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Candidates start to emerge in Bears' coaching search

The Bears’ preference is to name a general manager first, but that doesn’t mean they’re sitting around and watching possible head coaches come and go.

According to league sources, the Bears requested permission Tuesday to speak to Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

The Bears are set to interview Gase on Friday or Saturday, a league source said. That meeting may turn out to be on Saturday with the Bears scheduled to interview Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn on Friday, according to an NFL Network report.

Former Broncos and Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is interested in coaching the Bears, a source said, but it’s unclear if that feeling is mutual.

The Bears may not have a GM in place by Friday, but it’s pertinent that the Bears connect with Gase and Quinn. Both coaches are highly respected in league circles and considered very innovative.

More important, the Broncos and Seahawks could be looking at long playoff runs again. League rules dictate when assistant coaches on playoff teams can meet with other teams. The Bears have this week to meet with Gase and Quinn with the Broncos and Seahawks having first-round byes. They cannot be interviewed next week.

If the Broncos and Seahawks reach the Super Bowl for the second consecutive season, second interviews can’t be conducted until the extra week ending on Jan. 25 (the day of the Pro Bowl).

Gase and Bowles are being sought after by other teams with head-coaching vacancies. The San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons also have requested permission to speak to Gase. Quinn has been linked to the Jets, 49ers and Falcons.

According to the Arizona Republic, every team with a head coaching vacancy — the Bears, 49ers, Falcons, New York Jets and Oakland Raiders — have requested permission to speak to Bowles.

Arizona faces the Carolina Panthers in the wild-card round this Saturday. If the Cardinals advance, teams can interview Bowles next week, according to league rules.