaches are from the offensive side of the ball, Pace didn’t want to give off the impression he was only interested in offensive minds.
“I don’t want to paint ourselves in a corner,” Pace said. “We’re looking for the best coach, best character, best leadership. So I don’t want to paint ourselves into offense or defense. It’s going to be a broad, thorough search and I can tell you we have not officially sent any requests in.”
Pace may have been playing coy with that last line, given the various reports out there that the Bears have indeed submitted requests for interviews. But Pace was effusive in his praise of Mitchell Trubisky on Monday, and it’s clear he sees the 2017 No. 2 overall pick as the most important player on the team.
“With his work ethic, his professionalism, the intangibles he has, I’m very confident he’s only going to improve, especially going into the offseason as the guy,” Pace said.
So that seemingly would indicate the Bears will look to pair an offensive coach with Trubisky. We’ll see.
5. What about Vic Fangio?
If the Bears don’t go with an offensive coach, Vic Fangio could merit a look. He’s a popular figure in the locker room who’s had success developing the Bears from being one of the league’s worst defensive units to a solidly top-half group.
While Fangio is 59 and has never been a head coach before, a number of his players said Monday he could succeed in making that leap.
“He’s a great coach,” linebacker Lamarr Houston said. “He teaches you a lot about football. He’s very methodical in his teaching. He wants you to understand, and he holds you to a standard that you have to meet every Sunday. You can appreciate that as a player. … Even though we didn’t have the best record, the defense did have a lot of good stats. That goes to show his worth as a coach.”
Added defensive tackle Eddie Goldman: “He's smart enough to be a head coach.”
While Pace was complimentary of Fangio’s work in three years as the Bears’ defensive coordinator, he declined to say if he’d be considered for the job.
“We’re not going to get into who’s candidates and who’s not,” Pace said. “I have a lot of respect for Vic. He did a great job with our defense over the past three years. But we’re not going to get into who’s on that list or who’s not right now.”