By Adam Hoge-
HALAS HALL (CBS) We’re just minutes into the post-Lovie Smith era, but as we await official word from general manager Phil Emery, I thought I’d take a quick glance at a few names to watch for the Bears’ new head coaching vacancy.
This list is by no means exhaustive and was compiled based on both my own opinions of who I think would be a good fit and some early reports on who the Bears are targeting.
Bill O’Brien, Penn State Head Coach
Anyone who watched Penn State football this year has to be impressed with Bill O’Brien. After the program was ravished by scandal and sanctions, he took an offense that had virtually nothing and turned it into the 35th-ranked passing offense in college football. He took former walk-on quarterback Matt McGloin — who no one took seriously — and turned him into a guy who will certainly end up in an NFL training camp next summer.
The Nittany Lions still had some talent on defense this past season, but it didn’t have much on offense, yet they still won eight games. O’Brien is a great offensive mind from the Bill Belichick coaching tree who has the potential to be a perfect mentor for Jay Cutler. He doesn’t sacrifice defense either, making him a perfect candidate for the Bears.
The question, though, is whether or not he’ll leave Penn State. He has repeatedly said he is committed to the university, but at the end of the day, he’s still a football coach. Things change when offer sheets are presented.
Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts Offensive Coordinator
The former Pittsburgh Steelers assistant did wonders this year as the interim head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. He’s worked well with Ben Rothlisberger and was impressive with Andrew Luck this season. Arians is well established as an offensive coordinator and now has a 9-3 NFL record as a head coach. He’ll be highly sought after, but would be a good fit for the Bears. The downside? He’s already 60 years old. The Bears might want to go younger.
Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos Offensive Coordinator
McCoy has led the Broncos’ offense since 2009 and FOXSports’ Jay Glazer had already reported that the Bears requested permission to interview him. McCoy is only 40 years old, so he is a lot younger than Arians. Naturally, he’s also less established. Having Peyton Manning helps you look good, but McCoy also deserves credit for whatever that Tim Tebow magic was last year. He coordinated an offense with Tebow at quarterback and somehow won a playoff game.
Chip Kelly, Oregon Head Coach
Ask anyone around the NCAA or NFL and they’ll tell you they’d be surprised if Kelly doesn’t take the leap to the NFL after the Fiesta Bowl. Skeptics will point to his spread offense at Oregon and say it won’t work in the NFL. A closer look at his offense shows that it has more pro concepts than you think and he uses it because that’s who he can recruit to Eugene.
Don’t underestimate Kelly has an offensive mind. His roots are in the pro-style game and he came from nowhere (New Hampshire) to lead a potent Oregon offense and take the program to a new level.
His defensive coordinator, Nick Aliotti, is also intriguing and could possibly go with Kelly. He runs an exciting hybrid-style defense that would actually fit extremely well with Shea McClellin. Aliotti has been at Oregon since 1999, though, and it’s unclear if he has any desire to coordinate in the NFL.
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Head Coach
Things have not gone well for the Hawkeyes the last couple of seasons and if Ferentz gets a good offer, he and Iowa could have a mutual parting of the ways. He already has security, however, with an enormous buyout in Iowa City, so that gives him good leverage and makes it nearly impossible for the Hawks to fire him anytime soon.
How good of a head coach will he be in the NFL? I have no idea. To be honest, I’ve never really understood the Kirk Ferentz thing. I do expect Phil Emery to look hard at the college ranks and Ferentz isn’t too far away.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.