Bears

Job posting: Head coach, Chicago Bears: Playoff experience helpful

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Job posting: Head coach, Chicago Bears: Playoff experience helpful

The search for the Bears next head coach already is underway, with a couple of strong guidelines in place under general manager Phil Emery.

And Bears Chairman George McCaskey added a strategic one of his own: We are building, not rebuilding.

That may be true. Then again, events have peculiar ways of altering even the staunchest of goals and plans. A year ago, the Bears were hiring Emery and planning on another year of Lovie Smith. Two months ago, they were 7-1 and Emery was addressing rumors that he was working on a Smith contract extension.

Tuesday was spent addressing questions about Smiths successor and whether the whole 2012 season was a wasted year in franchise development.

It certainly didnt look like a lost year at 7-1, McCaskey said. And looking back on it, Ted Phillips, Bears president and I thought it was the right decision. We thought Lovie deserved another year and Phil was fine with that.

The succession plan

Emery now embarks on his first-ever hiring of an NFL head coach with a plan, a timetable and an idea of how the new coach will work with his personnel structure.

Ideally I could stand shoulder to shoulder with this person during the college All-Star games the East-West is coming up, the Senior Bowl is coming up. All those things are important, Emery said. We have to be thorough, though. The playoffs are a consideration.

The playoffs are a consideration even though the Bears arent in them. But assistants with playoff teams cannot be hired until their teams are out of the postseason.

Emery will conduct the initial interviews with candidates, with those beginning this week with a list that includes Atlanta special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.

A short list of perhaps three finalists will be brought in for second interviews that will include McCaskey and Phillips.

The candidates will include college and NFL coaches and assistants from all three (offense, defense, special teams) areas.

Control issues

Some attention invariably focuses on possible big-name coaches who might be brought in to run the Bears. But a problem with the likes of Mike Holmgren, Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden is how much control they will have over personnel decisions.

Emery was explicit that the GM determines the 53-man roster with input from coaches, not the other way around.

Its important for the general manager to have 53 authority for this reason, Emery said. The 53If youre going to hand that all to one person, I think youre not developing personnel talent, youre putting it all in one persons hands. Sometimes thats been successful but even that person has had a partner thats been helping him with personnel.

I just dont see that to be a good mix.

All candidates are expected to have some NFL experience in their backgrounds, Emery said. And the chosen one may have the choice of serving as his own offensive coordinator, if he has had strong NFL experience and all they have to do is convince me thats the best way to operate, Emery said, not sounding convinced that this is the best way.

There have been other coaches that have called the plays offensively, defensively and have had some success.

The checklist

Emery ticked off what he viewed as his criteria for hire:

Excellence in their role

Regardless of what specific job the candidate comes from, he will need to have been very good at and successful in it.

Great organizational skills and administrative skills, along with leadership skills

You have to be highly organized, thorough, meticulous to make sure that youre always putting your team in position for success.

High energy

Somebody that pulls people together in the building I want somebody that has some warmth that pulls everybody together and that we have synergy, not only with our players but with everybody in the building to work towards our common goal. Upbeat and positive.

Good on their feet

I want this person to stand up and represent us well There needs to be a level of consistency in this individual and how he presents himself. Not only when were up, but when were down.

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

Pro Football Focus: Bears could be surprise playoff team in 2018

There's a lot of optimism about the Chicago Bears in 2018 largely because of the incredible offseason had by GM Ryan Pace. It started in free agency with several big-name additions on offense and continued in the NFL Draft with the selection of Roquan Smith, arguably the top all-around defender in the class.

Pace now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. He's entering a season with actual expectations. While those expectations vary, one thing is consistent: Improvement is expected.

According to Pro Football Focus, Chicago should end up challenging for a playoff spot.

No less than five additions on offense this offseason could make key impacts for the Bears, including wide receiver Allen Robinson who was one of the NFL’s best in 2015 before a down year in 2016 and essentially missing all of 2017 through injury. He’s joined at the position by Taylor Gabriel, who had three touchdowns on throws 20 yards or further downfield in 2016 and rookie Anthony Miller, who was tied for fourth among wide receivers in this draft class with 19 missed tackles forced on receptions. Add in tight end Trey Burton, who had three touchdowns from just 16 targets when lined up in the slot and rookie offensive lineman James Daniels from Iowa and it’s easy to see why this offense led by Mitchell Trubisky has the potential to trend upwards big time in 2018.

The Bears were one of five teams PFF listed as a surprise Wild Card candidate. The road to the post-season will be challenging, however. Not only do all of the new pieces have to gel, but they have to do it while playing in one of the toughest divisions in football.

The NFC North could have three teams -- not including the Bears --  playing in January. The Vikings may be the most talented club in the NFC and the Packers will always be a contender with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. The Lions have some vulnerability, but they've had more success than Chicago in recent seasons.

Still, Pace deserves credit for winning the offseason.

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

How the new kickoff rule may impact the Bears

NFL owners voted for sweeping changes to the kickoff play Tuesday, a decision that presents a new challenge for Bears special teams coach Chris Tabor.

Player safety was the focus of the rule change. Collisions will be reduced and the play will look more like a punt than the traditional kickoff fans have become used to. Here's a breakdown of what's coming in 2018:

With less contact and physicality in the play, Tabor's game planning will be tested. Kickoffs won't require as many power players like the ones traditionally seen in the wedge block. Skill players like receivers, running backs and tight ends could be viewed as more valuable special teams pieces, as was suggested by NFL Network's Bucky Brooks.

Tarik Cohen could become even more lethal under the new rules. If kick returners end up with more space to navigate, Cohen will improve on the 583 return yards he managed as a rookie. He'll conjure memories of the recently retired Devin Hester.

The ability to contribute on special teams is critically important for players on the roster bubble. It'll be interesting to see if the Bears apply the approach suggested by Brooks. If they do, undrafted players like Matt Fleming and John Franklin III suddenly have more value and a better chance to make the team. 

For a complete breakdown of the new kickoff rule, click here.