The Bears have lost coaches, specifically coordinators, even in-season, to head-coaching jobs, albeit not always to NFL jobs. Dick Jauron’s offensive coordinator, Gary Crowton, left with games remaining in the 2000 season to take the head job at BYU, even though the Bears were an anemic 3-10 at the time. And they didn't especially miss Crowton, either; interim John Shoop abandoned "razzle-dazzle," loaded up on the run and the Bears won two of their last three. (Ironically, one of the Shoop's wins was over the New England Patriots. Crowton had been the second choice for the Patriots' top job before that season, but Bill Belichick was able to get out of his contract with the New York Jets and take the Patriots job. Otherwise...)
George Allen went from his post as George Halas’ defensive coordinator, highlighted with the 1963 NFL championship, to head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, but not without a lawsuit muddying the process. Papa Bear won the lawsuit then freed Allen anyway, having made his point. Buddy Ryan went from defensive coordinator to Eagles head coach, where he lost all four of the games he coached against the Bears. But at the NFL level, teams look at successful coordinators to fill head-coaching jobs.
Going into this season, the distinct possibility existed that this would be the one and only year for Adam Gase as Bears offensive coordinator, and further that it could be the only year that he and quarterback Jay Cutler work together as members as the Bears organization. Best guess is that no lawsuits would be involved.
If the Bears do well, Cutler’s performance is presumably part of that, and would presumably have been such that it reflected well on Gase’s stewardship. Job offers would follow for Gase, who was interviewed for head-coaching jobs last offseason and that was before his work with Cutler.
That scenario would make Gase the first NFL offensive coordinator to work with Cutler and not get fired. Gase also would be the first of that group to move on to become an NFL head coach.
Under Gase, Cutler has begun morphing away from the turnover machine the NFL saw him as. And he has managed respectability behind a patchwork offensive line and without anything close to elite receivers – a situation that too often unhinged him in seasons past.
If the Bears did poorly, and Cutler presumably was a large part of that, then the quarterback likely would be elsewhere.
Of course, this Bears’ season was never going to be as simple as pass-fail, so varying degrees of in-season success would mean varying levels of interest in either quarterback or coach. The Bears could be just OK, and both stay; or Gase simply doesn’t get one of the inevitable open jobs because of fit or whatever. (See: Rivera, Ron)
Going into 2015, seven teams hired new head coaches, including the Bears with Fox. Seven new ones also were hired the offseason before, including Ken Whisenhunt by the Tennessee Titans, who fired Whisenhunt last Tuesday after 20 games (17 of them losses). A sign of the changing times.
“I’m not sure you get a fair evaluation in a year and six games, for anybody,” said coach John Fox, on of the seven this year. “But it’s what we deal with.”
But with the Whisenhunt experience as a backdrop/context: Whether it’s fair to evaluate Gase as a potential head coach based on one year (Denver) and seven games as an offensive coordinator would be a valid question.
But Gase’s primary pupil has formed an evaluation.
“I think he’ll make a great head coach,” Cutler said (with Gase sitting not all that far away). “I think he proves that daily out here just in his detail. Being around Fox the last three, four or five years or however long they’ve been together, he’s seen how to do it the right way. He’s been around a lot of really, really good coaches. He’s taken bits and pieces from each one.
“Offensively, I think he’s one of the best in the league, too. If he does get his shot, it’s gonna be well-deserved.”
Predictably, Gase’s mind was on his current job, not his possible next one.
[NBC SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
“That stuff's so far away,” Gase said on Friday. “We need to focus on winning games. That's the furthest thing from my mind right now.”
Gase is not in or on the market for in-season jobs, and few are expected to open the way the Tennessee job did. Jim Caldwell survived a purge of GM and team president with the Detroit Lions.
Teams would need the Bears’ permission to interview Gase and Fox said he is far from that stage of any head-coaching search. But Fox has seen his coordinators go on to top sideline jobs – Mike McCoy to San Diego, Jack Del Rio to Oakland – and understands the attractions that come with winning.
“I just pride myself in having success and then watching guys get rewarded for it,” Fox said. “Much like players; if you’re team does good, your coaches do good and your players do good. A lot of times, team success warrants some of the individual attention people get.”