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Recycled head coaches present enticing candidacies for Bears opening

Three of the former head coaches who could be options for the Bears had winning records in their only other opportunity and reached a Super Bowl.

Jim Harbaugh coached the 49ers for four seasons before going to Michigan in 2015.
Jim Harbaugh coached the 49ers for four seasons before going to Michigan in 2015.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Coaches who flamed out elsewhere but persist in the mix for open jobs often are dismissed as “retreads.” But several candidates in that category this year were big hits the last time they got a chance.

Former Eagles coach Doug Pederson, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had winning records and went to a Super Bowl — Pederson winning one in his second season.

The Bears interviewed Pederson on Wednesday and put in a request for Quinn, whose team is in the playoffs. They haven’t been linked to Harbaugh, but it would be logical to at least inquire about their former quarterback given his success at every stop.

Pederson, 53, already has interviewed for the Jaguars’ opening and is expected to meet with the Vikings and Broncos. That puts him in play for more than half of the seven openings, and there’s still time for the Dolphins, Giants or Raiders to call.

He guided the Eagles to a 13-3 record in his second year despite losing Pro Bowl quarterback Carson Wentz late in the season. Pederson tailored the offense on the fly to fit backup Nick Foles, and the rest is one of the greatest stories in sports history. Foles, a journeyman, romped through the playoffs and outdueled Tom Brady for the championship.

Pederson made the playoffs three times in five seasons and was fired after going 4-11-1 in 2020. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie admitted Pederson “did not deserve to be let go,” but the team felt a different coach was necessary for its future.

In June, Pederson said he was eager for another head-coaching job, and former Bears coach Matt Nagy hosted him in training camp.

That’s one of the biggest reservations about Pederson. He’s another branch from the Andy Reid coaching tree, and the Bears just flopped miserably with Nagy trying to run a version of that offense.

The Falcons fired Quinn, 51, after an 0-5 start in his sixth season, but before that, he went 43-37, 3-2 in the playoffs and won the NFC in 2016 — the season in which his team was humiliated by blowing a 28-3 lead in the third quarter and losing to the Patriots in overtime in the Super Bowl.

Like Nagy’s falling-out with the Bears, Quinn’s undoing was his inability to deliver the very expertise the Falcons coveted when they hired him. The Falcons had a top-10 scoring defense only once under his watch and were bottom-10 three times.

Harbaugh, 58, has a potentially problematic personality and might be best suited to stay where he is and maintain total control over Michigan’s program. But his results make him tempting.

He inherited a team that had a .359 winning percentage the previous eight seasons and immediately started posting double-digit win totals.

Harbaugh went 36-11-1 in his first three seasons, taking the 49ers to an NFC title game in the 2011 season and the Super Bowl a year later. He deftly navigated a quarterback change from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick. His worst season was 8-8 in 2014, when both sides decided it was best to separate.

Despite the recycled tags, all three would be clear upgrades over Nagy.

In addition to Pederson and Quinn, several reports have the Bears set to schedule meetings with at least seven other candidates, including recently fired Dolphins coach Brian Flores, Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and both coordinators from the defending champion Buccaneers — Byron Leftwich on offense and Todd Bowles on defense.

Coaching interviews are underway without a general manager in place. Browns vice president of player personnel Glenn Cook interviewed Wednesday as their first candidate for that position.

The team also requested permission to interview Steelers vice president of football and business administration Omar Khan and Patriots senior consultant Eliot Wolf.