Bears

Is Sullivan right for the job?

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Is Sullivan right for the job?

No less than 20 potential names have been thrown into the proverbial hat to become the Bears' next head coach. Some candidates already eliminated themselves, like former Eagles head coach Andy Reid who agreed to a 5-year contract with the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday or Falcons' offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter who publicly stated he will remain in Atlanta with a pay increase attached to it.

Others in the running will be eliminated for various reasons moving forward, but Bears GM Phil Emery likely has about five candidates he is seriously considering.

It is not uncommon for general managers to acquire a Rolodex of quality coaches who may be future head coaching material during their scouting travels. Their file continues to grow as they gain experience as their careers progress. Its similar to the numerous notes created on players, as coaching files appear to be pretty deep and very thorough as well.

The latest candidate is Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan who recently underwent a six hour interview conducted by Emery and the Bears' brass. Sullivan has been coaching since 1993 when he started at Humboldt State while earning his Masters degree. He formerly played as a defensive back at Army where he completed his Bachelor of Science degree and became a graduate of U.S. Army Airborne, Ranger and Air Assault schools.

If you want tough head coaches, Sullivan may be your guy, as he can beat offensive principles into players with his Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Plus, Sullivan has spent time with accomplished head coaches during his career. In 1997, he worked at Youngstown State under former Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel, where his team won the Division I AA National Championship. Sullivan broke into the NFL as a defensive quality-control coach in Jacksonville in 2002, later becoming the offensive assistant in 2003.

He spent time there with Tom Coughlin, who brought him to New York to coach wide receivers after Coughlin agreed to be signing as the Giants' head coach in 2004. Sullivan later became Eli Manning's quarterback coach during the 2010 season.

Sullivan not only served under a very accomplished head coach in Coughlin, but also alongside a seasoned coaching staff like offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride while winning two Super Bowl Championships with the Giants before moving on to Tampa Bay in 2012. Under Sullivan, Tampa Bay finished with a top nine overall offense in the NFL, ranking 10th in pass and 15th in rushing offense.

Much of what Sullivan has to accomplish with the Bears surrounds quarterback Jay Cutler. Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano said the same concerning Tampa quarterback Josh Freeman.

What I can say is a 4,000-yard passer, a touchdown record there are a lot of things you say, Wow. Are there things that frustrate you? Yeah.

Do I think Josh Freeman is going to win Super Bowls in this league? I do. So, I hope that happens here. But again, at the end of the day, I have to evaluate everything before I can say thats what were doing.," Schiano said. "The one thing I do believe in is competition at every spot, including the quarterback so I want to have as many good players on our football team as we can at every single position. Its a little different in the NFL.

The truth of the matter is, Freeman was all over the map in 2012 with a great offensive line and great weapons around him with a first time play caller in Sullivan. Plus, that is not exactly a ringing endorsement about quarterback Freeman from Schiano, which is supposed to be what Sullivan was hired to rectify.

Sullivan is a first-time play caller with no head coaching experience or track record at all, which leads you to believe he is qualified enough to be the Bears' next head coach?

Next.

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

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USA Today

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

Chicago Bears left tackle Charle Leno, Jr. has outplayed expectations after joining the Bears as a seventh-round pick in 2014. General manager Ryan Pace rewarded Leno for his play with a four-year, $38 million extension last offseason, committing to the former Boise State product as the Bears blindside protector for the immediate future.

Leno joined his teammates at the team's annual Bears Care Gala on Saturday and said new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is going to make the group better.

"We love Harry, let's just get that out of the way," Leno told 670 the Score's Mark Grote. "Harry is a great coach. I saw what he did for guys that he coached in college and the guys that were before us here in Chicago. He's getting us better."

Hiestand's efforts at Notre Dame produced four first-round picks: Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. He brings a no-nonsense coaching style back to Chicago, where he last served under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. 

STANKEVITZ: In Harry Hiestand, Matt Nagy hits a home run on his first swing at Bears' coaching staff

Leno enjoyed the best season of his career in 2017. His 80.4 grade from Pro Football Focus was the best of all Bears linemen and his highest overall mark over the last four years. He finished 15th among all tackles graded by PFF last season.

Regardless, Leno still has to impress his new coach just like every other offensive lineman on the roster. The Bears haven't added any competition for Leno, but his fate as the team's long-term answer at left tackle could be decided by Hiestand.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”