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.
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.
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.
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.