Next coach of the Bears? Plenty of high-quality candidates available

Here’s a look at who could be in the mix to replace Matt Nagy.

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The Chiefs have had a top-six offense all four seasons with Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator, but he won’t have Patrick Mahomes if he goes to the Bears.

The Chiefs have had a top-six offense all four seasons with Eric Bieniemy as offensive coordinator, but he won’t have Patrick Mahomes if he goes to the Bears.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

There’s a long, compelling list of candidates to coach the Bears. Here’s a look at who could be in the mix to replace Matt Nagy, in no particular order:

Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
Widely considered to be an elite offensive mind, it’s stunning that Bieniemy hasn’t landed a head-coaching job yet. He is probably the most highly regarded coordinator in the NFL, and the new rule allowing assistants to interview for head jobs during the final two weeks of the regular season is nicknamed for him because the Chiefs’ postseason success has often made it difficult for him to interview.

It could be a tough sell for the Bears, though, to go back to the well of hiring a Chiefs offensive coordinator assuming he can recreate the brilliant scheme Andy Reid masterminded. Bieniemy, 52, was the Chiefs’ running backs coach for five seasons until being promoted to coordinator when Nagy left for the Bears in 2018.

Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
McDaniels, 45, has always been a mysterious case. He’s been excellent as an offensive coordinator, but shaky as head coach. He also seems to like his current job and the possibility of one day replacing Bill Belichick. He turned down a more enticing job than this in 2018 when the Colts hired him as head coach, but he backed out of it later that day. He went 8-8 as head coach of the Broncos in 2009, then was fired after a 3-9 start in ’10.

Since then, however, he has had an 11-year run — most of which has been successful — as offensive coordinator. This season, with Tom Brady gone and rookie Mac Jones starting, the Patriots were top-10 in scoring.

Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator
There are many reasons why Daboll, 46, has shot toward the top of the list of hot coaching candidates. He spent 11 seasons as an assistant with the Patriots, which always helps, and was on five championship teams. He also spent a season as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2017. In Buffalo, he did exactly what Nagy failed to do with the Bears: He developed quarterback Josh Allen into an MVP candidate and helped the Bills become one of the best offenses in the NFL the last two seasons.

Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers offensive coordinator
Leftwich could be the next great, young offensive guru — or he could be the guy fortunate enough to have Brady as his quarterback. This happens often in the NFL and would be a question mark for McDaniels, too. Another example: Coaching Peyton Manning was a springboard for former Bears coordinator and Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, but he went 32-48 in five seasons coaching the Dolphins and Jets. Leftwich, 41, played nine seasons in the NFL and had two seasons experience as a quarterbacks coach before the Buccaneers hired him as offensive coordinator in 2019.

Greg Roman, Ravens offensive coordinator
Offense continues to be the theme and should be the Bears’ priority given how bad that side of the ball has been for so long. One factor in favor of Roman, 49, is that he’s already coaching a dual-threat quarterback in Lamar Jackson. Fields is much more of a pass-first quarterback, but there could be some carryover in scheme as the Bears look to maximize their investment in his future.

Nathaniel Hackett, Packers offensive coordinator
Would the Bears dare turn to the Packers for their next head coach? The 42-year-old has been the Packers’ offensive coordinator for the last three years and has held the same role in Buffalo and Jacksonville. His dad is former USC head coach Paul Hackett.

Doug Pederson, former Eagles head coach
Pederson has won a Super Bowl. That should get him a meeting with every team that has a vacancy. His offense, though, is similar to the one Nagy failed with over the past four years. The 53-year-old also one of Nagy’s best friends — it wouldn’t be a surprise if Nagy wound up as Pederson’s offensive coordinator if he lands a head coaching job elsewhere.

Vic Fangio, former Broncos head coach
Fangio, 63, delivered on his promise to bring dominant defense to the Rockies — through the first 16 games of the season, only two teams had allowed fewer points. He didn’t make the playoffs in any of his three seasons, though, and was fired Sunday. A former coordinator under John Fox and Matt Nagy, Fangio would undoubtedly orchestrate a solid defense.

Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator
Only 33, the former Boise State star and NFL backup has called plays in Dallas for the last two years. The Cowboys’ 31.2 points per game led the NFL entering Sunday. They averaged a more pedestrian 24.7 in 2020, a season marred by Dak Prescott’s grisly season-ending ankle injury.

Leslie Frazier, Bills defensive coordinator/associate head coach
A member of the Bears from 1981-85, Frazier would satisfy those inside and outside Halas Hall that like to draw on the team’s history. The 62-year-old has experience as a head coach within the division — Frazier was the Vikings’ head coach from 2011-13 — and was been a respected defensive coach for almost two decades. He’s served as the defensive coordinator for the Bengals, Vikings, Bucs and, since 2017, the Bills.

Matt Eberflus, Colts defensive coordinator
Eberflus, 51, got his first NFL coordinator job in 2018 and inherited a Colts team that finished 30th in points and yards allowed the season before. He had them 10th in fewest points allowed the next season, then 18th, 10th and 12th.

Dan Quinn, Cowboys defensive coordinator
As the Falcons’ head coach, Quinn went to a Super Bowl — although his team blew the win against the Patriots after leading 28-3 late in the third quarter. The Falcons were never the same, bungling games until his firing in October 2020. Quinn, 51, went 43-42 as a head coach before taking the Cowboys’ coordinator job this year.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
The Bears’ former first-round pick just went to the national championship semifinal with the Wolverines. It’s fair to wonder whether Harbaugh wants to return to the NFL or if he’s using rumored interest as leverage to get an extension. Michigan made the 58-year-old take a paycut a year ago — and rival Michigan State gave coach Mel Tucker a 10-year, $95 extension in November.

Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale
The Ravens’ coordinator since 2018 interviewed with the Giants for the head coaching job that went to Joe Judge two years ago. The Ravens defense isn’t what it was in years past, but Martindale, 58, is still considered one of the best coordinators in the game.

Ryan Day, Ohio State head coach
What better person to mentor Justin Fields than someone who’s already done it? Day has been Ohio State’s head coach since Urban Meyer left in 2018. It was the 42-year-old’s first head coaching job. He has a bit of NFL experience, too: he coached quarterbacks for one year in Philadelphia and San Francisco. As with Harbaugh, the question remains: does he already have a better job than the Bears could offer?

Sean Payton, Saints head coach
Why would the 58-year-old Payton, one of the three most accomplished sitting head coaches in the game, leave the only team he’s ever run to come back to Chicago? It’s a good question — and one with no good answer. But if the Naperville Central High School and Eastern Illinois grad is spooked by the Saints’ salary cap situation and lack of quarterback, the Bears could try to trade for him. That would require the Bears to give a future high draft pick and a giant contract, though.

Jerod Mayo, Patriots inside linebackers coach
A recent Sports Illustrated column floated Mayo, 35, as a possibility for the Bears after spending the last three seasons as a position coach under Belichick. Belichick essentially leans on him as defensive coordinator. Mayo had incredible success as a player with an all-pro selection and Super Bowl ring and would command respect from that standpoint. The Bears surely won’t be the only team interested; Mayo had a head-coaching interview a year ago with the Eagles.

Todd Bowles, Buccaneers defensive coordinator
A close friend of Nagy’s — Bowles played for Nagy’s father in high school — Bowles was offered the Bears defensive coordinator job that went to Chuck Pagano. Bowles, 58, chose Tampa Bay instead — and won a Super Bowl with them last year. His furious pass rush held Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs to nine points.

Former Dolphins coach Brian Flores
The most surprising firing of “Black Monday” came out of Miami, where Flores was let go after going 24-25 over three seasons. After going 5-11 in 2019, Flores led the Dolphins to a 10-6 record in 2020. They went 9-8 this season, losing seven in a row — and also winning seven in a row.

Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris
The Bucs’ head coach from 2009-11 and the Falcons’ interim once they fired Quinn, Morris took over the vaunted Rams defense from Brandon Staley when he became the Chargers’ head coach.

Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub
The special teams guru is also, technically, the Chiefs assistant head coach. Hiring him would mark a homecoming — Toub coordinated the Bears’ magical special teams units from 2004-12.

Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph
Joseph went 11-21 as the Broncos’ head coach from 2017-18. When the Cardinals gave former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury his first NFL job, Joseph helped with the transition.

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