By Chris Emma—
(670 The Score) Despite what the Bears have been for the better part of a decade and their failures during three lost seasons in the John Fox era, they feature one of the more promising head coaching jobs in the NFL.
A franchise that has been futile for the last half-decade offers one of the most promising draws to prospective coaches, and that’s 23-year-old quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the second overall pick of the NFL Draft last April. Trubisky showed the quality progress and flashed the talent during a rookie season that a new head coach would want in a quarterback.
The Bears fired Fox on Monday morning, opening a position that should seek plenty of attention. Trubisky’s development figures to be the greatest priority as the Bears seek their next head coach. Entering his fourth year as general manager, Ryan Pace will get his pick for the man to mold Trubisky.
While Pace and the Bears won’t limit their options, they seem likely to seek an offensive mind who can be a natural fit for Trubisky. In turn, the team offers an intriguing opportunity for some of the top young coaches in football.
The Bears would love to land the next Sean McVay, expected to be named NFL Coach of the Year for his work in his first season with the Rams and Jared Goff. Of course, finding such a high-caliber coach will be challenging.
Now that the move has been made, it’s time for Pace and the Bears to find their next head coach. Here are the names to watch:
Josh McDaniels, 41 – Patriots offensive coordinator
When McDaniels was tabbed as Broncos head coach back in 2009, his firm demeanor didn’t mesh with the team – specifically quarterback Jay Cutler, whose clash with McDaniels spurred a trade to the Bears. It’s what defined a failed tenure in Denver in which McDaniels went 11-17 and was fired late in his second season.
McDaniels is still young in the coaching profession and has learned lessons from the time in Denver, most notably in six seasons as offensive coordinator of the Patriots, who entered Sunday first in the NFL in total offense and third in scoring. McDaniels has been influenced working with Bill Belichick and has been the play-caller for Tom Brady and one of the league’s premier offenses. It’s worth noting that McDaniels’ brother, Ben, is an offensive analyst with the Bears and can inform him of the situation in Chicago
McDaniels has five Super Bowl rings with the Patriots and should be one of the top candidates on the market, should he be interested in leaving the cozy confines of New England. However, his past in Denver and the lessons learned must be assessed thoroughly.
Matt LaFleur, 38 – Rams offensive coordinator
The Bears won’t be able to hire McVay, but they could perhaps land the next-best option in LaFleur, the first-year Rams offensive coordinator who has been vital in the success of Goff this season and has served as a key aide to McVay. The Rams entered the final day of the regular season as the league’s highest-scoring offense.
LaFleur is working in his first season as an offensive coordinator in the NFL and only his third year in the league, but many thought McVay wasn’t ready to become a head coach, and he has excelled. That could bode well for LaFleur.
Pat Shurmur, 52 – Vikings offensive coordinator
This could’ve been a bad year in Minnesota, with the Vikings losing their two top quarterbacks and their first-round running back. Instead,Shurmur has guided quarterback Case Keenum to a career year as the Vikings have become a Super Bowl contender. Minnesota entered the final day of the regular season in the top 10 in total offense and scoring.
Shurmur helped Keenum transcend from career backup to a player who has received Pro Bowl consideration. Though Shurmur went just 9-23 in two seasons leading the Browns and that unsuccessful tenure needs assessed, part of those failures could be dismissed because of the poor reputation of that franchise.
Frank Reich, 56 – Eagles offensive coordinator
Best known for leading the Bills to the biggest comeback in NFL history when he was a player, Reich has established himself as one of the league’s most respected offensive coordinators. He has spent the last two seasons working with MVP candidate Carson Wentz and the Eagles, the NFC’s top seed this season who were second in scoring in the league entering Sunday.
Reich spent four years working with the Colts, including three alongside future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. He first became an offensive coordinator with the Chargers in 2014, spending two years as the play-caller for Philip Rivers before being hired away by Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. However, Reich’s age could be a deterrent for a team like the Bears looking toward the long term.
“He’s got the right demeanor,” Pederson said of Reich in November. “He’s a players’ coach. He relates well to the players. He does a great job with the offensive staff and he’s got the right demeanor. He’s got the mindset, the mentality, the leadership qualities that you see. I think it is a matter of time.”
John DeFilippo, 39 – Eagles quarterbacks coach
Alongside Wentz, Pederson and Reich has been DeFilippo, the young rising coach who could be ready to make a major jump. He will turn 40 in April but could be deserving of an opportunity to lead a team before that milestone age.
The Eagles’ quarterbacks coach since 2016, DeFilippo has been instrumental in the growth of Wentz from No. 2 overall pick to MVP candidate in his second season. With Wentz, the Eagles shifted from last place in the NFC East to top seed in the conference. He has just one season of experience as offensive coordinator, working with the Browns in 2015, and his youth in the league may keep him from landing a head coaching job so soon.
“You’re seeing (DeFilippo’s influence on Wentz) in his fundamentals,” Pederson said. “I think you are seeing it in his attention to detail when it comes to progressions and reads. Understanding our offense and where guys are going to be. That’s a credit to John and keeping it real with Carson.”
Jim Harbaugh, 54 – Michigan head coach
Would Harbaugh leave the comfortable position coaching his alma mater and return back to the NFL? It doesn’t seem likely, though the Bears would be wise to give him a phone call. Harbaugh led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII and was 44-19-1 during his four seasons with San Francisco before departing for Michigan.
Of course, Harbaugh was quarterback with the Bears for his first seven seasons as a player. He seems to have all the resources and power at his disposal in Ann Arbor, but perhaps there’s an allure of another chance in the NFL.
David Shaw, 45 – Stanford head coach
While Harbaugh seems likely to stay put at Michigan, the man who replaced him at Stanford could be ready for the next challenge. Shaw has been viewed as a tremendous fit for the NFL because his management style of the Cardinal program translates well to the professional level. Before arriving in Palo Alto, he spent nine seasons as an NFL assistant.
Shaw has enjoyed success in leading Stanford, now with a record of 73-22 in his seven seasons since taking over for Harbaugh. He will almost certainly draw interest from the NFL and perhaps from the Bears.
Pete Carmichael, 46 – Saints offensive coordinator
As Pace surveys the coaching landscape, perhaps he could look to his NFL upbringing with the Saints and a longtime piece to the success in New Orleans.
While head coach Sean Payton takes center stage in New Orleans, it’s Carmichael quietly working behind the scenes in helping prepare Drew Brees for each game. His offense now features two Pro Bowl running backs in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, with the Saints evolving their schemes with great balance. New Orleans ranked second in total offense entering Sunday.
Pace and Carmichael worked together for nine seasons in New Orleans before Pace left for Chicago.
Vic Fangio, 59 – Bears defensive coordinator
It’s often said that the greatest mistake NFL talent evaluators can make is not properly assessing a talent already on their team. Because of that, the Bears will likely give Fangio an interview and consideration to be their next head coach.
Fangio lifted the Bears from their darkest defensive era and into a top-10 unit this season. His 3-4 scheme finally has its fits, and the Bears took more steps forward in 2017. While Fox failed during his tenure as coach, Fangio proved to be a terrific hire and could continue on with developing the Bears defense as head coach.
At 59, Fangio has never been an NFL head coach, but that chance hasn’t passed him by just yet. He would need to have a plan to find an offensive coordinator to lead Trubisky’s development.
Dave Toub, 55 – Chiefs special teams coordinator
When will the longtime assistant Toub finally get the chance to be a head coach? It’s a question many have asked. He has been touted for his innovative schemes and tremendous preparation.
Unlike their peers on offense and defense, special teams coordinators are rarely ever considered as head coaches. John Harbaugh is the only active head coach to have served in a special teams role, and he spent a season coaching defensive backs before the Ravens hired him. Toub was interviewed by the Dolphins in 2011 and others in ensuing years.
The Bears know well what Toub brings after he oversaw their special teams for nine seasons under Lovie Smith. He would be revered by players and many more at Halas Hall.