Profiling the Bears' head coaching candidates

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Profiling the Bears' head coaching candidates

Updated 9:30 p.m.

Reports surfaced Monday that Bears general manager Phil Emery had narrowed his head coaching search to three coaches after interviewing more than a dozen for the open position. One of Darrell Bevell, Bruce Arians or Marc Trestman will roam the Chicago sidelines in 2013, filling the void left by Lovie Smith's dismissal.
Darrell Bevell -- Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator
Overview: Organizations are often particularly impressed when they experience someones handiwork at their own expense. The Seahawks rocked the Bears backwards, literally and figuratively, when they drove 97 yards for a go-ahead touchdown late in regulation of their Dec. 2 game at Soldier Field, then won with an 80-yard drive for a touchdown in regulation.
The Seahawks put 459 yards on the Bears top-10 defense, the largest total of the 2012 season. The loss was a showcase for rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the developmental project of Bevell as offensive coordinator. Wilson capped off Bevells resume with one of the more epic comebacks of this season when Seattle rallied from 20 points down to overtake the Atlanta Falcons before losing on a field goal in the final 8 seconds in last week's Divisional Round.
It was Bevell who is credited with installing a read-option offense to exploit Wilsons skills (and opposing defenses). And Bevell was the Seattle offensive coordinator in 2011 when the Seahawks crushed the Bears 38-14, accomplishing that with Tarvaris Jackson as their quarterback.
Bevell broke into the NFL as an offensive assistant and later quarterbacks coach for Brett Favre in Green Bay (2000-2005), the last year of which Aaron Rodgers was also in the fold as a rookie. When Brad Childress was hired as Minnesota Vikings coach in 2006, he hired Bevell as offensive coordinator. It was in Minnesota that some of Bevell's most impressive work came about.

In 2009, Favre's first season with the Vikings, the future Hall of Famer reinvented his career at age 40, tossing 33 touchdown passes and throwing just seven interceptions, the lowest mark of his career. The Vikings went 12-4 that year and made it all the way to the NFC Championship game.

Favre may have been in the twilight of his career -- which ended a year later after a vicious hit from Bears defensive end Corey Wootton -- but he was still Brett Favre, ego and all, and Bevell found a way to work around it and produce a solid offensive showing.

Jay Cutler's gunslinger mentality has reminded some of Favre on the gridiron, so maybe Bevell can work some magic in Chicago, where those before him have failed.

Comment: Bevell is more than a little familiar with the Bears and the NFC North. And Seattle played the Bears in Chicago during both of his seasons coaching the Seahawks. He has studied the Bears defense in preparing to play and defeat it and in the process given more than a creditable account of himself winning with two different Seattle offenses.

Bevell helped turn Wilson, a third-round draft pick, into a record-setting quarterback, as the former minor-league baseball player wound up tying Peyton Manning's mark of 26 passing touchdowns, the most ever by a rookie.

Bruce Arians -- Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator
Overview: The turnaround of the Indianapolis Colts from doormat to playoff team traces to the selection of quarterback Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick of the draft. And development of Luck into a winning NFL quarterback in less than a season is being credited, in no small measure, to Arians.
Arians was credited for much of the success enjoyed by Ben Roethlisberger during Arians five years (2007-2011) as offensive coordinator there, which followed two years as Steelers receivers coach, seasons in which Pittsburgh went 15-1 and lost in the AFC Championship game and went 11-5 and won the Super Bowl.
Related: Grizzled and experienced: Bruce Arians
When his contract expired in 2011, Arians went to the Colts as offensive coordinator under new coach Chuck Pagano. Why this was significant was that Pagano is a coach from a defensive background, meaning that the offense was Arians.
Of major significance, when Pagano was forced to leave his duties for leukemia treatment this season, it was Arians who was elevated to interim head coach. The Colts went 9-3 in those games, the most wins by an interim head coach in NFL history.
And Luck continued to progress, even with Arians taking on added responsibilities.
Comment: Notable in Arians background is a record of consistent success. He was Peyton Mannings first quarterbacks coach with the Colts from 1998-2000. He left to become Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator from 2001-2003; the Browns reached the playoffs in 2002.
Arians went to the Steelers in 2004; Pittsburgh won Super Bowls in 2005 and 2008 with different head coaches (Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin), both from defensive backgrounds, meaning Arians was heavily involved in the results of the offenses.
Same in Indianapolis.

Arians turned 60 last October, making him one of the oldest candidates on the market. But his vast experience may, in fact, be a leg up.

Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star joined Chicago Tribune Live Tuesday evening and said a head coaching gig is something Arians really wants.

"He's a great quarterbacks coach and he showed during a very difficult season that he had overall managerial skills as well," Chappel said, before discussing the job Arians did while standing in for Pagano. "We were all wondering because head coaching was something he'd never done. I remember talking to him way back at the beginning of the process and I said 'what did you learn about yourself during this process?' He said 'that I can do this. I always knew I could do it, I had hoped to get the chance to do it.'

"So at the very least, he proved to himself tha the could do it and he proved to other teams that he just isn't a coordinator. He can run things top to bottom, Monday through Sunday. That's always a question until you do it."

That will help Arians, especially because the last time he was a head coach was in the 1980s, when he served as Temple's head coach from 1983-88.

Marc Trestman -- Montreal Alouettes head coach
Overview: Trestmans interview with Phil Emery went eight hours at Halas Hall. NFL.com came up with the nickname The Quarterback Whisperer for his successful associations with that position (Rich Gannon, Jake Plummer, Steve Young).
Trestman, who finished his law degree as a Jimmy Johnson assistant at the University of Miami, has experience with the excellence criterion sought by Emery. He was offensive coordinator with the 2002 Oakland Raiders, which went to the Super Bowl with Gannon as NFL MVP among four Pro Bowlers. He was offensive coordinator with the 1995 San Francisco 49ers when Young, Jerry Rice and the offense were No. 2 in the NFL in scoring.
And when Trestman was promoted to offensive coordinator in Cleveland, working with Bernie Kosar, the Browns reached the 1989 AFC Championship game. When he coached Plummer and was Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator in 1998, the Cardinals reached the playoffs for the first time in 51 years, when they were the Chicago Cardinals.
More: Trestman should be serious candidate for Bears
When the NFL stopped calling or he decided to stop answering for a while Trestman went to North Carolina State as the offensive coordinator for two years and then to the Canadian Football League where he coached the Montreal Alouettes to two Grey Cup championships.
Comment: Few coaches on Emerys list have the depth of experiences on offense, most of them positive. And he is one of the few with head-coaching experience, albeit in a league where teams punt on third down.

Trestman has experience working with young college quarterbacks who are vying for a spot in the pros, having worked with Cutler, his 2012 backup Jason Campbell and Tim Tebow, among others, in preparation for the NFL Combine. He also spent time in 2007 as a consultant for Saints head coach Sean Payton, who is known as one of the greatest offensive minds in the game today.

A nagging question is why Trestman has never been in a job longer than three years prior to the stint with Montreal. And he has not been in the NFL game since 2004, going first to colleges for two years and then to the CFL. But if Emery had significant doubts around those issues, best guess is that their conversation would not have gone on for the better part of a full day.
Trestman turns 57 on Tuesday; a call from Emery and the Bears would qualify as a present. He did get a ringing endorsement from Young on the "Waddle and Silvy Show" Tuesday morning.

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)