Naming a play-caller as head coach only way for Bears to guarantee QB stability

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Bears general manager Ryan Pace. (Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times)

The Bears interviewed their second defensive coordinator in as many days Thursday, meeting with the Vikings’ George Edwards in Minnesota to discuss their head coaching vacancy.

Now the high-flying fun starts. The Bears, who seek a head coach that can spur the development of quarterback Mitch Trubisky, are set to meet with Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur on Friday. They’ll talk to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo by the end of the week.

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Examining the ways that the Bears’ coaching search differs from 2015

Despite their first two interviews — they met with their own defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, on Wednesday — the Bears still seem inclined to hire a head coach who can serve as the team’s play-caller.

To those wondering why, the answer is a mere two words: Adam Gase.

In 2015, the Bears named Gase their fifth offensive coordinator in a seven-year span, following — count them off — Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Mike Tice and Aaron Kromer. Inheriting an inconsistent Jay Cutler, Gase helped mold perhaps the quarterback’s best season ever. Cutler set career highs in passer rating and, at least for one year, seemed to justify his giant contract extension.

Six days after the 2015 season ended, Gase got his reward. The Dolphins named him head coach, hoping he could similarly resurrect the inconsistent Ryan Tannehill.

The Bears were powerless to stop him. They promoted quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, who had a good relationship with Cutler, but the results were never the same. Monday, coach John Fox was fired — in part because his offense failed to gain traction after Gase left. Loggains joined Gase’s Dolphins staff late Wednesday as offensive coordinator. Bears offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn is set to join them, per the Palm Beach Post. Running backs coach Curtis Modkins, is heading to the Broncos.

Gase’s departure must be instructive for Bears general manager Ryan Pace when looking for his new head coach. There’s only one way to ensure that play-caller and quarterback are together — by naming the play-caller the head coach.

Coordinators, by contrast, can always be poached in future years by teams with their own head coaching vacancies.

There are risks. Neither Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who will talk next week, nor DeFilippo have never been head coaches before. If the Bears are convinced they can lead, though, the continuity would be hard to turn down.

Shurmur and McDaniels were head coaches for two years apiece — and won 20 of 60 games. Shurmur won nine games from 2011-12 with the Browns, a franchise that failed even Bill Belichick. Shurmur then served as Chip Kelly’s coordinator with the Eagles for three years—though Kelly called the plays — before landing as the Vikings’ tight ends coach last year. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in the middle of his first season when Norv Turner quit.

The Vikings finished seventh in rushing this year despite starting running back Dalvin Cook suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 4. Backup Case Keenum started 14 games because of quarterback Sam Bradford’s knee problems, and finished seventh in the NFL in passer rating.

His defensive counterpart, Edwards, led an even more impressive unit. No one allowed fewer yards than the Vikings’ 275.9 per game or fewer points than their 15.8 per game. Edwards, though, doesn’t call the plays — head coach Mike Zimmer does. Zimmer openly flirted last week with giving those duties up next season, though.

Edwards is respected by his peers. The 50-year-old was on thecandidate list distributed by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes minority inclusion, as well as that of the NFL’s development advisory.

The Bears get one side benefit from their Minnesota trip, too — an inside glimpse into a franchise that has won two-thirds of their games the last three seasons.

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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