Is anybody else relatively happy with how the Head Coach hunt has gone so far? Although we’re still in the very early going, I like the general direction of John DeFilippo, Josh McDaniels, and Pat Shurmur as early rumored candidates (there are other, non-offense-first coaches involved too, of course (more on them in a second)).
I don’t want to set the bar too low here, but it’s good to see that the front office is at least targeting the *types* of coaches who we think make the most sense paired up with young QB. This is a relatively enormous decision for Trubisky, GM Ryan Pace, and the organization as a whole, so it’s imperative they get it right. So far, so good.
Now, bullets …
- The John Fox era was a grand disappointment. But while fans lost faith in Fox, Colleen Kane (Chicago Tribune) writes that the players have made it clear he didn’t lose the locker room like the head coach of the previous regime. It’s a testament to Fox and his staff to keep the players pushing and playing hard despite the inevitability of his firing. We saw first-hand how easy it was to lose a locker room of players who could also see the writing on the wall. Perhaps this is why Fox wasn’t fazed by talk of his future.
- Of course, the future isn’t as clear for (now free agent DC) Vic Fangio. Indeed, the Tribune’s Dan Wiederer writes that the Bears have been vague regarding the future of their highly regarded defensive coordinator. And unfortunately, his departure would likely represent an immediate step backwards for the Bears, after his masterful rebuilding of a unit that ranked among the league’s worst upon his arrival in 2015.
- But could Fangio be a candidate for the open head coaching gig? Pace was once again vary vague about that, but Fangio does seem to have support in the locker room. Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times) goes through five things he learned from the Bears’ locker room clean-out day. Among them, the level of respect Fangio has earned from his players. “I feel like he’s a mastermind, one of the smartest DCs, most-detailed DCs I’ve been around,” said free-agent-to-be Prince Amukamara. “Guys love him. We respect him. If I was here, I’d hope he stays.
- In that vein, Greg Gabriel writes that the Bears shouldn’t limit themselves to offensive-minded coaches in their search. Having reportedly requested an interview with Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, the Bears are already dipping into the alternatives. Gabriel also believes the Bears should keep tabs on Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia (who has experience coaching on the offensive side) and Chiefs special teams guru Dave Toub.
- While the Bears’ general manager embarks on his second head coaching search since taking over for Phil Emery in 2015, the Green Bay Packers are going in a different direction at GM. Ted Thompson is transitioning into a role as senior advisor to football operations after the Packers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Thompson has been the team’s GM for 13 years and was the architect of a Super Bowl champion. The winds of change have hit Green Bay, which has already fired Dom Capers as its defensive coordinator, as well as defensive coaches Mike Trgovac (defensive line) and Scott McCurley.
- According to ESPN Wisconsin’s Jason Wilde, a source says the Packers will consider in-house candidates to replace Dom Capers. Late last week, a pair of Bears coaches were believed to be potential candidates if/when the job opened up.
- Dan Cahill of the Chicago Sun-Times runs down some of the betting odds on the Bears’ next coach for those of you looking to place an investment. Josh McDaniels and Pat Shurmur are 6-1 favorites with Frank Reich (8-1), David Shaw (9-1), Dave Toub (11-1), Mike Shula (12-1), Todd Haley and Jim Bob Cooter (15-1) rounding out the top candidates according to one sports book. I’d be hesitant to take Cooter or Haley despite the big payoffs that could come with the long odds because either is a candidate that moves the needle in a positive direction.
- But if you’re looking for a darkhorse that could pay, Jim Harbaugh at 15-1 is probably your guy.
- Eventually, the Bears will move their search from the coaching ranks to the players on the field. A top priority will be finding help at wide receiver. And to get those juices flowing, here is a look at the top receivers who will be unrestricted free agents when this offseason gets underway:
Top unrestricted free agent wide receivers: Allen Robinson. Jarvis Landry. Sammy Watkins. Marqise Lee. Paul Richardson. Donte Moncrief. Mike Wallace. Eric Decker. Terrelle Pryor. John Brown. Kendall Wright. Taylor Gabriel. Jordan Matthews. Brice Butler. Mike Floyd. D Amendola
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) January 2, 2018
- We have recently discussed some of the names above as potential Bears targets and have plenty of time to dive into more as this offseason progresses.
- One name absent from Mike Clay’s list is Dontrelle Inman, the receiver the Bears acquired from the Chargers for nothing after the team retained the seventh-round pick it offered to Los Angeles. Inman produced his best game of the year against the Vikings in the season finale and was the Bears’ highest-graded offensive player, according to Pro Football Focus. The mid-season acquisition beat standout corner Xavier Rhodes to the tune of four catches and 74 yards. Mitch Trubisky posted a 74.1 passer rating on the 39 throws he made intended for Inman, but two of which were intercepted.
- On the other side of the ledger is cornerback Marcus Cooper, who finished his first season in Chicago with a whimper. Cooper played 11 defensive snaps, his most since Week 11 against the Detroit Lions when he played on 12 plays. To put it in perspective, Cooper played on just 10 defensive snaps in the five games prior to the season finale. Bryan Perez of BearsWire highlights the cornerbacks struggles on a Vikings scoring drive that best summarized Cooper’s year. One year after coming away with four interceptions in 15 games, Cooper ended 2017 having been shutout in the turnover column.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.