Takeaways one week into Bears' coach quest: Search committee in a hurry, and side doesn’t matter


Takeaways one week into Bears' coach quest: Search committee in a hurry, and side doesn’t matter

From the first week of Bears coaching interviews, some breadcrumbs point to some interesting directions.

The Bears want to strike fast – very fast in making their hire. A couple of indicators there:

One is the presence of Chairman George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips joining GM Ryan Pace for the first round of interviews for the next Bears head coach – John DeFilippo, George Edwards, Vic Fangio, Josh McDaniels, Matt Nagy, Pat Shurmur. This was rightly a cause for concern. Bosses involved from the outset of a hiring process necessarily influence that process by their simple being there. The more customary business-hiring model has the final candidate going up through the levels at the end, not the beginning.

Unless the reason for this departure from custom is to keep the throttle as wide open as possible in a search that Pace correctly views as highly competitive. And unless the customary structure has miserably failed the Bears, which it has.

The traditional senior-management-last interview structure has not served the Bears particularly well. Michael McCaskey had Mark Hatley do a search, develop five finalists, and then McCaskey entered the process and decided on Dave McGinnis…make that Dick Jauron. Phil Emery was tasked with assembling and winnowing a list, then senior management became involved, ending with Marc Trestman.

Positive or not, McCaskey and Phillips involved early allows them to tinker, but it also gets their yay-or-nay early as well, meaning that Pace likely won’t have a wave of second interviews. In fact, more than one source has said that they doubt Pace and the Bears will have a second interview with more than one finalist.

If that is the thinking, and any coach would need to go through McCaskey and Phillips at some point anyway, getting their say-so’s could save Pace time in a process he hopes will let him make a substantive offer for his candidate-of-choice ahead of the Cardinals-Colts-Giants-Lions pack.

A second hurry-up indicator is the Bears declining permission for defensive coordinator Fangio to interview for the Cincinnati Bengals vacant D-coordinator job. Fangio interviewed for the Bears top job, isn’t expected to be a finalist in management’s opinion, but is very much wanted as a holdover in his role.

Fangio doesn’t have any restrictions as of mid-Tuesday, but the Bears holding onto him to the last possible moment suggests that they genuinely want Fangio as an option available to their new head coach if at all possible. A day or two wouldn’t seem like much time to have Fangio wait, unless there was a chance a decision could come down very soon. It may not happen, but not for the Bears lack of pushing the Pace (pun intended).

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Word from a couple of non-Chicago sources say that Ryan Pace has been making very, very positive impressions in those interviews, based on what interviewees are telling others. This is significant.

The Bears desperately need a strong front man and an image upgrade. The standard line may be that this is a desirable, charter NFL franchise but free agents have turned the Bears down for less money elsewhere, and that cannot help but be a real concern for a head-coaching candidate. Pace as the face of the franchise for that candidate matters.

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Stop “…side of the football” thinking

Few things are more meaningless than what side of the football the Bears absolutely “must” go to for their next head coach, as in, “gotta go offense to develop Mitch Trubisky.” Best guess is that it will be someone from an offensive background, but as for correlation with success? Oh, please.

Of the 12 playoff teams, exactly six are coached by “offensive” coaches and six by coaches from the defensive side of things.

Offense Defense
Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Bill Belichick, New England
Sean McVay, Los Angeles Sean McDermott, Buffalo
Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Dan Quinn, Atlanta
Sean Payton, New Orleans Ron Rivera, Carolina
Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh
Andy Reid, Kansas City Mike Zimmer, Minnesota

All of that would be meaningless or irrelevant if not for the fact that Case Keenum has had a career year under Zimmer; that Cam Newton has reached MVP heights and a Super Bowl with Rivera; and the Buffalo Bills got to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years behind Tyrod Taylor and McDermott – all coaches from defensive backgrounds.

Matt Ryan built an impressive body of work under Mike Smith, a career defensive coach. Smith couldn’t get Ryan or the Atlanta Falcons over the playoff hump and was succeeded by defensive-guy Quinn, who took the Falcons and Ryan to the Super Bowl last year.

The overarching point, however, isn’t that defense-based coaches come with some sort of QB pixie dust. It’s that the full staff is most critical, and the reason why head-coaching interviews involve such intense scrutiny of the candidates’ lists of staff assistants, beginning particularly with the coordinator on the other side of the football from the head coach’s background.

Looking to upgrade RB, Bears have more options than draft alone

Looking to upgrade RB, Bears have more options than draft alone

If the 2018 offseason is any sort of indicator, the question before the Bears heading into the unofficial “start” of the offseason – the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis – is less which position group they upgrade – the surprise will be if running back is not priority No. 1 – but how they go about it.

By way of background perspective, first consider what was done last offseason in terms of starter-grade moves:
QB2          Chase Daniel
WR           3: Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Allen Robinson
TE             Trey Burton
OL             James Daniels
DL             Bilal Nichols
OLB          Khalil Mack
ILB            Roquan Smith.
And there was also the matter of head coach.

Missing from the list is the secondary, although the pricey re-signings of Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller more than count toward commitment to roster-building; and running back, although whispers around the NFL was that the Bears were open to dealing Jordan Howard, which obviously didn’t happen.

The Bears have operated with the requisite “best player available” philosophy in drafting and other personnel acquisitions. How they accomplish that at running back will be among the most closely watched roster efforts of this offseason.

Some options

With no draft choice currently before the third round, the roll call and mock workups coming out of the Combine will feature a spectrum of players rather than one or two, the way if has been with the Bears picking in the top-10 range in the last four drafts.

But GM Ryan Pace has been the picture of aggressive with draft choices, specifically dealing them en masse for deals the included moving up for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, to a lesser extent for Leonard Floyd, and dramatically in the trade for Khalil Mack.

The trade possibility should be watched, once the draft begins, and before.

The Cleveland Browns struck dramatically with the signing of Kareem Hunt, which abruptly gave them a crowded backfield of starter-grade talent: Nick Chubb, 23, coming off averaging 5.2 ypc in his rookie season; and Duke Johnson, 25, never a full-time starter but who’s averaged 4.3 ypc in four seasons with a very bad football team.

But Pace hasn’t used his actual No. 3 the past two drafts, dealing away his 2017 and 2018 No. 3’s as part of the move for Trubisky. This time he has a No. 3, but the surprise would be if he uses it where it now sits.

Would the Browns part with Chubb or Johnson for a No. 3? How about for a 4 or 5?  

Moving up?

The biggest reason to stay tuned in the second round when the draft arrives is Pace’s willingness to target and trade up to go get a player. He did it with Floyd and Trubisky in first rounds. He did it for wideout Miller in last year’s draft, dipping into 2019 to do it in the form of giving this year’s second-rounder (plus a No. 4) to move up from No. 70 (third round) to 51 (second).

Maybe Pace had some idea what would play out last season and its effect on this next draft. The 2019 Bears No. 2, now belonging to New England, is way down at 24th in the round after the 12-4 season (and would’ve been even lower if Cody Parkey makes his last kick vs. Philadelphia).

The Bears’ first scheduled pick in round three happens to be the 24th pick of the round; not high. Pace stayed put in the third rounds of his first two drafts, taking Hroniss Grasu (2015) and Jonathan Bullard (2016).

Brad Biggs over at the Tribune did a nice workup of some prospects likely to be around late on day two when the Bears’ turn comes at some point in the mid rounds. These become relevant because Pace and his staff have established an aptitude for finding NFL talent at running back down in the draft:

2015, 4th round           Jeremy Langford, now with Atlanta after stops on the Ravens, Jets and Dolphins practice squads;
2016, 5th round           Howard;
2017, 4th round           Tarik Cohen.

It sure sounds like the 49ers have plans to keep kicker Robbie Gould

USA Today

It sure sounds like the 49ers have plans to keep kicker Robbie Gould

The Robbie Gould Redemption Tour may be short-lived afterall. 

Today, NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Matt Maiocco wrote about 49'ers plans for kicker Robbie Gould. In the piece, Maiocco makes some assertions that surely won't sit well with Bears fans looking for a reunion: 

If the 49ers are unable to work out a multi-year contract extension with kicker Robbie Gould, it would be a major surprise if the club did not use the tag to restrict his ability to sign with another team. The 49ers have not used the franchise tag designation since 2012 with safety Dashon Goldson. The 49ers have plenty of salary-cap space to absorb a significant pay raise for Gould. The club is expected to have $67.5 million in cap room at the start of the new league year, according to figures from the NFL Players Association and The franchise tag for a kicker is expected to be approximately $5 million for one season. Gould signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the 49ers on the first day of free agency in 2017.

Though the assumption is more speculatory in nature than actual reporting, it stands to reason that Maiocco would know the inner workings of San Fransisco's front office. It also echoes several other reports that the Niners plan on using the franchise tag on Gould. Sorry Bears fans! 

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