So what is best for the Chicago Bears now?
Multiple reports suggest the team has requested interviews with at least nine head-coaching candidates, including Todd Bowles, Doug Pederson, Matt Eberflus, Brian Daboll, Nathaniel Hackett, Leslie Frazier, Dan Quinn, Brian Flores and Byron Leftwich.
It’s an excellent list. There’s not an unworthy candidate in the bunch and should be encouraging to Bears fans.
On the general manager front names we believe the Bears have expressed interest in include Glen Cook, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Morocco Brown, Joe Schoen, Ran Carthon, Jeff Ireland, Ed Dodds, Eliot Wolf, Omar Khan and Rick Smith.
This is, of course, a much tougher group to gauge because unlike the coaching candidates, whose entire resume has been built in public, for the most part these guys do all their work in the background. Their work is mostly shrouded in great secrecy, and they all come from different levels of the evaluator, operations and administrative spectrum.
But again, multiple sources inside the league are telling me there isn’t a lemon in the group.
What is puzzling and very concerning about the process so far is the order in which things appear to be happening.
If Bears chairman George McCaskey is true to his word and wants to hire a general manager who will have complete and unfettered control of the football operation, how can the Bears even compile a list of potential coaching candidates without him in the room leading the interviews?
The answer we must hope is that any initial coaching interviews that take place are being done more as recruitment visits to sell candidates on the job and for little else than getting any initial details to set up background checks, confirmation of past efforts, compliance with the Rooney Rule, etc.
Should the Bears actually hire a coach before the general manager than this reorganization will once again most likely be doomed to failure.
It is more likely once the new general manager is in place he will add a few of his own names to the head coach candidate list and the real interviews will begin. At least that’s what Bears fans have to hope.
In the early stages of this process, three GM candidates stand out the most to me: Khan, Smith and Brown.
Khan has 25 years of NFL front office experience, the first five in New Orleans and the last 20 in Pittsburgh, which is easily one of the three or four best front offices in the league. Khan was actually my first choice when the Bears hired Ryan Pace who I knew less about.
Between 2006 and 2017, first as general manager and then executive vice president of football operations with the Houston Texans, Smith was head and shoulders above the rest in selecting franchise players in the first round of the draft.
And Brown has an impeccable record as an evaluator and administrator with four different teams, including the Bears with whom he started in 2001.
I can’t remember if I’ve written it, but I know I first broadcast it on radio around midseason this year when pressure began to escalate around Matt Nagy that if there was a change at head coach, Bowles would absolutely be my first choice.
The respect in which Bowles is held by players, coaches and front office folks around the league is universal. He is at worst the second best defensive mind in the league, possibly behind Vic Fangio, and his failure the first time around as a head coach with the Jets was as much or more the result of a dysfunctional organization as it was his work.
A lifer in Marc Trestman finally getting his first crack, and a youngster with real talent who just wasn’t ready yet in Nagy didn’t work. The crusty vet in his third job who lost the most games of the three, John Fox, was a disaster, too.
Bowles fits a fourth category.
What do Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, Bruce Arians and Pete Carroll all have in common? The first three needed a second crack – and Carroll actually needed a third try – before they won their rings and became the best coaches in the game.
They learned from their mistakes and flourished. It appears to be the path Bowles is on, and it’s why I think he would be the perfect choice for the Bears now.