Two weeks after firing Phil Emery and Marc Trestman, the Bears have a general manager, but no head coach.
That figures to change this week, provided new GM Ryan Pace doesn’t have his eye on an assistant still locked in the NFL playoffs.
In the interim, we present 10 question marks — both for the Bears and their new GM:
1. Do they prefer a head coach with experience?
Not necessarily, Pace said when introduced Friday. The candidates with whom the Bears have spoken have a combined zero games’ head coaching experience. That trend will continue Tuesday, when, sources confirmed, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will interview at Halas Hall.
Pace, the youngest GM in football at 37, knows that age matters little. The four candidates range from 36 (Broncos coordinator Adam Gase) to 51 (Cardinals coordinator Todd Bowles). Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is 44, Austin 49.
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“I’m sure there are going to be coaches who we interview that are younger that, hey, just like me, they have a lot of years in the league,” Pace said Friday. “And they’ve gone through a lot of things.
“I don’t always want to think that age is an indicator of experience.”
2. But experience is good, right?
Especially with a young GM.
The Bears’ interest in Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was understandable — he was a rare candidate with experience, having coached the Texans from 2006-13, and his offense would have fit Matt Forte and Jay Cutler.
With Kubiak deciding Sunday to stay in Baltimore and Rex Ryan taking the Buffalo job, though, the list of experienced head coaches is thinning. Former Bills coach Doug Marrone, who worked with Pace in New Orleans, and Schiller Park native Mike Shanahan fit the bill.
One thing to remember, though: Pace admires Sean Payton, but he had never been a head coach until the Saints hired him in 2006.
3. Can Pace get his first hire, ever, right?
That’s the biggie. He said he’s “hired and identified” staff members, but never a coach.
“It’s all new for me,” he said.
He said he’ll lean on Chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips and advisor Ernie Accorsi for support — but will have the final say.
4. Does Pace know college?
Emery was the college scouting director for the Falcons and Chiefs before being named the Bears GM. Pace comes from the other side of scouting; he was the Saints’ director of pro scouting for six years before spending the last two as the director of player personnel.
The Saints’ front office had blended the pro and college sides together, Pace said, which gives him experience in scouting the draft and other pro teams.
“Whether you’re working on one side or the other, you’re really doing both,” he said. “And I actually think that’s important.”
5. Will the Bears’ scouting staff be blended that way, too?
Could happen. Pace talked about bringing new ideas to Halas Hall, and also about being fair to the scouting staff he’s inherited.
“In reality the structures aren’t that different right now from what we had in New Orleans,” Pace said. “The structures are what they are. It’s making sure you have the right people in place throughout that structure.”
6. Drafting will be critical, right?
Entering the 2014 draft, the Packers led the NFL by employing a whopping 33 players they had drafted. The Vikings were ninth and the Lions 11th.
The Bears? Dead last.
“Those teams have a done a successful job of building their teams through the draft,” Pace said. “So that’s where we’ve gotta get to. We got to build our team strong through the draft to have sustained success.
“Honestly, I respect what Green Bay’s done. I respect what (Packers GM) Ted Thompson’s done. I respect what Detroit’s done. They built through the draft and they are sustaining success because of that.”
7. Why not keep Accorsi around after the hires are made?
Accorsi, who sat in on every GM interview, won’t be sticking around after a coach is picked.
“Ernie’s in retirement,” McCaskey said. “He’s doing this consulting on an independent contractor basis. I think when the process is concluded, he’ll want to get back to doing the things he enjoys doing and let Ryan take off on his own.”
He’s willing to help from afar.
“He’s a phone call away,” McCaskey said. “And Ernie said he’d be willing to do that.”
8. How will Pace avoid the Saints’ cap fate?
The Saints’ grim salary-cap situation is “because that’s a good team with a lot of veteran players and a quarterback,” Pace said.
Pace admitted the cap isn’t his strong suit. He’ll lean on Bears vice president of football administration and general counsel Cliff Stein, one of the league’s best.
“I think being a good GM is knowing your strengths and weaknesses, right?” Pace said.
9. What did Pace learn from adversity?
Pace dealt with two unique circumstances in New Orleans: the 2005 relocation to San Antonio because of Hurricane Katrina and the 2012 repercussions to “Bountygate.”
Pace was the interim GM for the first eight games of the 2012 season after GM Mickey Loomis was suspended.
“Adverse conditions I think can be revealing — in good and bad ways,” he said.
10. And when will this be over?
Pace won’t set a deadline. But players begin reporting to the Senior Bowl on Sunday, and the Bears might be well-suited to start searching for a coaching staff there.
“There’s an urgency, no question,” Pace said. “I think about the Senior Bowl a lot – that’s important. But I don’t think that overrides getting the right head coach.
“I’ll be at the Senior Bowl. We’ll have all our scouts there.”