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.

Special teams, versatility key to selecting DeAndre Houston-Carson

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Special teams, versatility key to selecting DeAndre Houston-Carson

One emphasis of the Bears’ offseason efforts was an upgrade of special teams, which included signing returner Omar Bolden from Denver and re-signing leading tacklers like Sam Acho and Sherrick McManis.

In the sixth round of the draft the Bears went that direction again, selecting William & Mary defensive back DeAndre Houston-Carson, who has played both cornerback and safety but also blocked nine kicks in his four seasons.

“The main thing is just preparation and the film study,” Houston-Carson explained. “And then just my position coach putting us in position to make those plays.”

Houston-Carson was not given any indication whether he is ticketed for cornerback or safety job competitions. Like others in the Bears’ 2016 draft class (defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard, linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, offensive lineman Cody Whitehair), Houston-Carson started at different positions and finished his college career with 10 interceptions.

“I think I was comfortable at both positions,” Houston-Carson said. “[William & Mary] coaches asked me to make a position change due to depth chart issues at the beginning of the spring semester. I felt I’d be willing to do it, and I think it went well.

“We had a good season this year. We had a chance to get a conference championship, so I think it went well.”

Bears add power on RB depth chart with Indiana’s Jordan Howard in Round 5

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Bears add power on RB depth chart with Indiana’s Jordan Howard in Round 5

Running back, one of the foundation pillars of Chicago Bears football, was in some turmoil this offseason. First was the exit of Matt Forte. Then was the failed pursuit of Denver’s C.J. Anderson, a statement that while the Bears were pleased with the futures of Ka’Deem Carey and Jeremy Langford, those two were not necessarily the future of the offense, particularly in situations calling for raw power.

Accordingly, the Bears went big in the fifth round, using the 150th pick of the draft on Indiana running back Jordan Howard, a 230-pound force who averaged more than 123 yards from scrimmage in his combined 32 collegiate games at UAB and Indiana.

At 230 pounds, Howard eschews subtle.

“I feel like I’m a grinder,” Howard said. “I can get those tough yards and in the NFL. You don’t really see those long, explosive runs like you see in college. There are a few, but not many, so I feel my game suits the NFL more than it does college.”

It also appears to suit the Bears, who have struggled too often over the past several years in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Howard, however, may need to tweak his game just a bit.

Big running backs like Earl Campbell, Larry Csonka and Christian Okoye have had success spikes but not always sustained at those peak levels. The reason: Big backs deliver big hits but they also take more of them, and hits take their toll. John Riggins (240 pounds) extended his Hall of Fame career using speed that away from tacklers rather than taking all of them on.

Howard has a smash-mouth mindset but NFL tacklers will be substantial tiers above what he ran into at Indiana. And he missed time last year with knee and ankle injuries that limited him to nine games, in addition to averaging 216 carries per season for his three college years.

Still, “I feel like my size will benefit me well because a lot of time guys they won’t want to tackle me a lot of times, especially after long games when we’ve just been pounding,” Howard said. “They then start diving and then I can avoid them. I think it works very well for me.”

(Hard to see Aaron Donald, Luke Kuechly, Julius Peppers and J.J. Watt “diving,” but you never know.)

Howard will not be doing a lot of diving himself. He carries a decided chip on his shoulder after getting just one scholarship offer (UAB) coming out of high school, then having UAB drop football while he was there.

"Yeah definitely some pride because coming out of high school I had one offer to play at UAB in Conference USA, so I definitely wanted to prove I could play on a bigger stage," he said. "And I was doing it for UAB because they shut the program down. I wore my heart on my sleeve for them."

Bears hope they found another Peanut Tillman with CB Deiondre’ Hall

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Bears hope they found another Peanut Tillman with CB Deiondre’ Hall

In the second round of the 2003 draft the Bears took a flyer on a tall cornerback out of a smaller school. Now they have gone a similar route, hoping to land another Charles Tillman.

At the very least they secured a tall cornerback from a smaller school who WANTS to be another Charles Tillman.

Deiondre’ Hall, 6-2, 190 pounds, became a Bear with the team’s third pick in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. Hall comes out of Northern Iowa with 13 career interceptions, six returned for touchdowns, with another 28 passes broken up.

In the Tillman tradition he also finished with four forced fumbles, three of those his senior season.

His role model, “for cornerback, me personally, I’ve always loved him, is Charles Tillman,” Hall said. “Just being a ballhawk and getting that ball. That’s something that’s been huge to me throughout my time at Northern Iowa… .

“I’ve always kind of tried to model my game after him. Like I said, just being a ballhawk and getting that ball out. That’s one of the key emphasis throughout my time at Northern Iowa. Not basically mimicking his game but taking bits and pieces and adding it to mine.”

The turnover bits and pieces of his game will be welcome additions for a team that totaled just 17 total turnovers last season and whose cornerbacks (Kyle Fuller, Tracy Porter) combined for just three interceptions.

But Hall has started at linebacker, is a physical defensive back, and is likely to get at least a look at safety as well. There his football template changes.

“For safety positions, I’ve always kind of saw myself as a ‘Honey Badger,’” Hall said, referencing Arizona Cardinals All-Pro defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. “Being able to play a little corner, coming down in the slot and guarding those quicker guys and being able to stay up top and cover ground. That’s huge in the game these days.”