The Bears’ 2014 schedule includes the four teams in the NFC South. It is shaping up to be a succession of reunions between former Bears coaches and players, albeit not necessarily all amicable.
Ron Rivera already was in place as Carolina Panthers head coach when Lovie Smith, who cut Rivera loose as Bears defensive coordinator after the 2006 season, was named as Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach. Smith’s defensive coordinator is ex-Bear cornerback Leslie Frazier (who was tabbed as Dave McGinnis’ choice as Bears DC before McGinnis’ hiring collapsed in 1999).
Rivera’s staff also includes Mike Shula, Dave Wannstedt’s first tight-ends coach, as offensive coordinator; former Bears wideout Ricky Proehl as receivers coach; defensive line coach Eric Washington, who held that job with Smith’s Bears; and former DB coach Steve Wilks coaching the Carolina secondary.
The Atlanta Falcons added to the Bears “presence” on Wednesday by hiring former Bears offensive coordinator/line coach Mike Tice as offensive line coach. The Falcons already had in place Keith Armstrong as special-teams coordinator; Armstrong was Bears special-teams coach under Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron, and was among the first candidates contacted by the Bears in their search to replace Smith last January.
Not to be outdone, the New Orleans Saints move into the divisional playoff round with coach Sean Payton, “Spare Bears” quarterback in 1987. Rivera was among the Bears who were out on strike while Payton filled in.