Rex Ryan is a long shot for the Bears. But whether or not it’s Ryan, it’s about time the McCaskeys hire someone who is not like themselves — and maybe even take a chance on a man with NFL head-coaching experience.
Ryan is both. Unlike Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman, he loves to be the star of the show. He makes sure everyone knows he’s in charge — the latter is not a bad thing after Trestman’s 5-11 disaster in 2014.
And he has succeeded and failed as an NFL head coach, which has to count for something. The Jets reached the AFC Championship Game — with Mark Sanchez as their quarterback — in the 2009 and 2010 seasons. They failed to make the playoffs the last four seasons, and Ryan was fired.
The Bears have not hired a coach with NFL head-coaching experience since George Halas rehired himself in 1958. But if the Bears are determined to change their ways, Ryan merits serious consideration. He’s a defensive coach who loves to run the ball — just the antidote the Bears need. The Jets were sixth in total defense and fifth in rushing defense in 2014. They were tied for third in rushing attempts, third in rushing yards and eighth in yards per rush.
Ryan is not for everybody. He’s no sure thing. But being fired isn’t necessarily a black mark on a résumé. Some failed coaches learn from their mistakes. Others don’t. It’s up to Ernie Accorsi and his new general manager to figure that out. Accorsi’s only coaching hire with the Giants was Tom Coughlin, who had been fired by the Jaguars. So he’s 1-0 in that department.
2. Here’s an outside-the-box GM candidate (for the Bears, anyway) to consider: former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan, who according to an ESPN The Magazine story this month is looking to return to the NFL after leaving the Seahawks earlier this year because of alcohol-abuse issues.
McCloughan, 43, who runs an independent NFL scouting service, Instinctive Scouting, is a Ron Wolf protege with an impressive record of player acquisitions with the Packers, 49ers and Seahawks.
As GM of the 49ers, he drafted Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis, Dashon Goldson and Joe Staley among others and signed Justin Smith and Ahmad Brooks as free agents — a good chunk of the teams that went to three consecutive NFC Championship Games under Jim Harbaugh. As an assistant to John Schneider in Seattle, he had a hand in identifying Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. His scouting report on Wilson, from the ESPN The Magazine story: “Obviously we are really interested in passers with better height, but this guy may just be the exception to the rule. He has the ‘it’ factor.”
3. An even bolder outside-the-box candidate would be Eliot Wolf, the Packers’ director of pro personnel and the son of former Packers GM Ron Wolf. He’s only 32, but as long as he still talks to his father, his references alone could put his résumé near the top of the list. Ron Wolf not only re-built the Packers, but he has a knack for hiring and developing good people. He hired Ted Thompson (the Packers’ current GM), Schneider (the Seahawks’ GM) and McCloughan and retained John Dorsey (the Chiefs’ GM) when he was hired by the Packers in 1991.
4. Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles — yet another former Wolf hire — is an intriguing coaching candidate because of his background in personnel (he worked for Wolf on the Packers’ player personnel staff in 1995-96 before going into coaching), his history of being on teams that improve (the Dolphins went from 1-15 to 9-7 and the playoffs in Bowles’ first season as secondary coach in 2008) and his background with Bill Parcells.
“Parcells taught me more about, from the first guy on the roster to the last, how he fits in the system, why he fits in the system,” Bowles told Detroit reporters when he was a candidate for the Lions’ job that went to Jim Schwartz in 2009, “why we want him on this team; why we don’t want him on this team. And he taught me how to learn players.”
5. Bowles’ impact on the Cardinals’ defense has to be painful for Bears fans, considering Bowles likely would have been the defensive coordinator had Phil Emery hired Bruce Arians instead of Marc Trestman.
Under Bowles in 2013, the Cardinals’ defense improved from 17th to seventh in points and 12th to sixth in yards. The Bears dropped from third to 30th in points and fifth to 30th in yards under Mel Tucker. Ouch.
It doesn’t mean Bowles will be a successful head coach, but on the surface he seems like a good fit for the Bears — an accomplished defensive coach with a run-first offensive philosophy.
6. Emery was dedicated and thorough, but he did not have a manager’s touch. The first indication was his poor handling of Brian Urlacher’s departure from the team in 2013 — with a low-ball contract offer and an approach that didn’t give him the respect he deserved. You can quibble about the details, but if Urlacher — one of the greatest Bears in franchise history — leaves the organization with disdain, you’ve done something wrong.
7. Despite all the decisions that led to a disastrous 5-11 season, Emery lost more credibility than ever when he defended Jay Cutler as an elite quarterback because of Cutler’s winning record during an online question-and-answer session with fans on “Lunch with Larry” on the team’s website.
“Jay Cutler is a winning quarterback in this league, and no matter how you analyze the history of quarterbacks in the NFL, if you have a winning record, you are an elite player at that position.”
At the time, Cutler was 59-52 (.532) as a starter in the NFL and 42-32 (.568) with the Bears. Regardless of the numbers, it was a nonsensical argument that insulted the intelligence of Bears fans.
8. Mike Shanahan is the 2-1 favorite to become the Bears’ coach, according to my guy off the strip, Jimmy Shapiro of bovada.com. Ryan wasn’t far behind at 5-2. The others: Bowles (5-1), Dan Quinn (5-1), Darrell Bevell
(6-1), Matt Patricia (12-1), Mike Holmgren (15-1) and Mike Singletary (15-1).
9. Ex-Bears player of the year: Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen had 84 receptions for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns, made the Pro Bowl and helped the Panthers (7-8-1) win the NFC South.
10. Though the Bears are right to avoid limiting their options in hiring a coach — offense vs. defense, a fiery guy vs. a placid one, etc. — their mission should be pretty clear: They need a coach who will de-emphasize Cutler and Brandon Marshall as integral parts of the team — on the field and in the locker room — by building a defense that dominates and establishing an offense that emphasizes the running game.
That Emery and Trestman embraced and promoted the idea that Cutler and Marshall were the leaders of this team was the root of their downfall. The next guys have to be better judges of talent, and leadership qualities, than that.