If you believe Ian Rapaport’s report on the NFL Network that Bears President Ted Phillips has already been making calls regarding potential head-coach candidates, it’s a foregone conclusion that John Fox will not be back next season as the Bears' head coach.
That being said, the most important decision that Ryan Pace and the Bears front office has to make this coming offseason is not who to select in free agency or the NFL draft but rather who will be the next head coach. There will be several candidates interviewed, and the 16th head coach in franchise history could come from the following list.
Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs.
Dave Toub, special teams coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator, Los Angeles Rams
Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, New England Patriots
David Shaw, head coach, Stanford University
Pete Carmichael, offensive coordinator, New Orleans Saints
Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator, New England Patriots
Dennis Allen, defensive coordinator, New Orleans Saints
John DeFillipo, quarterback coach, Philadelphia Eagles
Steve Wilks – defensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers
There could be other names, but as I write this, those above are the most prominent names being mentioned. All have strong resumes, and if there are as many head-coach jobs available as rumored, almost all on that list could be an NFL head coach next year.
When Ryan Pace became the Bears' general manager three years ago, Ernie Accorsi — the former New York Giants general manager — was a consultant for the Bears and had a lot of say in John Fox getting hired. Pace had no prior working relationship with Fox. The next Bears coach could very well be someone who Pace has already worked with. If that is the case, both Pete Carmichael and Dennis Allen could be very serious candidates.
The person Pace hires will be someone whom he feels he can have a strong working relationship with, and often during the interview process, it becomes very apparent who that person is.
Because the Bears selected quarterback Mitch Trubisky in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, the plan on how to develop Trubisky will be an important factor in the hire. Many will automatically feel that, because of that dynamic, the Bears will chose an offensive-minded head coach.
That isn’t necessarily the case. Regardless of whether the new guy was an offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator or special teams coordinator, whomever that person is going to hire to coach Trubisky is the key. A head coach will only be as good as the assistants he hires.
Part of John Fox’s downfall was elevating quarterback coach Dowell Loggains to run the offense in 2016 after Adam Gase left to coach the Miami Dolphins. While Loggains may be a good quarterback coach, he is not an NFL offensive coordinator, and that has been proven week after week over the past two seasons.
The Bears' next head coach has to hire a quality offensive staff. When you look at the success that young quarterbacks like Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott and Jared Goff have had in their short time in the league, you will see it’s because of the quality coaches that are working with the young quarterbacks.
Wentz has Frank Reich and John DeFilippo, Prescott has Wade Wilson and Scott Linehan and Goff has Matt LaFleur and Greg Olson. These are all quality NFL coaches with the knowledge and experience to help guide and develop their young quarterbacks.
You can argue that the head coach on all three of these staffs is an offensive guy, and it’s a valid argument, but they still had to hire those well-qualified assistants. A defensive coach could have done just as good of a job.
An important part of the interview process is the discussion on who that person will hire for his staff. The candidate would have already put together a short list of names for each assistant position before he interviews. He also has to have more than one name for each of the positions because there are times when his first choice isn’t available.
Often the head-coach candidate has already spoken to people on his list and given them the “what if” scenarios. If he feels with certainty he can get the top names on his list, that can help him get a coveted head-coach position.
The next few weeks will be very interesting, as we will find out who is on the Bears' short list of candidates. I’m sure Pace already has his list ready, but we won’t begin to find out until the first few people are actually interviewed.