Clock’s ticking: Bears should try to wrap up general manager search this week

There’s a lot of work to do as the Bears prepare for free agency and the draft. The sooner they line up a general manager and coach, the better.

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McCaskey said his strong preference is to hire a general manager first, then a head coach, but he’s willing to do it the other way around for the right candidate.

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The Bears missed an opportunity to get a head start on their busy offseason by -insisting on riding it out all the way to the end with general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy.

There’s no way anyone would believe they truly hadn’t firmed up their decision on those two until 8 a.m. the day after the season -finale, especially considering the Bears were 4-10 in mid-December and special advisor Bill Polian was almost certainly deep into his review by that point.

But since they refused to act promptly, the Bears have no leg up on the other seven teams seeking a coach. In fact, they’re behind the four that kept their general manager and will be ready to make an offer as soon as they identify their candidate of choice.

Instead of being months into their search, the Bears have been at it a week.

They could pick a coach before they hire a general manager, but they shouldn’t. Regardless, they better get moving.

They’ll likely keep their scouting staff in place through the draft, but the new administration will reset the guidelines of the -players they’re trying to find. The clock is ticking -relentlessly toward free agency and the draft, and the new general manager will need time to set up his operation and make sure he and the new coach have a shared vision before it’s time to make key decisions.

The HBCU combine is Jan. 28, and the first college postseason bowl game for potential draft picks is the next day. Senior Bowl practices start right after that.

The Bears also have 30 of their pending free agents to evaluate and over 700 from the rest of the NFL.

The bottom line: The Bears have tons of work to do, and it’s coming up quickly. They need to move with urgency on the general manager so they can pounce on a coach. And any delay in that hire will delay the new coach filling out his staff.

The Bears have a list of 14 general-manager candidates and have interviewed seven, the latest being Colts vice president of player personnel Ed Dodds on Monday. Dodds, 41, joined the organization when it hired Chris Ballard as general manager in 2017.

He and director of college scouting -Morocco Brown helped Ballard weather a 4-12 season to start, then hired coach Frank Reich and went 37-28 with two playoff appearances (one win) over the last four seasons.

They hit two home runs in the 2018 draft with guard Quenton Nelson in the first round and linebacker Darius Leonard in the -second. Both are three-time All-Pro selections. They also scooped up linebacker Anthony Walker and defensive tackle Grover Stewart, both multiyear starters, in the fourth round or later.

While the Bears weigh Dodds’ candidacy and prepare for upcoming general manager interviews, they’re also interviewing coaches without their prospective boss in place. Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus -interviewed Monday, making him the sixth coach to do so.

There’s nothing wrong with chairman George McCaskey doing some preliminary work on potential new coaches, but it’s unwise to pick one without having a general manager first and making him part of the process. McCaskey indicated that’s his strong preference. If so, the Bears need to wrap up this stage of their makeover quickly.

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