Down I-94 Tuesday, Jim Harbaugh said what Bears fans have longed to hear when asked about his fiery personality.
“I feel like it’s the only one I have,” said the former Bears quarterback when introduced as Michigan’s head coach. “The other ones were all taken.”
They went to Marc Trestman and Lovie Smith and Dick Jauron, apparently.
One day after Bears chairman George McCaskey invoked his “pissed off” mother, it’s clear the former 49ers coach — whose nasty divorce with GM Trent Baalke made him available — would have been, at least stylistically, the perfect fit in Chicago.
But the Bears moved neither swiftly nor convincingly, and only now are facing a clock ticking louder — and faster — than it did during Trestman’s failed two-minute drills.
They’re fighting for relevance in the city. The Cubs have added a manager and World Series pitching star, the White Sox an ace and a closer. The Bulls are as important as they’ve been since Michael Jordan, and the Blackhawks have all of them trumped.
Despite requesting permission to talk to Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Tuesday, per sources, the Bears won’t hire a coach until they have a GM in place to do it. That takes time.
Multiple league sources suggested Chiefs player personnel director Chris Ballard is a strong candidate — if not the front-runner. He spent 12 seasons with the Bears before leaving in 2013.
“He’s an outstanding personnel man who’s got a tremendous knowledge of how to build a team and knows how to work with people,” one NFL source said.
Monday night, John Wooten, whose Fritz Pollard Alliance connects minority candidates with NFL positions, spoke with Bears consultant Ernie Accorsi, a friend for decades.
He presented his three top GM candidates, and said Accorsi told him they were atop his list, too: Giants vice president of player evaluation Marc Ross; Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson; and Ravens pro personnel director Vince Newsome.
Ross and Dawson were finalists when Accorsi advised the Panthers’ 2013 GM search, and Wooten worked “extensively” with Newsome until retiring from the Ravens in 2002.
“We’re very, very positive that we’re going to have a good shot at this,” Wooten said.
The Bears are “doing it the right way” by hiring a GM first, he said.
“You know and I know that they have to be a husband-wife, father-mother, brother-sister type of relationship between the coach and the general manager to even have a chance,” he said.
“If you don’t have that, you only have to look at the 49ers.”
The Bears — whose personnel department is being run by Kevin Turks, Cliff Stein and Marty Barrett in the interim — aren’t totally starting from scratch. They’ve utilized the NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel, which compiles candidates for teams.
The eight-man panel includes Accorsi; former coaches John Madden, Tony Dungy and Dennis Green; former Chiefs president Carl Peterson; and former executives Charley Casserly, Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.
The group assembles 2-to-3-page dossiers, plus interviews taped at the NFL Combine, for about two dozen leading candidates for both coach and GM jobs. They send the same list — of coordinators, college coaches, executives and former coaches and GMs — to any team that asks.
Founded in 2013, the panel recommended six of the seven head coaches hired last offseason.
“We really felt there was an opportunity to do more, beyond just some of the hot names that were being talked about in the media,” said Robert Gulliver, the NFL’s executive vice president of human resources.
He said the panel encourages its members to advise teams, if there’s a good fit, and called Accorsi “fantastic.”
He better be. The clock is ticking.
“They’re going to do the GM first with the idea … they’re gonna move pretty quickly,” Wooten said. “Otherwise the coaches will all be gone.”
Contributing: Adam L. Jahns, Mark Potash