MORRISSEY: Want to know the next Bears coach? Consult the McCaskey dull-o-meter
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The Bears fired then-coach Mike Ditka in January 1993 for a number of reasons, but the biggest was for being larger than life and louder than then-chairman Michael McCaskey liked.
As subsequent history has shown, the McCaskeys prefer coaches created in their own image — somewhere between understated and unconscious. They started out slowly in their quest for dull, hiring charmingly goofy Dave Wannstedt to replace Ditka, but they’ve killed a lot of clock in the personality department since then: Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman and John Fox.
Wannstedt’s hemming and hawing gave way to Jauron’s blank expression, Smith’s eternal happy talk, Trestman’s wonkish oddness and Fox’s raspy vacancy. It was impossible to find an atom of Ditka, a George Halas hire, in any of them.
The Bears are searching for a new coach, and if you’re looking for clues as to whom they might hire, let history be your guide. Find the candidate most likely to greet the public with a stare, a cliché or a non-answer. He likely will be the one. The Bears could surprise us by hiring a wild man of a coach, but bet the under in terms of pizzazz if you like to wager.
So far, the Bears have interviewed Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards.
If we activate the McCaskey dull-o-meter, the choice will become clear in short order. McDaniels is too fiery. Nagy and DeFilippo are less so, but their temperature is decidedly above lukewarm, which means they probably can forget about working in Chicago. Fangio is a great defensive mind but also very honest publicly, so thanks for the interview, Vic, and see ya. Nobody knows anything about Edwards, and as intriguing as that nothingness might be for the Bears, they’d like more proven boring for their buck.
That leads us to Shurmur, who has nothing to say and isn’t at liberty to tell you about it. You’re hired, Pat!
The rest of what Shurmur has accomplished — foremost, turning the Vikings’ Case Keenum into a good NFL quarterback — is nice. But if I know the McCaskeys, they’ll be drawn to the man because he has the magnetism of a cardigan sweater and the charisma of a pair of slippers.
General manager Ryan Pace says that the final decision on a coach will be his but that the process is a collaborative one that includes George McCaskey, Michael’s successor as the Bears’ chairman, and team president Ted Phillips, who isn’t a McCaskey but is a made man. It’s worth noting that Pace is very much in the mold of a McCaskey. So was former GM Phil Emery. Which is why we now find ourselves at the intersection of ho and hum.
If you’re collaborating with your boss on a hire, isn’t there a good possibility that you’ll try to please your boss? Doesn’t it seem reasonable that you’d be drawn to candidates you know would be attractive to your boss? When your conservative boss’ mom is the team’s 95-year-old owner, the chances of hiring someone from the edges seem very, very slight. You’re more than likely to hire someone in the Jauron-Smith-Trestman-Fox line.
There’s no doubt the NFL has trended toward tight-lipped coaches. Bill Belichick went from antisocial flop with the Browns to monotonal genius with the Patriots, and franchises everywhere decided to copy that cat. The Bears aren’t an organization that goes against the flow, so it makes sense that they, too, have stacked the box with vanilla since Ditka.
A great coach can be boisterous (Jimmy Johnson) or impassive (Tom Landry). But he has to be able to motivate his players. And he has to have a presence, a bearing. It matters. The most important job for the next Bears coach is the development of young quarterback Mitch Trubisky. As the Rams’ offensive coordinator in 2010, Shurmur was able to do that with rookie Sam Bradford. But to dismiss the importance of connecting with the fan base is a huge mistake.
Can Shurmur connect?
My guess is that we soon will find out — unless Shurmur decides to take another head-coaching job. He failed as the Browns’ coach, but so has everybody else. He’s 52 and has devoted his life to football with the seriousness and single-mindedness of a monk. And he elevated the play of Keenum, who had been a middling quarterback until this season.
If Shurmur is a man who runs an offense and not his mouth, he figures to be perfect for the McCaskeys. And the running-the-offense part might be secondary.
Follow me on Twitter @MorrisseyCST.