With the retention of head coach Lovie Smith and GM Jerry Angelo having been made official for at least another season, the search for new coordinators on both sides of the ball has taken center stage.
It appears team insiders have a much better read on the Bears' search for a new defensive coordinator — with Perry Fewell, a former Bears assistant under Smith, quickly emerging as the clear-cut favorite for the job — than the hunt for a new offensive coordinator to replace Ron Turner, who was removed two days after the regular season ended, along with five other offensive assistants.
"He looks like a slam dunk compared to the other candidates," one team insider said of Fewell, who finished this season as the Bills' interim head coach after replacing the fired Dick Jauron and is scheduled to interview with the Bears next week.
A potentially major problem with Fewell, however, is the competition for his services with both the Bills, who interviewed him for their vacant head-coaching post the day after the regular season ended, and the Giants, who interviewed him three days later for the defensive coordinator job that opened up with the firing of Bill Sheridan. While Fewell is close to Smith, he's even closer with Giants head coach Tom Coughlin after having worked under Coughlin for five years as the Jaguars' DB coach.
Meanwhile, the search for a new offensive coordinator — which Angelo declared "probably the biggest decision since I've been here, other than hiring the head coach" — initially appears to be focused on USC assistant head coach Jeremy Bates, who previously worked with Bears QB Jay Cutler in Denver as the Broncos' QB coach.
That Bates supposedly has a good relationship with Cutler, who team insiders tell us never really was on the same wavelength as Turner, could be a strong selling point in his favor. However, in addition to having never been a coordinator at the pro level, Bates hardly set the world on fire this year with a USC offense that got worse instead of better, and he reportedly could follow Pete Carroll to Seattle if the USC head coach makes the jump back to the NFL.
Aside from Bates, the name being mentioned most frequently is that of Mike Martz, whose track record — highlighted by his "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams teams, on which Smith worked — is well-documented.
Said one inside source: "With Lovie really needing to turn things around next year or else, Martz seems like the most qualified guy to help stage that quick a turnaround."
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