Bears have options outside of their box

History shows that bold or unorthodox — and sometimes unpopular — moves win championships in Chicago. Maybe the Bears should heed that in search of their next general manager and coach.

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Former Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh with headset) went 44-19-1 in four seasons as head coach of the 49ers, going to Super Bowl XLVII in 2012.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photos

The Bears are casting a wide net in their searches for a general manager and head coach: 15 known candidates for the GM job and 10 for the coaching job. Some think it’s too wide. But it might not be wide enough.

Maybe the Bears need to think a little more outside the box. Or outside of their box, anyway. Asking the Bears to do anything unorthodox is risky business, no doubt — they are unorthodox by nature — but it might not hurt to shake things up at Halas Hall.

It’s not the worst tack in the world. In fact, virtually every championship team in Chicago since the 1963 Bears has came after some unorthodox/surprising hiring or firing of a head coach.

•  In 1982, George Halas went over GM Jim Finks’ head to hire Mike Ditka to replace Neill Armstrong. Four seasons later, the Bears were Super Bowl champions.

• In 1989, the Bulls fired Doug Collins — who had taken them to the Eastern Conference Finals the previous season — and promoted Phil Jackson, who never had coached in the NBA before. By the end of the 1990-91 season, the Bulls had started their run of six NBA championships in eight seasons.

• In 2003, the White Sox hired Ozzie Guillen — a qualified candidate as the Marlins’ third-base coach but still a long-shot choice (over two-time World Series champion Cito Gaston). He was considered for the job by GM Kenny Williams at the behest of owner Jerry Reinsdorf. In 2005, the Sox won their first World Series since 1917.

• In 2008, the Blackhawks suddenly fired Denis Savard four games into the season and promoted newly hired Joel Quenneville. At the end of the 2009-10 season, the Hawks won their first Stanley Cup since 1961 — the first of three in six seasons.

• In 2015, the Cubs abruptly fired Rick Renteria after one season and jumped at the chance to hire Joe Maddon. By the end of the next season, the Cubs had won their first World Series since 1908.

Let the record show that the Bears have thought outside the box before and failed, hiring Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman over Bruce Arians in 2013. But even Arians might have qualified as an outside-the-box hire. He was 60 and never had been a serious head-coaching candidate before winning Coach of the Year honors as the interim coach of the Colts in 2012. The Bears just hired the wrong guy.

With their search well underway, there’s still time to get it right this time. Here’s a look at some candidates outside the Bears’ current list who might make a difference:

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach: As coach of the 49ers, the former Bears quarterback had a knack for hiring the right people (Vic Fangio, Greg Roman), developed a quarterback (Colin Kaepernick) and nearly won the Super Bowl.

Though there have been rumors the Bears have contacted Harbaugh, the lack of anything more than that linking him to them doesn’t mean the idea is dead. Harbaugh and the McCaskeys operate in strange ways. Anything with Harbaugh isn’t over until it’s over. 

Mike Tomlin, Steelers coach: Sure, it’s pie-in-the-sky thinking. The Steelers went to the playoffs this season, and their coaches stay forever. But Tomlin has the qualities of a president of football operations who could shake things up at Halas Hall, maybe even without the McCaskeys knowing it.

Sean Payton, Saints coach: He’s under contract, and there’s virtually no way the Saints would give him up. But Payton is the rare personality — like Tomlin — who would not be consumed by the dysfunction at Halas Hall. Maybe that’s why he has no shot.

Dave Toub, Chiefs special-teams coordinator: He doesn’t have the profile of the others on this list — he’s the polar opposite, actually — but Toub is a more realistic option as an outside-the-box candidate.

And outside the box, he is. Nobody hires a 59-year-old special-teams coach. Even among overlooked guys, Toub is overshadowed by offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy on the Chiefs’ staff. But special-teams coaches are often underestimated and better candidates than people think.

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