NFL head-coaching search roundup

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NFL head-coaching search roundup

While most fans seemed content with Phil Emery's decision to fire Lovie Smith, while many of Smith's players expressed outrage at Halas Hall upon hearing the news.
So where did legendary Bears coach Mike Ditka, who is no stranger himself to being shown the door in Chicago, stand on the issue? Dikta told WMVP-AM on Monday that the Bears firing Lovie Smith was "stupid," and that Smith is "a very good coach."
Whether or not Ditka is correct on his first opinion -- that Smith did not deserve to be fired -- reports surfacing early in seven teams' coaching hunt shows that Ditka is right about his second statement, and that Smith won't be unemployed for long.
There has been no confirmation on any one team being linked with Smith, but a separate report from Monday said four teams have reached out to the former Chicago coach about their head coaching vacancies.
Those teams include: Arizona, Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City, Philadelphia and San Diego. One reason for the interest could be teams fulfilling the Rooney Rule, stating that a team must interview at least one minority before filling a head-coaching vacancy.
The Bears have been linked to a handful of coaches, including Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements, Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, Mike Sullivan, Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and Cowboys special teams coach Joe Decamillis, all confirmed by Adam Schefter and NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.
Jim Miller joined David Kaplan in a phone interview after Smith was fired on Monday, and tossed out a few names who may be in consideration for the job. Miller also made his case for Jon Gruden to come to Chicago.
Here's a quick (and unofficial) round-up of where the other six teams in search of a new head coach are looking...
The Cardinals have had the most public spotlight on their coaching search, as Andy Reid is expected to interview today for the position. Ken Whisenhunt was fired after the Cardinals went 5-11. Reports have differed on how close Reid is to accepting the position, though current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton will interview for a second time for the job. Whoever gets the job in Arizona, one of his main goals would be to fix the 63.5 million man in quarterback Kevin Kolb. The Cardinals also fired general manager Rod Graves. Mike McCoy is also interviewing in Denver for the position, per Adam Schefter.
Schefter also tweeted that Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone will interview with the Browns for their head coaching position...another college coach, Oregon's Chip Kelly, has been a hot rumor all season long, but nothing firm has come on his interest with his Ducks playing tomorrow in the Fiesta Bowl tomorrow...the Browns also, per Jason LaCanfora on Twitter, interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton
Andy Reid is meeting with the Cardinals tonight, but before he does that he will meet with Kansas City brass about the Chiefs open head coach position. Kansas City was reportedly interested in Falcons defensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who signed an extension in Atlanta earlier this week.
Things have been quiet in San Diego, but there is speculation that Jon Gruden may land the Chargers' open position, but Rapoport says Gruden has not scheduled any interviews...Bruce Arians, who coached the Colts in Chuck Pagano's absence, is an option, and Ken Whisenhunt is reportedly interested in the position, too.
The Eagles, who fired Andy Reid after 14 seasons, apparently liked what they saw from the NFC top-seeded Falcons this year. They will reportedly interview defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and special teams coach Keith Armstrong. They wanted to interview defensive coordinator Dirk Koetter before he signed an extension to stay in Atlanta...Oregon coach Chip Kelly is another real option here, and has been connected to Philadelphia for quite some time...Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Syracuse's Doug Marrone are also potential candidates
The Bills have been connected to Lovie Smith in the past few days, but no official word has come out on an interview...Buffalo has met with Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired in Arizona...the Bills are also planning to meet with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and, per Schefter, Doug Marrone will interview for the position as well.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

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I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.

New Fire acquisition Dax McCarty tweets thank you to Red Bull fans

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USA TODAY

New Fire acquisition Dax McCarty tweets thank you to Red Bull fans

When the Chicago Fire traded for midfielder Dax McCarty it surprised many around Major League Soccer.

McCarty had been with the New York Red Bulls for five and a half seasons and served as the team's captain in recent years. He was a central figure in the club's identity and success (2013 and 2015 Supporters' Shield winners). His departure was devastating to many fans and came at a busy time in McCarty's life.

He got married two days before the trade and had just arrived with the U.S. national team for the annual January camp that takes place during the MLS offseason and largely features domestically based players.

On Sunday McCarty took to Twitter to thank Red Bulls fans in a lengthy note.

McCarty says he was blindsided by the trade.

"I have been in the league long enough to know how things work, yet somehow I was still surprised," McCarty said in the note. "I've been sitting here for a week trying to process everything, and I still can't quite come up with the words to describe how I'm feeling."

McCarty then thanked his teammates, the support staff with the Red Bulls, Red Bulls fans and his wife.

"To the fans: Thank you for giving me 5 1/2 of the best years of my life," he wrote.

The note is similar to what Harry Shipp tweeted after the Fire traded the Lake Forest native to the Montreal Impact. Shipp was again traded this offseason, to reigning MLS Cup champion Seattle.

One difference between the two is that Shipp mentioned being excited to join Montreal. McCarty made no mention of Chicago or the Fire.

"It will be weird stepping onto the field at Red Bull Arena as an opponent, but I'll always cherish the memories we made together, as a family," McCarty wrote. "If you could do me one huge favor and not chant "metro reject" when I come back, I would greatly appreciate it."

Metro reject is an old chant for former players in reference the club's previous name, New York/New Jersey Metrostars. The Fire visit Red Bull Arena on April 29.

The Fire open preseason training on Monday, although McCarty won't be there because he is still in camp with the national team.