Bears down to 3 finalists for head coach — or are they?

The hiring of general manager Ryan Poles could signal the coaching search will end soon. It also could mean it needs a reset.

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Dan Quinn went 43-42 as head coach of the Falcons and appears to be one of three finalists for the Bears along with Jim Caldwell and Matt Eberflus.

Dan Quinn went 43-42 as head coach of the Falcons and appears to be one of three finalists for the Bears along with Jim Caldwell and Matt Eberflus.

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The Bears are down to three candidates to be their next head coach.

Or are they?

While that’s the appearance after Dan Quinn and Matt Eberflus completed their second interviews Wednesday, following Jim Caldwell’s on Tuesday, it’s not a certainty as new general manager Ryan Poles settles into his new office.

Poles just got the Wi-FI password at Halas Hall. He might need a minute before he makes a potentially career-defining hire.

It is promising, though, that the Bears seem to have given Poles autonomy to move forward on picking a head coach without interference from chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips or consultant Bill Polian. When Caldwell returned to Lake Forest on Tuesday, his interview was one-on-one with Poles.

If this is indeed in Poles’ hands now, it’ll be in accordance with his philosophy and on his timetable. He might have names beyond Quinn, Caldwell and Eberflus on his list. With the general manager now in place, it could be worth revisiting popular candidates like Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, former Dolphins coach Brian Flores or Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

Poles might even have names that the Bears hadn’t considered as they interviewed 10 coaches before his arrival. The Bears didn’t bring in anyone from Kansas City, for example, which is where he worked the last 13 years.

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has been one of the NFL’s most prominent assistants the last four seasons. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub, formerly of the Bears, has had a few head-coaching interviews. Quarterbacks coach Mike Kafka has gotten some looks.

While it’d be ideal for the Bears to close out their coaching search by the end of the week so they can move forward at full speed on plans for free agency and the draft, Poles deserves the right to reset the process if he thinks it’s necessary.

But if he’s on board with the narrowed field of Caldwell, Quinn and Eberflus, that’s still a positive for the Bears. All three seem like fine candidates.

Caldwell, 67, started 45 years ago and did well in both of his head-coaching opportunities.

Other than going 2-14 with the Colts in 2011 when Peyton Manning was out and his quarterbacks were Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins, he went 60-36 with four playoff appearances in seven seasons coaching them and the Lions. He’s the only Lions coach since 1972 with a winning record over his tenure.

Quinn runs a discussion with the skill of a politician and will interview as well as any candidate in the league. He also boasts a winning record in his run as Falcons coach, though barely at 43-42.

There are some parallels between his rise and fall in Atlanta and Matt Nagy’s with the Bears. Quinn, 51, led the Falcons to the Super Bowl in his second season, infamously losing to the Patriots despite leading 28-3 in the third quarter, but fell out of favor by going 14-23 over his last three seasons. He also struggled to deliver in his area of expertise as the Falcons gave up the 10th-most points in the league over his six seasons.

Eberflus, 51, has never been a head coach at any level and got his first NFL defensive coordinator job in 2018. But in four seasons running the Colts’ defense, his team has allowed the 10th-fewest points, had the second-most takeaways and yielded the third-fewest yards per carry. The Colts have given up 21 or fewer points in 31 of his 65 games.

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