Bears’ coaching candidates are growing out of control

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Several names have been thrown out as possible coaching candidates for the Bears. Pete Carmichael Jr., offensive coordinator of the Saints, checks the most boxes. (Getty Images)

Since the #FireFox movement began weeks ago, football insiders have been speculating about John Fox’s successor on the Bears’ sideline.

Initially, the shortlist was pretty much Josh McDaniels and Jim Harbaugh. Then, reality set in. Now, the Post-it-sized list is in need of a legal pad. By the last count, no fewer than 16 names have been floated out there as potential candidates by the media. (And that doesn’t include some of the rumors about defensive-oriented coaches.)

Let’s run them down:

Josh McDaniels

Bill Belichick’s right-hand man is at the top of most lists, but the smart money says he’ll go to the Giants or stay put to be the heir apparent. His 11-17 stint as the 34-year-old head coach of the Broncos probably happened too soon. Seven years later, McDaniels seems primed to take over the main duties again, especially for a team with a young quarterback. One interesting note: Josh’s brother, Ben, is the Bears’ offensive quality control coach.

Jim Harbaugh

His ties to the Bears and McCaskeys are nearly as well known as his affinity for khakis. The former Bears signal caller has shown an aptitude for nurturing young quarterbacks. But the big question about Harbaugh is how much control would he want. GM Ryan Pace probably doesn’t want to hire his replacement. Still, if the Bears came calling, don’t be surprised if Harbaugh leaves Michigan.

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Jim Bob Cooter

Cooter is 7-1 against the Bears during his coaching time in Detroit. Stealing the offensive coordinator from the Lions would be a plus right there. But is the 33-year-old ready for a top job?

Pat Shurmur

It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s Sam Bradford or Case Keenum at th helm, Shurmur’s offensive system in Minnesota has been clicking the past two seasons. The 52-year-old had some head-coaching experience with the Browns in 2011 and 2012, winning nine games.

Teryl Austin

Austin is in line for a head position somewhere, but that somewhere will likely not land the 52-year-old defensive coordinator in Chicago. Popular opinion has the Bears in search of an offensive-minded leader. John Fox coached Austin 30 years ago with the Steelers.

Frank Reich

The 56-year-old offensive coordinator has the Eagles’ offense co-leading the NFL in points at 31.3 per game along with the Rams. Under Reich’s tutelage, second-year quarterback Carson Wentz was a top candidate for NFL MVP before he went down with a season-ending knee injury. The Bears would hope that Reich could work the same magic with Trubisky.

John DeFilippo

As long as we’re on the Eagles, why not include the 39-year-old quarterbacks coach responsible for taking Wentz to the next level. Unfortunately, DeFilippo did not have similar success in 2015 with Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns, where he worked his only season as an offensive coordinator.

Matt Nagy

The 39-year-old OC in Kansas City is another young mind who has shown innovation. The Chiefs and Alex Smith are third in the AFC in total yards behind the Patriots and Steelers. Nagy lacks experience as a head coach, but that has never stopped the Bears in the past. In fact, Fox is the only new coach the Bears have ever hired with previous experience.

Jon Gruden

Gruden would probably love to run Trubisky through his quarterback camp just not at the expense of losing his estimated $6.5 million gig at ESPN. If the 52-year-old former coach wants to come down from the booth, now is probably the best time to do it, but Gruden has already shot down the rumors.

Pete Carmichael Jr.

The Bears took a pass on the Saints’ longtime offensive coordinator in 2013, but that might not be the case this time around with Carmichael’s connections to Pace. Carmichael’s father coached with the Bears under Dick Jauron. The 46-year-old has never had a top job, which usually aligns with the Bears’ modus operandi. Of all the potential candidates, Carmichael probably checks the most boxes for the Bears.

Matt LaFleur

The NFL is a copycat league, and every struggling team would love to duplicate the Rams’ turnaround. Working as the OC under 31-year-old head coach Sean McVay, LaFleur has been instrumental in the Rams’ offensive resurgence and quarterback Jared Goff’s development. LaFleur, 38, also worked last year with Falcons QB Matt Ryan during his MVP season and with Redskins QB Robert Griffin during his breakout rookie year.

Jeff Fisher

The last time the Bears hired one of their former players it was Mike Ditka in 1982. Fisher played for Da Coach on the 1985 Super Bowl championship team and is reportedly insterested in coming back. Don’t expect history to repeat. Fisher, 59, is tied with Dan Reeves for the most losses (165) by an NFL coach.

Dave Toub

It would be so Bears to let Toub out of their grasp and then bring him back. From 2004 to 2012, Toub’s units, led by Devin Hester, continuously provided big plays for the Bears. Several football insiders say the 56-year-old Chiefs special teams coordinator is ready for a top job, even though he’s never headed up an offense or defense.

David Shaw

The one coach that looks likely to move up from the college ranks is Shaw, who took over at Stanford after Harbaugh departed. Shaw, 45, has worked as an assistant in the NFL, played under Bill Walsh at Stanford and runs a pro-style offense. Shaw is the first Stanford coach in 80 years to win three conference titles.

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Vic Fangio

The Bears more than likely want to keep Fangio, just not as head coach. In a best-case scenario for Pace, the Bears hire a young offensive-minded head coach and retain the battle-tested Fangio as DC but in a mentoring role. Dating back to his high school coaching days, Fangio, 59, has never been a head coach.

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Dowell Loggains

If you read this far into the piece, we have to leave you with a laugh. It would be hard to make a case for Loggains to move up. Granted, he has had a limited cast with which to work, but his play-calling has been sporadic at best. If the Bears had any notion of elevating him, they would have made him — or Fangio — an interim by now.

Follow me on Twitter @DanCahill_CST

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