January 27, 2022

Bears News

Who will replace Matt Nagy as Bears head coach? Here’s more than a dozen candidates

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh directs his team during warmups before the Big Ten championship against Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Indianapolis.

After four seasons, the Bears have parted ways with head coach Matt Nagy. A new era of Bears football is on the horizon.

Who will be leading the Bears into this new era? Nobody knows yet.

Chairman George McCaskey’s wish list is anybody’s guess, at this point, but here’s a list of coaches the organization should at least consider reaching out to. These are not in order of priority. Rather, they have been broken down into several categories: those with head coaching experience, top NFL coordinators and assistants and intriguing college coaches.

Second-chance head coaches

Todd Bowles, defensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bowles has generated buzz thanks to the successes of the Bucs defense over the last two years. They won the Super Bowl a year ago and they’re in the mix again this season. Tampa Bay’s defense has been one of the best in the NFL during that span.

Bowles previously led the Jets to four unremarkable seasons as head coach from 2015 to 2018. But it has become hard to blame any coach for failing with the Jets. Their last winning season, a 10-6 finish in 2015, came with Bowles as coach.

Brian Flores, former Miami Dolphins head coach

Several NFL head coaches lost their jobs Monday morning, the most surprising of which was Brian Flores in Miami. Flores led the Dolphins to a 24-25 record in three seasons. What’s wild is he was fired after a remarkable turnaround. The Dolphins were 1-7 at one point this season and managed to finish 9-8 after beating New England on Sunday.

Like several coaches on this list, Flores is a longtime New England assistant. He served in various assistant coaching duties from 2008 to 2018, including safeties coach and linebackers coach, winning four Super Bowls. He will almost certainly have opportunities to become a head coach again in the near future.

Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, New England Patriots

McDaniels has been on every head coaching wish list for the past half decade and nobody has pried him from Bill Belichick’s grip. His one stint as a head coach in Denver in 2009-10 ended with his firing. McDaniels briefly agreed to become the Colts head coach in 2018 before backing out before he signed the contract.

The job he has done this season with rookie quarterback Mac Jones might be his most impressive yet. Some organization is going to give McDaniels another shot at being the head coach, it’s just a matter of when.

Raheem Morris, defensive coordinator, Los Angeles Rams

Morris did an impressive job in Atlanta following Dan Quinn’s firing. He went 4-7 as the interim head coach after the team started 0-5 under Quinn. Before ascending to interim head coach, Morris was at various times the pass game coordinator, wide receivers coach and defensive coordinator for the Falcons from 2015-20.

Morris previously went 17-31 as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over three seasons from 2009-11.

He joined Sean McVay’s staff in Los Angeles this year, replacing Brandon Staley. The Rams defense hasn’t been great in 2021, but it’s been good enough. It has been great against the run and in the red zone.

Doug Pederson, former Philadelphia Eagles head coach

Pederson has made it no secret that he wants another NFL head coaching gig after taking a year off in 2021. He basically published his plan for a website called the 33rd Team. Very few Super Bowl-winning coaches are ever on the market. He did it with a backup quarterback, no less.

Pederson, who is good friends and a colleague of Nagy’s, visited Halas Hall during training camp last summer. They worked together from 2009 to 2015 in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Nagy replaced Pederson as Chiefs offensive coordinator when Pederson took the Eagles job in 2016.

Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys

Quinn’s not a Super Bowl-winning coach like Pederson, but he’s about as close as they come. His Atlanta Falcons held a 28-3 lead in Super Bowl LI. He has a 43-42 record as the coach of the Falcons between 2015 and 2020.

If the Bears want an experienced head coach with a defensive focus, this is the guy. Quinn was also Seattle’s defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014 when the Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls.

Quinn reportedly declined to interview for the open Jaguars head coaching job two weeks ago.

Emerging coordinators

Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs

Matt Nagy’s replacement in Kansas City has been a hot coaching candidate for two years now. Bieniemy was the Chiefs’ running backs coach from 2013 to 2017, including two seasons under Nagy in 2016 and 2017. He earned the promotion to offensive coordinator when Nagy left for Chicago.

On some level, hiring Bieniemy would feel like a carbon copy of the Nagy hire. The Bears just failed with a former Chiefs offensive coordinator, would they really want to go down that road again? Bieniemy guided the Chiefs offense to two Super Bowl appearances, winning one. The Bears should at least bring him in for an interview.

Brian Daboll, offensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills

Daboll, 46, signed on with the Bills in 2018, a few months before the Bills drafted quarterback Josh Allen. He has overseen Allen’s development from relative unknown coming out of Wyoming to NFL star. His Bills offenses have been consistently among the best in the league since he arrived. This year’s unit ranks fifth in total yards and third in points per game.

A long time Bill Belichick assistant, Daboll coached on five Super Bowl-winning teams in New England. He also won a national championship as an offensive coordinator at Alabama in 2017. Simply put, Daboll’s teams win.

Nathaniel Hackett, offensive coordinator, Green Bay Packers

Hackett has been a longtime offensive coordinator for multiple teams. Prior to joining Green Bay in 2019, he coordinated offenses in Jacksonville (2016-18) and Buffalo (2013-14). Green Bay has done nothing but win since head coach Matt LaFleur came along and brought Hackett with him. Between Green Bay and Jacksonville, Hackett’s offenses have reached three conference championship games.

For the Bears, stealing a top assistant from the Packers would sure feel good, too.

Matt Eberflus, defensive coordinator, Indianapolis Colts

Eberflus has turned the Colts into one of the NFL’s best defensive teams. He reportedly declined to interview for the Jaguars job until after the regular season ended. If the Bears want to go back to a defensive-minded coach, Eberflus will be one top options. The Colts were one of the NFL’s best defenses in 2020, and though they’re not elite in 2021, they remain a pesky defense.

Byron Leftwich, offensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bears missed their chance to hire Bruce Arians in 2013, going with Marc Trestman instead. The next-best thing might be hiring Arians’ offensive coordinator. Leftwich, 41, can relate with today’s NFL player probably better than anyone on this list. The 10-year NFL quarterback and former first-round draft pick served as a backup to Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh under Arians in 2010 and 2011. His former coach hired him in 2017 as QB coach in Arizona and they later made the move together to Tampa.

The Bucs rank first in total yards per game and second in points per game. They have the No. 1 passing attack in the NFL.

Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys

Moore’s name is going to come up a lot during this cycle. NFL dialogue can be infatuated with the hot, young coach. Moore is the 33-year-old coordinator for Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys offense, best known for leading Boise State to a 50-3 record as the starting quarterback a decade ago.

There’s certainly risks involved with such a young head coach. Sean McVay was 30 when the Rams hired him. The Cowboys rank second in yards per game, third in passing yards per game and first in points.

The college ranks

Jim Harbaugh, head coach, Michigan

Harbaugh has finally found the right recipe for success in Ann Arbor. It seems unlikely that now would be the time to jump ship. In four seasons in San Francisco, Harbaugh sports a 44-19-1 regular season record, including a trip to Super Bowl XLVII and two additional trips to the NFC Championship Game.

Rumors have swirled over the last week that Harbaugh could be interested in a jump to the NFL after finally beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten. The Bears should at least make a call to their former quarterback. He’s one of the few college coaches with proven NFL success in his past.

Ryan Day, head coach, Ohio State

Rumors have also swirled about Day and the Bears, so much so that last month Day’s agent publicly refuted that the Bears had contacted him about Day. The 42-year-old coach has three years of experience coaching the Buckeyes, which included two seasons with Justin Fields at quarterback.

Plenty of coaches might have the ability to unlock the best in Fields, but Day is the only one who can say he has already done it once before. Day has two years of experience as an NFL quarterbacks coach.

Dabo Swinney, head coach, Clemson

Swinney maintains that he’s all in with Clemson, a program he has built from the ground up and won two national championships with. But if ever there was a time to jump, it might be now. His team went 10-3 (a down year by recent standards), and Swinney lost both his offensive and defensive coordinators.

Oh, and he has been hanging out with Raiders owner Mark Davis, which fueled rumors of his impending jump to the NFL. Swinney still has one son on the team at Clemson and one in high school, so maybe he’s not interested, but it’s worth a call.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.