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Bears interview Chris Ballard, Ryan Pace for GM; decision could be next

The Bears moved a step closer to hiring a general manager after interviewing Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard and Saints director of player personnel Ryan Pace on Wednesday.

Barring an unforeseen development, the Bears are expected to move quickly in hiring a GM who will hire the next coach, after GM Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman were fired on Dec. 29.

The Bears have interviewed four GM candidates — Ballard, Pace, Texans director of pro scouting Brian Gaine and Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson.

Ballard, a Bears scout from 2001-11 under general manager Jerry Angelo and the team’s director of pro personnel in 2012 under Emery, is considered the favorite because of his previous experience with the Bears and his experience in both college and pro personnel evaluation.

“Chris is a tremendous person and very sharp at what he does in the personnel side of things,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told Kansas City-area reporters last week. “He and [GM John Dorsey] work hand-in-hand. I think he has a bright future in this business and quite potentially as a general manager.”

Ballard has worked under Dorsey and Reid for two seasons. Reid has final say over the 53-man roster with the Chiefs. The Chiefs were 2-14 in 2012 before Reid, Dorsey and Ballard were hired. They were 11-5 in 2013 and 9-7 in 2014.

“I think the world of Chris, I think everybody knows that,” Dorsey said last week. “Do I think he can handle [the GM job]? I do.”

The pace of the process is expected to accelerate this weekend. The Bears are expected to hire a general manager as soon as Friday and move quickly to hire a coach, who can hire a staff in time for Senior Bowl week Jan. 20-24 in Mobile, Ala.

A source confirmed to the Sun-Times that the Bears’ interview with Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has been moved up to Thursday. It had been scheduled for Saturday, prior to the GM interviews with Pace and Ballard. The Bears interviewed Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn last week.

Bowles interviewed with the Jets on Wednesday. His scheduled interview with the Falcons on Thursday reportedly was postponed until Saturday.

The New York Jets, the only other team seeking to replace a fired general manager, have interviewed seven candidates — none of whom has been interviewed by the Bears. Ballard and Pace turned down requests to interview for that job.

The Washington Redskins hired former 49ers GM Scot McCloughan as their general manager Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. Team president Bruce Allen filled the GM role last season after Mike Shanahan was fired following the 2013 season.

McCloughan, who earned a sterling reputation as a talent evaluator with the Packers, 49ers and Seahawks, also drew interest from the Jets and Raiders.