Bears

Where the Bears' coaching search stands after one week and six interviews

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USA Today

Where the Bears' coaching search stands after one week and six interviews

The Bears interviewed Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy on Sunday, the team’s sixth interview since firing John Fox on New Year’s Day. Based on what general manager Ryan Pace said at the outset of the Bears' coaching search, it may wind up being limited to these six candidates.

"We've got it scaled down to some extent to be a little bit more targeted and aggressive," Pace said on New Year's Day.

Here’s where each candidate stands as Wild Card weekend comes to a close:

Vic Fangio (interviewed Jan. 3)

The Bears’ first interview went to Fangio, which was a well-earned nod to the work the team’s defensive coordinator put in over the last three years. While Fangio is a longshot for the job, his players would love to see him stick around in some capacity. 

Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo reportedly would be willing to keep Fangio on as defensive coordinator, according to Fox Sports’ Peter Schrader:

But Fangio isn’t a lock to remain on the Bears’ coaching staff. Fangio will become a coaching free agent this week, and the Green Bay Packers reportedly want to talk to him about replacing Dom Capers as their defensive coordinator. We’ll see how quickly things move with Fangio, but it does appear that he’ll have some options as to where he goes. 

George Edwards (interviewed Jan. 4)

To date, the Bears are the only team to interview Edwards, which is a little surprising given how successful his Minnesota Vikings’ defense has been in the last four seasons. The 50-year-old has extensive experience on the defensive side of the ball, and would’ve likely had to pitch Pace not only on his credentials but on what his offensive staff would look like. 

Pat Shurmur (interviewed Jan. 5)

Shurmur also interviewed with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants during the Vikings’ bye week. His prior coaching experience — even if it was a 9-23 record with the Cleveland Browns — and success with the Vikings’ offense this year makes him an attractive candidate who may be at or near the top of multiple teams’ wish lists. 

An interesting report to consider here: Shurmur may be interested in bringing Case Keenum — who completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2017 — with him to where he winds up as a head coach. If Shurmur were to be hired by the Bears, though, Keenum wouldn’t follow him to a destination that already has a quarterback in place. 

Sticking with Keenum may not be a major factor for Shurmur, but if it is, Arizona — after the retirement of Carson Palmer — would seem to make the most sense. 

Josh McDaniels (interviewed Jan. 5)

The tension uncovered by ESPN in New England could help motivate McDaniels to jump at a head coaching opportunity this year, unless things completely blow up and Bill Belichick forces a move to the New York Giants and McDaniels is promoted to be the Patriots’ head coach. But that’s a hard-to-fathom scenario. 

More realistic is McDaniels having an opportunity to be the next head coach of the Bears, Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants — the three teams that’ve interviewed him so far. The Tennessee Titans’ comeback win over the Kansas City Chiefs saved coach Mike Mularkey’s job, and eliminated another possible destination for McDaniels

John DeFilippo (interviewed Jan. 6)

The Cardinals interviewed DeFilippo Friday night, with the Bears coming in a day later. His willingness to retain Fangio on staff would be a smart move for a 39-year-old with only one year of coordinator experience. How DeFilippo pitched Pace on his offensive structure for Mitchell Trubisky is of similar importance here. 

"A significant question when we're interviewing candidates is what is your staff going to look like, especially when you're talking to younger coaches," Pace said on New Year's Day. "But you know we have a process laid out, I feel like we have a very good plan in place, it's just a matter of executing that going forward in a pretty competitive market."

If DeFilippo nailed both of his interviews, it could leave him with this choice: Go to the team that already has a young quarterback in place, or go to Arizona and draft his own quarterback to develop. 

Matt Nagy (interviewed Jan. 7)

Nagy’s interview with the Bears came less than 24 hours after the Chiefs blew an 18-point halftime lead and were knocked out of the playoffs by the Titans. That may be a bit awkward, but it could’ve been revealing for Pace in Nagy’s explanation of what went wrong on Saturday. 

Nagy, according to our own David Kaplan, is a big fan of Trubisky:

The way Nagy used tight end Travis Kelce (83 receptions, 1,038 yards, 8 TDs) could be an intriguing part of his pitch to the Bears for the growth of second-round pick Adam Shaheen, too. 

Might Nagy — who also reportedly has an interview with the Colts set up — want to stick things out in Kansas City and gain some more play-calling experience with Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback next year? Perhaps. But if he likes Trubisky, the Bears could be a good fit for him. The question then is whether the Bears think he’s a better fit for Trubisky than McDaniels, Shurmur, DeFilippo, etc.

Others?

The Bears reportedly requested to interview Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks last week, but are not among the four teams that have interviews set up with him (the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts and New York Giants will interview him this week, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). 

If the Bears were to interview a college coach, it’s unlikely they would publicize it in the way they’ve announced these previous six interviews. But that would be a majorly under-the-radar development, given there hasn’t been any buzz about specific college coaches being linked to the Bears. Remember: Five years ago, when Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly interviewed with the Philadelphia Eagles, it quickly became public knowledge. 

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

    Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

    In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that went for 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

    Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

    Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.