Retaining assistants could drive away Bears' head coach candidates


Retaining assistants could drive away Bears' head coach candidates

When Phil Emery discussed the firing of Lovie Smith during his press conference on New Year's Day, the Bears general manageralso said he was open to possiblykeeping some members of the coaching staff.In recent days, there has been a feeling that Emery would maybeopt keep some members of the defensive coachingstaff. Several players have publicly stated their fondness for the scheme and the coaches they worked with on a daily basis. There are no doubt some good teachers on that side of the ball, most notably defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and secondary coach Jon Hoke.Retaining the defensive staff may look good from the outside looking in, considering the success they have had, but it istypically not a good way to move forward. There will be potential head coaches that willnot want the job if they are forced to keep current members of the staff.Everyone knows the Bears system defensively has worked and they have the personnel to fit it, and thatmany of the players are loyal to it . However, there are bigger issues with the arrival of a new coach.Head coaches want to choose their own staff. They want guys that they have worked or share the same philosophies with, not people forced upon them. The biggest reason is loyalty. If the defensive coaches are retained, who are they loyal to? Not the head coach, but thegeneral managerand front office that showed thatthey had the power to keep them at Halas Hall. A new head coach needs everyone on the same page. Think ofBill Belichick and Nick Saban--two coaches that have showed that long-term success is almost always predicated on everyone doing it one way, and only one way.Another problem involves the players. If the Bears keep Marinelli and others, the defensive players will favor the staff on their side of the ball and may not give full respect to the new head coach. If times get tough, who will they lean on? Certainly not the new guy. It's a sure-fire way to fracture a team and in many ways undermines what a new coach is trying to do. If the Bears want change, it has to be a full and complete change.If the Bears force their new coach toretain several assistants,it is likely there will be candidates that will remove themselves from consideration or view the job as less appealing. Why would an offensive coach,who hasworked withquarterbacks andserved asa coordinator, want to keep quarterbacks coachJeremy Bates--who may have a different style, set ofbeliefs and philosophy? No coach wants to begin a job feeling thathis hands are tied.

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.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.