The candidate list: Whom the Bears could consider to replace John Fox
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Here’s a look, in alphabetical order, at which coaching candidates the Bears could consider now that they have finally fired John Fox:
Position: Saints defensive coordinator
Resume: The Raiders’ head coach from 2012-14, Allen has ties to Ryan Pace. He served as a Saints assistant from 2006-10 when Pace worked in New Orleans before returning as their defensive coordinator in 2015. He was John Fox’s defensive coordinator in 2011 with the Broncos.
Pro: His familiarity with Pace and previous head-coaching experience mean Allen’s transition would be smooth.
Con: An 8-28 record as a head coach is a hard sell. So is the fact that he’s a defensive guru.
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Position: Lions defensive coordinator
Resume: The Pitt alum coached defensive backs at Wake Forest, Syracuse and Michigan before coaching the Seahawks’ DBs from 2003-2006 and the Cardinals’ from 2007-09. He was Florida’s defensive coordinator for one season before returning to the league, where he coached the Ravens’ secondary from 2011-13. He has been the Lions’ defensive coordinator since 2014.
Pro: He interviewed with Pace hours after he was hired to run the Bears.
“I could tell during my early days at Penn State that this guy was a bit unusual,” just-fired Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “During that time, he was very young but very capable, very sharp. And he had the energy and the fire to communicate and move people in the direction in which he wants to move. He’s also a very good teacher, one of the few guys that I think knows the front end and the back end equally as well and can teach it even though he’s been a secondary coach for the great majority of his career.”
Con: With developing Mitch Trubisky a top priority, Austin needs to have a top offensive mind ready to join him in Chicago.
Position: Saints offensive coordinator
Resume: Since entering the league in 2000, he spent one year with the Browns and Redskins before serving as the Chargers’ offensive assistant from 2002-05. He went to the Saints in 2006, weeks ahead of Drew Brees, and coached quarterbacks before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 2009.
Pro: Bears GM Ryan Pace worked with Carmichael from 2006-2014.
Con: Carmichael only started calling the Saints’ plays last year. Might lack the gravitas of a head coach.
Jim Bob Cooter
Position: Lions offensive coordinator
Resume: The Tennessee alum was a low-level assistant for the Colts from 2009-11 and the Chiefs in 2012 before joining John Fox’s Broncos as an offensive assistant in 2013. He was named the Lions’ quarterbacks coach in 2014 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in the middle of the 2015 season.
Pro: He has helped upgrade Matthew Stafford from an inconsistent, rocket-armed quarterback to a seasoned professional. Like Austin, his knowledge of the NFC North is a plus. Like Carmichael, his age doesn’t seem to be the impediment it would have been even a year ago.
“I think a lot of people kind of overlook Jim Bob — ‘Oh, he’s so young, he’s so young’ — but he’s smarter than a lot of these older offensive coordinators,” receiver Golden Tate told Chicago reporters in November. “He has been on a championship team. He has coached championship players like Peyton Manning. I think he brings a lot to the table. …
I think Jim Bob understands when Matthew is very comfortable in what he does very well, and he tries to keep that in his realm of things. I think Stafford understands what Jim Bob wants.”
Con: Cooter was arrested on suspicion of aggravated burglary in 2009 and DUI in 2006. In 2009, the Associated Press reported he climbed through an apartment window and climbed into a woman’s bed wearing only his underwear. In 2006, the Tennessean reported he’d failed three sobriety tests after being pulled over.
Position: Eagles quarterbacks coach
Resume: The former James Madison signal-caller coached Raiders quarterbacks from 2007-08, Jets quarterbacks in 2009 and, after a two-year stint at San Jose State, Raiders quarterbacks from 2012-14. He was the Browns’ offensive coordinator in 2015 before becoming the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach.
Pro: Like Frank Reich, he helped develop Carson Wentz into a star.
“Both [Wentz and DeFilippo] are kind of hard-headed and stubborn,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “It’s good to have that type of relationship where you can have hard conversations in that room and yet walk away and come out of that room united. I think that’s one of the strengths DeFilippo brings to that room, and then the quarterbacks respond. … That’s a positive thing that has come out of that quarterback room.”
Con: He’s 39 and inexperienced. The Rams’ hiring of 30-year-old Sean McDermott — and his subsequent success — makes DeFillipo seem downright old.
Position: Bears defensive coordinator
Resume: In three years, Fangio has turned the Bears’ defense from historically porous to respectable. One of the league’s most respected defensive minds, he has run units for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, 49ers and Bears — but has interviewed for only two head-coaching vacancies. He got neither job.
Pro: If the Bears believe their defense is on the verge of dominance, keeping Fangio would be the surest way to get there. Continuity has its benefits.
“I’m hoping that he’s back,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “I gotta tell you, it’s no easy thing to install an entirely different defense. And then when you like the guy and you like how he puts things together during the week, I want him back. I’d love to be under him for the rest of my career. …
“I have no control over any of that, and neither does anybody else but the people that make the final decision. I hope that everybody’s here, and with what we have now, hope we can go into the future and have a solid-performing team.”
Fangio wants to be a head coach and would welcome the interview. Would it create enough goodwill to talk him into staying on as the defensive coordinator for whoever gets the head-coach job?
Con: If the Bears believed Fangio could be a good head coach, wouldn’t they have made him the interim a month ago? Keeping half of a staff that won 14 games in three years is a hard sell. Fangio had an opportunity to sign a contract extension with the Bears last offseason but passed, making him a free agent. With family ties to the Bay Area, perhaps he’d be more interested in the 49ers or Raiders.
Position: Patriots offensive coordinator
Resume: The Michigan State alum joined the Patriots as a personnel assistant in 2001 before being promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2004 and offensive coordinator in 2006. He was named the Broncos’ head coach in 2009 but promptly chased off Jay Cutler when he told the quarterback he preferred adding Matt Cassel, a former Patriot. He was fired after going 11-17. McDaniels ran the Rams’ offense in 2011 before returning to his old job with the Pats the next year.
Pro: He has been the deputy to perhaps the greatest head coach of all time and coached maybe the game’s greatest quarterback. He knows the Bears, for better or worse. His brother Ben was an offensive assistant under Fox.
“There’s not a lot of people you can call when you’re driving home at midnight or 11:30 during the work week,” McDaniels told the Sun-Times during Super Bowl week. “He’s one of them.”
Con: He’ll likely want total control, just like his current head coach. The Bears already have a general manager.
Position: Chiefs offensive coordinator
Resume: In his eighth season in the NFL, Nagy is finishing his first season as offensive coordinator. He shared those duties with Brad Childress last year after serving as Alex Smith’s quarterbacks coach. Nagy spent his first three seasons on the Eagles’ staff before following Andy Reid to Kansas City.
Pro: Nagy might have saved the Chiefs’ season. Reid relinquished those duties over to Nagy at the start of December, and they only lost one game the rest of the way. Nagy has the traits the Bears are looking for in a Trubisky mentor — someone who has worked intimately with quarterbacks, then run an offense of his own.
Con: Until December, he’d never called plays. Only 39, he’s inexperienced.
Position: Eagles offensive coordinator
Resume: Primarily a backup quarterback from 1985-98, Reich was best known for rallying the Bills from a 32-point deficit to beat the Oilers. He was a Colts assistant from 2008-11 and Cardinals wide receivers coach in 2012 before joining the Chargers, where he coached quarterbacks for one year and was the offensive coordinator for two more. He became the Eagles’ coordinator in 2016.
Pro: He’s the coordinator of the league’s best offense. In two years, he developed Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick one year before Mitch Trubisky, into an MVP favorite.
“He’s got the right demeanor,” Pederson told Chicago reporters in November. “He’s a players’ coach. He relates well to the players. He does a great job with the offensive staff. He’s got the mindset, the mentality, the leadership qualities that you see. I think it is a matter of time. I think it’s just … obviously the more success you have as a team, a lot of places are going to look. And I was fortunate obviously a couple of years ago to be in that position. I see Frank maybe one day having another opportunity.”
Con: He doesn’t call the plays. Pederson does.
Position: Stanford head coach
Resume: The son of former NFL assistant Willie Shaw, the Stanford coach is 73-22 with two Rose Bowl victories in seven seasons since taking over for Jim Harbaugh. He ran Stanford’s offense from 2007-10 after following Harbaugh from the University of San Diego. Shaw has NFL credentials, too; he coached the Eagles’ quarterbacks in 1997, served as quality control and later quarterbacks coach for the Raiders from 1998-2001, then spent three years coaching the Ravens’ quarterbacks and receivers.
Pro: Widely considered the top NFL candidate among the college ranks, Shaw checks every box: He has head-coaching experience and NFL assistant experience and has developed a star quarterback, Stanford’s Andrew Luck.
Con: He’s a Stanford alum, and happy there. He has rebuffed other offers before. Why would the Bears’ be any different?
Position: Vikings offensive coordinator
Resume: Shurmur has run the Vikings’ offense since Norv Turner left in Week 8 last year. He ran Chip Kelly’s Eagles offense for the three previous years, his second stint with the team. Shurmur was the Browns’ head coach from 2011-12 after spending two seasons as the Rams’ offensive coordinator. He spent the first 10 seasons of his pro career as an Eagles assistant.
Pro: Perhaps no coordinator has done more with less this year. The Vikings had quarterback Sam Bradford for only two starts and running back Dalvin Cook for four, yet Shurmur helped craft a top-10 offense and a playoff experience. Quarterback Case Keenum has posted his best season.
“I think he’s been very adaptable trying to fit the scheme to the players,” coach Mike Zimmer said of Shurmur. “I think he did a nice job in the offseason of coming with a plan of using the guys we had and trying to use them to their strengths.
“And then, obviously, after Bradford went down and really then when Cook went down, being able to adapt to those. I think he’s done a good job in calling plays. But more important probably has been using the players to their strengths.”
Con: He failed as the Browns’ head coach, going 9-23 from 2011-12. Then again, even Bill Belichick failed when coaching Cleveland.
Position: Chiefs special-teams coordinator
Resume: The architect of the Bears’ dominant units from 2004-12 — six players returned a league-high 22 kickoffs for touchdowns — Toub has done little since to lessen his reputation as the league’s finest special-teams coach. He started his NFL career as the Eagles’ special-teams coach in 2001 before joining the Bears and then, in 2013, the Chiefs.
Pro: Toub has interviewed with the Bears before — for the job that went to Marc Trestman — and talked to the Chargers and Broncos last offseason. He’d be seen as a link to the team’s past.
Con: Since John Harbaugh was named the Ravens’ head coach in 2008, no special-teams coordinator has been given a head job. The Bears need to develop their quarterback, so Toub would need to attach a respected offensive coordinator to his cause.
Other names to watch
- Texans coach Bill O’Brien is the bright offensive mind the Bears covet — if he gets fired by his own team.
- Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh called rumors of his return to the NFL as appetizing as warmed-over oatmeal. The Bears job might not be better than the one he has, even with Harbaugh’s Chicago ties.
- Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will be coveted, but does he fit what the Bears are seeking?
- Vikings defensive coordinator George Edwards is a hot name, but he doesn’t call his own plays. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer does.
- The Panthers’ Steve Wilks is finishing his first season as defensive coordinator but is well-regarded.