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.

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

The daily litany of injuries and practice limitations through training camp and to this point of preseason have been stories. But they typically do not take on real significance until about this time of the football year, when teams swing onto final approach for their first regular-season game.

Against that backdrop, the Bears’ injury forecast was trending the right direction on Monday when No. 1 tight end Zach Miller and No. 1 nickel receiver Eddie Royal, both out for extended periods going through the team’s concussion protocol, were practicing without the don’t-hit-me red practice jerseys they were in as recently as last week.

Right guard Kyle Long, down with a shoulder injury since the New England game, was not in practice pads Monday but trotted over to a nearby goalpost at one point during practice, got into his stance and delivered a couple of linemen “punches” to the padding.

All three are vital components of a struggling offense in desperate need of impact players at any position.

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Rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, held out of the Kansas City game on Saturday with hamstring soreness, was in uniform as well. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had knee surgery two weeks ago, was out running laps around the practice field, although he remains a longshot to be active for the Sept. 11 opener in Houston.

The situation was less encouraging for linebacker Pernell McPhee, who continues to do only controlled running and cutting along the sidelines as he works back from knee surgery in January. Chances of his return for the start of the regular season appear next to nil.

“We’ve got some avenues that we’re going to have to decide here as we cut down [the roster] to the 53 and some time from now, so I don’t like making those decisions now,” said coach John Fox. “But we’ll continue to evaluate him. There are options. He did start [training camp] on PUP [physically unable to perform]. We have a lot of options and we’ll do what’s best for us and him.”

The team has kept details of McPhee’s procedure and injury in-house. But teammate Willie Young, whose 2014 season ended with an Achilles injury of his own, offered a perspective that hinted at how serious McPhee’s injury may have been.

“It’s a credit to him, because to bounce back from any what used to be career-ending injuries is a challenge,” Young said, adding, “but he’s on course, I would say.”

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

With the No. 1 units in all three phases generally done for the 2016 preseason, one of the few stats that coaches and teams focus on can be analyzed for a Bears team that doesn’t have a lot of numerical results worth noting.

Through three preseason losses the Bears curiously have a plus-1 turnover ratio, taking the ball away from opponents. Through three games last year the Bears stood at plus-6 after a 2-1 point of a preseason in which coach John Fox sought to change a losing culture with an aggressive preseason approach.

Why this matters in a preseason of failures is this: Of the 15 teams with negative turnover totals, only one had a winning record. Not that a positive preseason means regular-season success, as the Bears demonstrated last year.

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But while the Bears offense has done precious little with the football when it’s had it, at least it is not giving it to opponents. Brian Hoyer has thrown the only two interceptions in 96 throws by Bears quarterbacks, a rate of 2.1 percent.

The defense has been without starting cornerback Kyle Fuller and No. 1 nickel corner Bryce Callahan for the past two games, and top corner Tracy Porter for game one and part of game three, the latter because of a concussion.

Still, members of the defense, which has produced two interceptions and two fumble recoveries through three games, have noticed a difference this year from last year’s first in a 3-4 base defense.

“Faster, that’s the main thing,” said defensive tackle Will Sutton. “A year under my belt in the system, you’re not thinking as much because you should know the plays. I can play a lot faster because I know how the blocks are being made against this type of defense, for instance.”

[RELATED: Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?]

The results have not yet been reflected in points, yardage or wins. But within the defense, players believe that team speed has been increased along with reaction speed, breaks on the ball and other elements that go into producing takeaways.

“Absolutely,” said linebacker Willie Young. “We’ve got a couple more guys who are more familiar with the scheme this year, including myself and [linebacker Lamarr] Houston, who obviously got off to a slow start last year.

“But we do have a lot more guys in position who are more familiar with the defensive scheme. So it allows you to fill a bit faster, a little more confidence.”

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?

Bears coach John Fox declared in the wake of Saturday’s 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that what transpired hadn’t been all bad. And that’s true; good wins don’t usually look as good in the film room afterwards, and bad losses don’t automatically show up all dark, either.

And so it is after preseason game No. 3 that the Bears in fact did have some good along with some bad in what was the worst performance of the preseason, if only because so much of it involved the No. 1 units, and they’re supposed to be better than that.

Since so much seemed to be (and actually was) bad on Saturday night, the contrarian approach is invoked here: Let’s start with the good.

Good: The Bears faced Kansas City (which also was missing a handful of key starters) without Bryce Callahan, Leonard Floyd, Kyle Fuller, Kyle Long, Pernell McPhee, Zach Miller and Eddie Royal. Tracy Porter left with a concussion. They expect to have some if not all of those starters and sub-starters back by Week 1.

Bad: Miller, Porter, Royal and McPhee have varying degrees of injury histories, McPhee the least of the group but had never been put in the position of holding up as a full-time starter before last season. The chances of the Bears having all their key players for full seasons are slim.

Good: Jay Cutler has thrown 31 passes this preseason. None of them have been intercepted. In what proved to be a foreshadowing of a ball-security breakthrough for the historically turnover-prone quarterback, Cutler threw zero interceptions in 33 attempts last preseason. In the regular season Cutler had two games of 31 attempts and another of 33 with zero interceptions, plus pick-free games of 24, 27 and 45 attempts.

Preseason and training camp stats mean nothing; preseason and camp performances often do.

[RELATED: Bears defense can't pick up all the pieces from a broken offense]

Bad: Kevin White has shown less than nothing through preseason, catching a total of three passes and dropping an equal number in what is his de facto rookie season. He has run imprecise routes and looked a seventh-round draft pick, not a seventh-overall one. Despite his apparent explosiveness, no Bear is averaging less than White’s 4 yards per reception.

Good: Josh Bellamy and Cameron Meredith have had next-step preseasons, a matter of some potential significance given the health concerns with Eddie Royal and production concerns with White. No Bear has caught more than Bellamy’s 10 passes, and no Bear with more than two catches has averaged more than Meredith’s 16 yards per catch.

Bad: The Bears need a road win at Cleveland next Thursday to avoid the fifth winless preseason in franchise history.

Good: Of the previous four no-win warmup slates, the Bears finished 9-5 in 1962 and 11-5 and in the NFC Championship in 2010. The 1998 season, Dave Wannstedt’s last, wound up 4-12 but 1978 at least was 7-9.

Five of the last six times the Bears lost the “all-important third preseason game,” the Bears finished 8-8 or better.

Bad: (put in the Kansas City game tape)