Job posting: Head coach, Chicago Bears: Playoff experience helpful

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Job posting: Head coach, Chicago Bears: Playoff experience helpful

The search for the Bears next head coach already is underway, with a couple of strong guidelines in place under general manager Phil Emery.

And Bears Chairman George McCaskey added a strategic one of his own: We are building, not rebuilding.

That may be true. Then again, events have peculiar ways of altering even the staunchest of goals and plans. A year ago, the Bears were hiring Emery and planning on another year of Lovie Smith. Two months ago, they were 7-1 and Emery was addressing rumors that he was working on a Smith contract extension.

Tuesday was spent addressing questions about Smiths successor and whether the whole 2012 season was a wasted year in franchise development.

It certainly didnt look like a lost year at 7-1, McCaskey said. And looking back on it, Ted Phillips, Bears president and I thought it was the right decision. We thought Lovie deserved another year and Phil was fine with that.

The succession plan

Emery now embarks on his first-ever hiring of an NFL head coach with a plan, a timetable and an idea of how the new coach will work with his personnel structure.

Ideally I could stand shoulder to shoulder with this person during the college All-Star games the East-West is coming up, the Senior Bowl is coming up. All those things are important, Emery said. We have to be thorough, though. The playoffs are a consideration.

The playoffs are a consideration even though the Bears arent in them. But assistants with playoff teams cannot be hired until their teams are out of the postseason.

Emery will conduct the initial interviews with candidates, with those beginning this week with a list that includes Atlanta special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.

A short list of perhaps three finalists will be brought in for second interviews that will include McCaskey and Phillips.

The candidates will include college and NFL coaches and assistants from all three (offense, defense, special teams) areas.

Control issues

Some attention invariably focuses on possible big-name coaches who might be brought in to run the Bears. But a problem with the likes of Mike Holmgren, Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden is how much control they will have over personnel decisions.

Emery was explicit that the GM determines the 53-man roster with input from coaches, not the other way around.

Its important for the general manager to have 53 authority for this reason, Emery said. The 53If youre going to hand that all to one person, I think youre not developing personnel talent, youre putting it all in one persons hands. Sometimes thats been successful but even that person has had a partner thats been helping him with personnel.

I just dont see that to be a good mix.

All candidates are expected to have some NFL experience in their backgrounds, Emery said. And the chosen one may have the choice of serving as his own offensive coordinator, if he has had strong NFL experience and all they have to do is convince me thats the best way to operate, Emery said, not sounding convinced that this is the best way.

There have been other coaches that have called the plays offensively, defensively and have had some success.

The checklist

Emery ticked off what he viewed as his criteria for hire:

Excellence in their role

Regardless of what specific job the candidate comes from, he will need to have been very good at and successful in it.

Great organizational skills and administrative skills, along with leadership skills

You have to be highly organized, thorough, meticulous to make sure that youre always putting your team in position for success.

High energy

Somebody that pulls people together in the building I want somebody that has some warmth that pulls everybody together and that we have synergy, not only with our players but with everybody in the building to work towards our common goal. Upbeat and positive.

Good on their feet

I want this person to stand up and represent us well There needs to be a level of consistency in this individual and how he presents himself. Not only when were up, but when were down.

Bears agree to terms with first-round pick Leonard Floyd

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Bears agree to terms with first-round pick Leonard Floyd

The Bears' first-round pick is signed.

The team announced Friday afternoon that it agreed to terms with Leonard Floyd, the linebacker out of Georgia the Bears selected with the No. 9 pick in this year's draft.

According to the announcement, the contract is four years long with a fifth-year option.

With Floyd signing, the Bears have agreed to terms with eight of their nine draft picks, defensive end Jonathan Bullard being the lone unsigned member of the 2016 draft class.

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

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Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

The Bears’ decision to move on from Matt Forte, the No. 2 running back in franchise history behind only Walter Payton in yardage, was not necessarily an easy one. It was, however, unanimous at Halas Hall, sources told CSNChicago.com. And it was also part of a significant deeper change in the main operating principle underpinning the Bears’ rushing offense.

Depending upon what Forte does with the New York Jets — and for how long — the decision might be open to question. Few NFL decisions aren’t.

But the Bears’ offense under John Fox and new coordinator Dowell Loggains was clearly going away from what Forte was accustomed to — a true featured back with a relief-back in the form of a Chester Taylor/Marion Barber/Michael Bush — and moving onto a true use of two backs in the fashion that Fox’s Denver Broncos offenses used them.

The change will be more than just a few carries. Forte lost carries last season to Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. This is different.

Instead of Forte and an understudy, as the de facto rushing offense has been since Forte was drafted in 2008, the Bears this offseason made the decision to emphasize the run even more under Loggains, and that has meant something other than simply more carries for Forte’s understudy.

For perspective purposes: Last season Forte missed three full games due to a knee injury but still totaled 276 touches (carries plus targets) to 236 combined for Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. When Forte returned from the three-game injury break, the offense had changed. Forte had four 20-carry games in the first six. He had one over the final six.

Forte did not appear publicly to genuinely embrace the job-sharing approach as Langford’s carries matched and in cases exceeded his own. Whether he would have been on board with ceding even more meaningful time to a co-back is another matter that would have been open to question, though any suspicions that direction are now moot.

(If Forte would have had problems with younger backs rising, he would not have been the first; Thomas Jones ultimately demanded a trade after the Lovie Smith Bears drafted Cedric Benson to broaden the run game.)

Regardless, the true multi-back system will be a change for the Bears, harking back perhaps to the Bears building their run game on two starter-grade backs in Benson and Jones. The Bears’ unsuccessful attempt to bring in C.J. Anderson from Denver suggests less a no-confidence vote in either Carey or Langford than a measure of the commitment to both competition and a depth chart with meaning past the top one or even two names. The Bears have used mid-round picks on running backs in three straight drafts (Carey, Langford, Jordan Howard this year), making the same point the Anderson interest did.

And that’s how Langford took the Howard selection to a position that where confidence in him was one of the reasons the organization was OK with parting with Forte.

“I really didn’t think too much of (the Howard pick),” Langford said. “I know it’s just competition. That’s what brings a lot of running backs, a lot of positions, to push themselves even more. Competition is always a good thing, and playing in the NFL, there’s always going to be competition, so you can’t really become too complacent as a player.”

“Complacent” wasn’t a word anyone was likely to apply to Langford, and certainly to Carey, who played his way up from a roster bubble at the end of training camp last year. And Howard as a fifth-round rookie isn’t guaranteed anything for awhile in training camp except reps with the 2s or 3s, with Jacquizz Rodgers also re-signed after an injury shortened 2015.

Loggains has been dealt a hand without an ace like Forte but with what he and the organization think can be three or four kings, depending on roster decisions at the end of August.

“We like where Jeremy’s at,” Loggains said. “He needs to continue to develop. There’s things he can do a better job of in the passing game, but we still like our other backs. Ka’Deem Carey finished strong for us last year. We obviously drafted a back. We’re excited about getting Jacquizz Rodgers back as well.”

Relationships, opportunity land Brian Hoyer with Bears

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Relationships, opportunity land Brian Hoyer with Bears

From Collins to Caleb. From Campbell to Clausen. Where can the Bears find the next....Josh McCown?

It’s been well-documented by now that Jay Cutler hasn’t played an entire season with the Bears since he arrived in 2009. His backups have thrown five touchdowns and ten interceptions. And Josh McCown has four of those touchdowns.

As another draft passed without the Bears selecting Cutler’s presumed successor, the team reached terms with veteran Brian Hoyer shortly after the seventh round ended.

“It’s an opportunity for me to come in and help this team whatever way I can as the backup quarterback,” Hoyer said after Wednesday’s OTA at Halas Hall. “You’re always one play away, but I’ve also been a backup.”

But he’s also started 22 games the past two seasons, for Cleveland (where Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains had the same role in Year 1 of the Manziel Mess) and for Houston last year. He’s a guy who has taken the high road through Browns management’s desire to get the unqualified Johnny Football on the field, to last year’s “Hard Knocks” competition with Ryan Mallett that was there for all the world to see.

And he continues to, despite a solid 2015 (19 touchdowns, seven interceptions) that ended in a disastrous Pick-4 finale at home in the playoffs to Kansas City. When free agency opened a couple of months later, the Texans wasted no time plopping $72 million ($37 million guaranteed) in Brock Osweiler’s lap.

“Look, it was a terrible last game, and that’s what it came down to. But prior to that, I had the best season I ever had, as a starter. So unfortunately, it ended down there but it opened another door for me here and I’m gonna make the most of it.

“In my experience,” Hoyer continued, “the best quarterbacks make those other guys around them better. After being around Tom Brady for almost four years, you see that, and he’s earned it. The right time, the right players, right scheme…I think a lot goes into it, more than just you see on the field.”

That shouldn’t be interpreted as an excuse for what happened against the Chiefs. Brady was a sixth round draft pick, and Hoyer was undrafted out of Michigan State before he backed up one of the best ever for three years. He’ll wear what the stat sheet shows from that game. 

But there are other times in helping guide the Texans back from a 2-5 start where he covered up some blemishes.

“The thing about football, it’s a team sport, moreso on offense than defense. If one guy messes up on offense, it can create a disaster for the whole play. Everything kind of has to fall into place. Obviously, you have to play well, but the guys around you have to play well.”

That’s what he hopes to do should something happen to Cutler. He went 7-6 in 13 starts (12 TDs, 13 interceptions) two years ago with Loggains in Cleveland, where Hoyer grew up. Once this offseason's quarterback merry-go-round stopped spinning, Hoyer felt things would fit well in Chicago.

“Really what it came down to was my relationship with Dowell,” Hoyer explained. “I’ve known Jay through the years as an opposing quarterback, and then his previous relationship with Dowell, he kind of hooked us together. Then the quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone, I’ve known him for a long time – he went to my high school. I knew there was a comfortability there from the Midwest. It was close to home and good to get my family back up here. It’s just exciting to be a Bear.”

“He gives you an established backup veteran guy,” Loggains said earlier this month during rookie minicamp, shortly after Hoyer was signed. “There’s competition. We haven’t set a depth chart but it gives us a guy who’s played in the league, has a winning record (15-11) as a starter, so it just creates competition.

The safe guess here is he’ll prevail over David Fales and Matt Blanchard to become Cutler’s main caddy.

“It’s an opportunity for me to come in and help this team whichever way I can as the backup quarterback. You’re always one play away, I know it’s a cliché, but I’ve also been a backup. I’ve started the last two years with two different teams but before that I was backing up Brady, so I have experience with that.  It’s kind of a different role because you have to prepare as a starter without getting the same reps.

“So for me, it’s coming in here, help however I can, whether that’s being ready to go at a moment’s notice, or pushing our defense, giving them a good look on the scout team.  To have familiarity with Dowell and the quarterbacks coach, it just felt like a really good fit.”