1st-and-10: Who should hire the Bears’ next head coach?
With the 4-9 Bears expected to fire coach Matt Nagy after four seasons, one big question in particular looms: Do they have the right guy to find the right guy?
Should the Bears get the jump on everyone else to hire Byron Leftwich or Eric Bieniemy as their next head coach? Should they hire Ryan Day? Or Brian Daboll? Or Josh McDaniels? Or Todd Bowles? Or Luke Fickell? Or Pat Fitzgerald? Or Jim Harbaugh?
That’s not a rhetorical question. Who actually knows?
With the firing of Matt Nagy apparently fait accompli, speculation is rampant about the Bears’ next head coach. And much of it stems from resume-based/coaching-tree projections that may or may not translate to success at Halas Hall.
How much of Leftwich’s success with the Buccaneers is due to having the greatest quarterback of all time? What is Bieniemy’s actual impact on the Chiefs’ offense, with Andy Reid running that show? Did Day make Justin Fields a great quarterback, or did Fields make Day a great offensive coordinator?
Daboll’s resume as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in the NFL is a litany of mediocrity — Chad Pennington, Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson, Matt Moore, Matt Cassel and one of Brett Favre’s worst seasons. But Josh Allen blossoms under him and Daboll is a hot head coaching candidate? Why did it take this long to find out?
Whether you’e speculating from the outside or actually making the pick from the inside, finding the right coach is a dicey proposition — especially with the cloud of dysfunction that hovers over Halas Hall. Do McDaniels, Bowles or Leslie Frazier need the second chance that Bill Belichick got? Is Kellen Moore the next Sean Payton? Does Nathaniel Hackett have more to do with the Packers’ success than anyone thinks?
Who knows? I don’t. But I do know this: The guy who picks the next coach should have the same intuition about coaches as the guy who hired Reid as the Eagles head coach when Reid was a quarterbacks coach who had never played quarterback. Or the guy who hired Mike Tomlin as the Steelers’ head coach when Tomlin had been mostly a secondary coach in the NFL, except for one season as a defensive coordinator with the Vikings.
Therein likes the problem for the Bears: Do they have the right guy to pick the right guy? General manager Ryan Pace has a dubious record on big decisions. He’s 0-4 with quarterbacks — with the verdict on Justin Fields still out standing. And he’s 0-1-1 with head coaches (0-2 to many Bears observers, but John Fox was a marriage-of-convenience during a teardown/rebuild stage, so his three-year tenure wasn’t the failure that Nagy has been.)
Pace hasn’t shown the type of intuition the Bears need — not that he couldn’t get it right the third time. (Many of the best hires in the NFL are more luck than genius.) But the clean-house option that brings in a new GM has its own inherent problem, with chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips at the top: Do the Bears have the right guys to find the right guy to find the right guy? Ugh. Nobody said being a Bears fan was easy.
2. Are McCaskey and Phillips paying attention to the Chicago sports scene? Both the Blackhawks and Bulls have reversed recent fortunes with a house-cleaning level of change, eliciting a renewed excitement among their fan bases.
The Bulls in particular have prospered from the hiring of Arturas Karnisovas to replace favorite-son John Paxson as vice-president of basketball operations. The Bulls rotation has included eight players who were on eight different teams a year ago — and under Billy Donovan have gained immediate chemistry.
It’s one thing to get the players, but knowing what fits and getting the right coach has made all the difference.
3. With the Bears’ 45-30 loss to the Packers on Sunday night at Lambeau Field, Matt Nagy’s record against Green Bay dropped to 1-7 — 0-4 at Lambeau. But Nagy still is 13-9 (.591) overall against the NFC North, because he’s 12-2 against the Lions (7-1) and Vikings (5-1).
That’s the second-best record in the division of any coach since Mike Ditka, behind Lovie Smith (32-22, .593). And Nagy will even eclipse Lovie if the Bears sweep the Vikings in the final month of the season.
4. The List: Bears coaches vs. the Packers in the Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers era: Matt Nagy (1-7), John Fox (1-5), Marc Trestman (1-3), Lovie Smith (8-10), Dick Jauron (2-8), Dave Wannstedt (1-11), Mike Ditka (1-1).
5. Red Flag Dept.: Nagy disputed the notion that the Packers out-foxed the Bears to get Davante Adams away from cornerback Jaylon Johnson — though Adams clearly was more productive when matched up against any defender other than Johnson.
But Nagy had no answer to the gist of the question: If the Packers can scheme to get Adams the ball, why can’t the Bears scheme to get Allen Robinson the ball? Robinson had two receptions for 14 yards against the Packers.
“They’re both really, really good wide receivers, and … you see [Darnell] Mooney and A-Rob didn’t have many targets [11 total]. But there were play calls where they were supposed to get the ball and they didn’t for different reasons.
“We’re trying at times. You’ve got to be able to work around how you do that and when you do — and that’s part of the growing process for all of us and Justin [Fields] too.”
6. Giving rookie left tackle Teven Jenkins experience in the final few games already looks shaky after Jenkins struggled in his NFL debut on offense against the Packers. Jenkins had four penalties — two false starts and two holding calls — and allowed a strip/sack of Justin Fields, with the Packers recovering the fumble.
Jenkins, though, was in a tough spot — replacing injured starter Jason Peters in the first quarter against the Packers on the road. He might be better with a full week to prepare, physically and mentally.
Rookie right tackle Larry Borom is holding his own, but starting two rookie tackles is a rarity in the NFL. The Packers did it with left tackle Chad Clifton and right tackle Mark Tauscher in the final 10 games of the 2000 season (and went 7-3 in a non-playoff 9-7 season).
But Clifton and Tauscher — who ended up playing the next 10 years together — were protecting veteran Brett Favre, who was adept at minimizing their mistakes. Two rookie tackles with a rookie quarterback — even one as mobile as Fields — is a little more risky.
7. Fields’ incomplete pass to tight end Cole Kmet just past the goal line in the first quarter epitomized the failure of the Nagy offense. The throw could have been more accurate. And Kmet could have made a tough catch. But they did not connect and the Bears settled for three points instead of seven.
Kmet’s production has increased this season (43 receptions, 419 yards, though no touchdowns), but his ceiling seems to get lower every time out — at least in this offense.
8. Bits & Pieces: Jakeem Grant’s 97-yard punt return touchdown was the longest in franchise history (Johnny Bailey had a 95-yard return in 1990) and tied for the fifth longest in the NFL in the last 20 years. … Rasul Douglas’ pick-6 against Fields was the first against the Bears since Alec Ogletree returned a Chase Daniel interception eight yards for the Giants in 2018. … Cairo Santos (19-of-22) and ex-Bears Brian Johnson (9-of-9) and Eddy Pinerio (3-of-3 for the Jets on Sunday) are a combined 31-of-34 on field goals this season, with one of Santos’ misses from 65 yards. … The Bears scored 24 or more points in a quarter against the Packers for only the second time in franchise history. They scored 28 in the second quarter of a 61-7 rout in 1980 at Soldier Field.
9. Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week: Buccaneers wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who spent nine weeks on the Bears’ roster without getting into a game, turned a six-yard pass from Tom Brady into a 58-yard touchdown in overtime to give the Buccaneers a 33-27 victory over the Bills.
The Buccaneers signed Perriman to their practice squad three days after the Bears released him on Nov. 7.
10. Bear-ometer: 6-11 —vs. Vikings (W); at Seahawks (L); vs. Giants (W); at Vikings (L).