Profiling the Bears' head coaching candidates

982523.png

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.

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.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

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.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.