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.
|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.