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.

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

Jay Cutler has answered doubters in Bears locker room, coaching staff

When Jay Cutler came to the Bears in that 2009 trade with the Denver Broncos, he was “the new guy.” The locker room belonged to Olin Kreutz and Brian Urlacher on their respective sides of the football, and while the quarterback position by definition places its occupant in a necessarily leadership position, that wasn’t the Bears. They weren’t going to be “Cutler’s team,” not for a while.

But Matt Forte exited this past offseason and with him went the last position player – on either side of the ball – who had been here longer than Cutler now has. The reality wasn’t lost on Cutler.

“I was looking at the roster a couple of weeks ago and I feel like there’s been a major shift in experience — especially on the offensive side,” he said. “I’m at 11 [years] and then you look down, there’s a couple of nines, a couple of eights and mostly five and under, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think a new talent and new guys in the building, there’s new energy and new attitude. I’ve embraced it. I’ve enjoyed it. I think the coaching staff’s done a great job of getting all these young guys up to speed. It’s a good group right now.”

It is also a group that looks to Cutler perhaps in ways teammates haven’t. Where Forte was at least the template for an NFL professional for his position group, Cutler now becomes the go-to veteran for everything ranging from details on a play-call to how to behave as a rookie.

It is a role that at times Cutler did not always appear to fit into comfortably, particularly with established veterans and personas that were the Bears’ identity for, in cases like Kreutz and Urlacher, a decade or more. Now, a player once sometimes perceived by outsiders as poutish or petulant has become something of a standard-setter for teammates.

“Obviously Jay does a great job with the younger guys,” said guard Kyle Long. “He brought me along, and continues to bring me along. He can be a little honest and blunt with me from time to time, but beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s the right thing to do in his position, as the leader and vested player.

“The quarterback is the leader of our team. I think he’s done a great job. I see him with the defense a lot, which is something I didn’t see a lot the first few years. I don’t necessarily know if that’s on Jay, or if it’s a perception-of-Jay basis. He’s a great guy. People in that locker room love him. He’s tough as hell. He’s got a cannon. He can run. And he’s a competitor. We love him. He’s been great this offseason and we’re looking forward to seeing how he’ll be this season with this new O-line and with the defense getting us the ball back a lot.”

Tough love approach

Cutler has earned the respect of his teammates. But gaining the confidence of his head coach and general manager through last year were possibly career turning points.

Cutler had been given a contract extension six games into his first (2009) year with the Bears. He responded by leading the NFL in interceptions.

When Phil Emery arrived as general manager, he spoke from the outset of Cutler as a “franchise quarterback” and “elite.” Emery gave Cutler a seven-year contract after the 2013 season, whereupon Cutler again led the league in interceptions in a 5-11 season marked by friction with coordinator Aaron Kromer and coach Marc Trestman, whose staff was fired after that year.

Instead of fawning treatment, Fox, coordinator Adam Gase and GM Ryan Pace were decidedly noncommittal on Cutler through last offseason and into the year. Cutler produced the best statistical year of his career, still not as good as Aaron Rodgers’ poorest single season, but with an overall performance that settled the Bears’ quarterback situation for the foreseeable future.

"I had questions on everybody," Fox said. "You come in, you take a job, you evaluate and you have to make decisions oftentimes before you even meet somebody in Year 1 as a head coach or general manager. They could be robots for all you know. But the game is still about people and relationships.

“I will say this: At the conclusion of the whole season working with Jay, I was very impressed. So I feel way more confident about him."

Bears make front office changes

Bears make front office changes

The Bears announced in a press release on Wednesday that the team has made numerous changes in their front office this offseason.

One such move included the hiring of Brandon Faber as the VP of Communications. Faber was with the Blackhawks communications department since 2008, where his most recent position was Senior Director of Communications and Community relations. 

"The club created a new executive layer of SVP’s to better lead and develop various areas of business with a focus on innovation & strategy," the release detailed. "The club promoted Scott Hagel, Karen Murphy, Cliff Stein and Lee Twarling to the newly created SVP level. The Bears have also added three new members to the VP level, promoting Doug Carnahan to VP of Corporate Partnerships and Jake Jones to VP of Finance and hiring Brandon Faber as the VP of Communications."

Hagel has been promoted to SVP, Marketing and Communications after 20 years with the Bears. Murphy has been promoted to SVP, Business Strategy and CFO. She has been with the Bears for 17 years.

Stein has been with the Bears for 14 years and has been promoted to SVP and General Counsel. He is the legal advisor for all of the club.

Twarling, who has been with the club for 12 years, has been promoted to SVP, Sales and Customer Relations. 

Food for thought on Bears training camp

Food for thought on Bears training camp

Bear-ly Possible?  Maybe Not…

As the Bears prepare to take the field for the first time in Training Camp-apalooza 2016, we present a little food for thought here that Leonard Floyd was too full to finish.  As Ryan Pace continues to build this roster, this team’s injury margin for error remains smaller than the Minnesotas, Green Bays, Carolinas, Seattles and Arizonas of the NFC.  Idle football off-season minds can start working with actual news and reality as teams charge toward the first full week of September.  But here are a few thoughts about this team that’ve passed between my ears over the past week or so, and you can decide whether I should’ve slathered the top of my head with sunscreen, too.

2nd and 3rd before 1st

As we anxiously await Saturday’s first contact practice at camp to see how Leonard Floyd stands up to attacking NFL linemen, the thinking here is guard Cody Whitehair and defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard will play a greater role for the Bears this season than their top draft pick.  Even with his role simplified compared to what it was at Georgia, there’s still a physical and mental learning curve that might not be as steep for the two guys in the trenches.  Whitehair started for four years at Kansas State, Bullard the equivalent of three at Florida, and many scouts believed both could’ve been drafted even higher than where they landed with the Bears.  I’m still confident Vic Fangio can turn Floyd into the player the team projects, and will make some impact plays in 2016.  I just think the steadier contributions will come from the other two.

White will be a Beast

….eventually.  Call him an “advanced” rookie because he had to settle for just being around the team, getting a knack for NFL life, as well as mental playbook reps and a month of actual on-field practice.  And that will help him now.  He had an big-target NFL body before his injury a year ago and that size and speed figures to win a lot of battles down the road, along with his share this season.  But his limited route tree he had at West Virginia has to grow, and how quickly that happens immediately affects the level of his impact this fall.  Is 65 to 70 catches (4-plus per game) too much to ask?  If….if…he, Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Zach Miller don’t miss significant time and those weapons are available options all season, White’s numbers could exceed that.

Top 10 “D”

Consider Coordinator Vic Fangio taking over a unit that had its two worst seasons in franchise history, and taking it from 30th overall in 2013 and 2014, to 14th in 2015.  And he didn’t have close to the pieces he needed.  So many square pegs for round holes.  Now, add Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman as an inside linebacker tandem that can’t be surpassed elsewhere around the league.  Throw in an end who can anchor one side of the line in Akiem Hicks to pair with an ascending young nose tackle in Eddie Goldman.  Pernell McPhee’s knee needs to be ready, with Willie Young and Lamarr Houston rotating in.  With health, that’s a front seven to be excited about for the first time, post-Lovie.  Now, the secondary is another issue, needing Tracy Porter to stay healthy, Kyle Fuller to put it all together and Adrian Amos and a safety-to-be-determined required to make more plays on the ball.  Between the improved first two lines of defense and Year Two of defensive back tutorship under Ed Donatell, I’m sayin’ there’s a chance.

Four-win First

The Houston Texans are a better team than the Bears right now, and should be a better team this season.  But if they open the season without J.J. Watt (back surgery), Brock Osweiler feels the weight of $72 million ($37 million guaranteed) with a green receiving corps outside of DeAndre Hopkins, and the new-look Bears defense can create some chaos and uncertainty for the hosts, it’s not out of the realm of possibility the Bears could steal that opener, depending on their health going in.  So after that?  It’s Philadelphia at home, what should be a dreadful Cowboys defense in Dallas, then Detroit at Soldier Field.  Of course, this franchise has to figure out a way to beat the Lions, which they haven’t done since 2012.  The biggest test to a four-win first month would seem to be the first one.  They pull that off, maybe that baby bear baseball team won’t steal all the attention come October.  If they get there.

In closing, I have not been sipping the Bears Kool-Aid that on-air partner Dan Jiggetts loves to swig.  But who knows?  Maybe I needed to shampoo with some of that sunscreen, after all.