Best move for Bears: Stay out of Ryan Poles’ way in head-coaching search

But the most important thing now is that whoever coaches the Bears next is squarely Poles’ choice.

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The Bears’ pursuit of a Super Bowl restarted Tuesday with the hiring of new general manager Ryan Poles.

The Bears’ pursuit of a Super Bowl restarted Tuesday with the hiring of new general manager Ryan Poles.

AP

With more quality candidates than job openings around the NFL, there’s only one way Bears chairman George McCaskey can mess up his team’s search for a head coach: Handling it himself.

If he believes he found the right general manager in Ryan Poles after interviewing more than a dozen candidates, he should be supremely confident and comfortable with Poles choosing the next head coach.

Is Poles young? Of course. At 36, he’s one of the NFL’s youngest general managers.

Is he relatively inexperienced? Yes. He got promoted to director of college scouting for the Chiefs in 2016 and held the job of executive director of player personnel for seven months before the Bears hired him.

But if those factors didn’t preclude him from getting the top football job in the organization, they shouldn’t preclude him from having the final say on a new head coach. Poles will be judged primarily on his head-coaching hires and draft picks, and he deserves full freedom from McCaskey, Ted Phillips and Bill Polian to choose who he wants.

The last thing the Bears need is another situation like they had with Ryan Pace and John Fox, where it was always murky as to whether Pace really wanted Fox or was pressured into hiring him by his superiors and Ernie Accorsi. Fox went 14-34 during the rebuild and Pace went silent on him leading into the 2017 draft before firing him at the end of that season and starting over with Matt Nagy.

It’s natural to wonder if something like that is about to happen again, given that the Bears had already interviewed at least 10 head-coaching candidates before hiring Poles to supposedly run point on that hiring.

If the Bears were a trusted organizationthey would get the benefit of the doubt. Nothing wrong with having some chats and getting a feel for the candidates, then filing those impressions away as the new general manager sets his own course. But with the words “Bears” and “trusted,” one usually budges the other out of a sentence.

It’s easy to envision a scenario where Poles walks into his new job and is met with a list of candidates divided into guys the Bears liked and guys they didn’t. He should have the authority to reset the entire search according to his philosophy.

Imagine the awkwardness Tuesday for example, when the Bears were finalizing Poles’ deal and interviewing former Lions and Colts coach Jim Caldwell. He’s highly qualified, but what if he wasn’t on Poles’ short list?

It shouldn’t be necessary to pair Poles with a vastly more experienced head coach solely to counterbalance his inexperience. If Poles wants Caldwell, who’s 67, great. If he wants 40-year-old Brian Flores, that’s also great. As long as it’s the guy he wants.

That being said, Caldwell is an appealing candidate. While he’s not an attention-grabbing up-and-comer, his record is excellent. Caldwell went 24-8 his first two seasons and went to a Super Bowl before Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 season, and he got fired for going 2-14 with Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins as his quarterbacks.

Caldwell then went 36-28 in four seasons with the Lions, making him their only full-time coach in the last 50 years to post a winning record.

He also has worked 11 seasons as a quarterbacks coach, which would be ideal for Justin Fields. But the most important thing, more than any of Caldwell’s or anyone else’s credentials, is that whoever coaches the Bears next is squarely Poles’ choice.

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