Bears interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for head coach job

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Josh McDaniels is one of the favorites for the Bears coaching vacancy. (Getty Images)

The Bears unwittingly walked into the biggest storm in the NFL on Friday night — and we don’t mean the bomb cyclone — when general manager Ryan Pace flew to New England and interviewed Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Earlier in the day, an in-depth ESPN report detailed friction at Patriot Place, claiming head coach Bill Belichick, quarterback Tom Brady and owner Robert Kraft had been at odds over, among other things, the quarterback’s performance, his loyalty to his trainer and the team’s internal debate about whether to trade backup Jimmy Garoppolo.

It was enough to prompt a response from the Patriots’ trio. In a joint release, the team said that “the three of us have enjoyed a very good and productive working relationship” for the past 18 years. They claimed to still share a common goal.

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Belichick, per the ESPN report, has been preparing his assistant coaches for job interviews elsewhere, something he hasn’t always done. Whether that means he has any intention of leaving the Patriots is at least worth considering, despite the team’s claim of unity.

McDaniels, though, needs little introduction to the Bears. His brother Ben spent the last two seasons as the team’s offensive assistant. The two often talk on the phone late at night, when Josh is driving home from work.

Whether that familiarity is enough to pull him toward the Bears is an open question. Pace insisted earlier this week that he would maintain control of determining the 53-man roster. Beli-chick, by contrast, is the Patriots’ de facto general manager. After spending nine years over two stints as Belichick’s offensive coordinator, it is unclear if McDaniels would be willing to work in a different leadership structure than the one that has produced five Super Bowl victories since 2002.

The Bears are seeking someone to groom quarterback Mitch Trubisky. McDaniels has mentored perhaps the greatest to ever play the game. He joined the Patriots’ staff in Brady’s second year and eventually became his quarterbacks coach and, later, two-time offensive coordinator.

Brady was captured screaming expletives at McDaniels on the sideline earlier this season but later apologized. The ESPN report painted the episode as a sign of Brady’s overall frustration, not particularly with his coordinator. Brady endorsed McDaniels on Thursday.

“I love Josh,” Brady told reporters. “I’ve said a lot of things about him over the years. I think those things take care of themselves. I want nothing but the best for him, always.”

There is a growing sense McDaniels wants to return to the head-coaching ranks after a drama-filled first stint with the Broncos. In 2009, he chased off quarterback Jay Cutler before they ever played a game together. He further angered other players and was fired after two seasons and 11 wins.

Friday night, the Bears undoubtedly hoped to find out what McDaniels learned in his first head-coaching experience, and what that would mean for his next stop.

As with Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, whom the Bears interviewed in Minnesota earlier Friday, McDaniels’ losing stint as a head coach trumps those candidates with no experience. The Bears are scheduled to meet with two of those: Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo on Saturday and Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy next week.

McDaniels interviewed with Giants president John Mara, general manager Dave Gettleman and assistant GM Kevin Abrams earlier Friday. He has already spoken to the Colts, who offer quarterback Andrew Luck, presuming he is healthy, to mentor.

Last year, McDaniels spoke to the 49ers, Rams and Jaguars.

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@patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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