Coach Lovie Smith remarked after this season that every coach on our staffyou would like to see them take another step. He may get his wish, unfortunately for his own staff fortunes.
The Oakland Raiders have requested permission to interview offensive coordinator Mike Tice for their vacant head-coaching job, a story first reported by the Tribune. The Bears dont have a choice but to give that permission, since under NFL rules, assistants are always permitted to explore head-coaching jobs even if still under contract to their current team.
The Raiders have an extensive candidate list numbering nearly a dozen, and new general manager Reggie McKenzie has those and potentially others to evaluate.
The problem for the Bears, however, is potentially serious.
They and Tice, a former head coach with the Minnesota Vikings while McKenzie was a member of the Green Bay Packers front office, are in the process of hiring a passing-game coordinator as a top Tice assistant. Former quarterbacks coach Greg Olsen has been interviewed and others are on Tices list.
But that process now potentially grinds to a dangerous halt until the Tice-Oakland situation plays itself out. Indeed, if Tice leaves, the Bears could well be interviewing those candidates, possibly including Clyde Christensen of the Indianapolis Colts, for the full coordinators position.
Tice was promoted from offensive line coach to coordinator just days after the Bears parted ways with Mike Martz. He has been a dominant influence on the offense over the past two years, directing an offensive line that was key in the Bears rushing for 2,015 yards in 2011 despite losing quarterback Jay Cutler after 10 games and Matt Forte two games later.
Sometimes the passage of time makes things a little sweeter.
Josh Sitton had been selected to three Pro Bowls while a member of the Green Bay Packers. At the end of training camp last year, the Packers abruptly released Sitton.
On Monday, Sitton was named to his fourth Pro Bowl, replacing former Green Bay teammate T.J. Lang. At age 30, this Pro Bowl was special.
"It's a great honor, always a goal of mine every year," Sitton said via conference call. "It's an honor to me and to the guys I play with, the guys helping me along...
"I would say just the age thing, the older you get, the more you appreciate them. You can't play at a high level in this game so the whole age thing makes it even more special."
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
When the Bears were forced to go into Week 1 of the 2015 season with a shuffled offensive line, the situation wasn't ideal; Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long moving to right tackle as a hurried fill when neither Charles Leno nor Jordan Mills were an answer.
The 2016 season also began with an unexpected and significant shuffle, but this time with one that immediately bumped up the quality of the line. GM Ryan Pace moved quickly to sign Sitton after his release by the Green Bay Packers, a step that bumped rookie Cody Whitehair from guard to center, where he earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers Association of America.
"It was challenging for sure," Sitton said. "It was something I haven't had to do for quite some time but it was stimulating being thrown in and needing to learn the offense in four or five days."
Sitton, who signed a three-year contract worth as much as $21 million with $10 million guaranteed, joins rookie running back Jordan Howard as the two Bears scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl. He started 12 of 13 games in 2016, missing time with an ankle injury but being a strong presence in a line that ranked No. 8 in sack percentage while getting Howard to a franchise-record 1,313 rushing yards even with a rookie center and a group that never played a game together before Week 1 in Houston against the Texans.
"I think we can only get better, now that we'll have an offseason together," Sitton said. "We'll see what we can do."
The Bears have another Pro Bowler.
After initially getting shut out on the Pro Bowl roster, the Bears have since had two players named as injury replacements with guard Josh Sitton now joining running back Jordan Howard.
Sitton was named as an injury replacement Monday afternoon for Packers guard T.J. Lang, who left Sunday's NFC Championship game early.
This will be Sitton's third straight Pro Bowl and fourth career honor.
[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]
The 30-year-old offensive lineman signed with the Bears before 2016 after the Packers released him.
Sitton played in 13 of the Bears' 16 games including 12 starts, helping to anchor the Bears' line when healthy.
Howard replaced Cardinals running back David Johnson on the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this month.