Temper the enthusiasm (and expectations) for Lovie successor

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Temper the enthusiasm (and expectations) for Lovie successor

Nestled down at the very bottom of a ProFootballTalk news item is a bit of perspective that would be wise to keep in mind as the Bears go through their search process for a new head coach.

Mike Florio reported that Pete Carmichael Jr. is interviewing with the Bears. Carmichael is the New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator, a significant post this season with coach Sean Payton suspended and has been since 2006 after stints with Cleveland, Washington and San Diego.

The immediate resume is borderline jaw-dropping: The Saints averaged 411 yards per game last season. Averaged. The Bears topped 400 just three times all year.

But heres Mikes note of note: Of course, it helps that Carmichael has had Drew Brees playing quarterback.

Beware the hot new guys

Various candidates will inspire differing degrees of euphoria in the media and general public. But apply Mikes qualifier to each one.

Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator

McCoy is hot after his Mile-High results. But he is unlikely to be getting on the plane with Peyton Manning, and its worth recalling the training-camp and OTA footage of Manning directing the offense. Thats no slight of McCoy, who clearly was fine with one of the games greatest serving as at least a co-coordinator.

RELATED: Under new head coach, how much can change?

That McCoy and the Broncos got to the playoffs and won a game with Tim Tebow also is impressive. Remember, though, that the Broncos are home in January if Marion Barber does not go brain-dead twice in a couple minutes vs. the Bears. And the Broncos were the NFLs No. 1 rushing team, not passing. They were 23rd in yardage per game and 24th in scoring at 19.3 per game. Even with six games using Caleb Hanie, Josh McCown and four with no Matt Forte, the Bears last year were 24th in yardage but 17th in scoring.

Keith Armstrong, Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator

Joe DeCamillis, Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator

GM Phil Emery said on Tuesday that no one was excluded when asked whether Dave Toub was a candidate. Toub is arguably the NFLs best Teams coordinator but may have damaged any chances with his passionate support of Lovie Smith. The organization may not be seriously interested in someone who wanted someone it didnt.

Armstrong and DeCamillis are solid candidates. And Mike Ditka and John Harbaugh were special-teams coaches immediately before becoming first-time head coaches. But in the Gosselin composite rankings for special teams, the Bears ranked No. 4 in 2010 and No. 3 in 2011. The Falcons were10th and 23rd; the Cowboys were 20th and 21st.

Mike Sullivan, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator

Sullivan has gotten something out of quarterback Josh Freeman, from a train wreck in 2011 to respectable this season. But Freeman threw nine interceptions over the final three games and Tampa Bay lost five of its last six, failing to score more than 23 points in any of the six and went from 6-4 to out of the playoffs.

The Bears didnt need to change coaches and offenses to achieve that kind of result. Freeman did rank one slot ahead of Jay Cutler, however, so Sullivan could help.

Buddy Ryan changed the NFL game forever – and more than once

Buddy Ryan changed the NFL game forever – and more than once

One very distinguished voter for Pro Football Hall of Fame inclusion once explained a criterion of his for inclusion in the league’s most hallowed circle: If you wrote the history of football, would you have to include this individual?

Buddy Ryan is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; he should be, but that’s for another discussion, another time. Because the simple fact is that if you were indeed writing a history of the National Football League, that history would be incomplete without Buddy Ryan.

“I think Buddy changed the game of football,” said Mike Ditka, Bears head coach with Ryan as his first, albeit inherited, defensive coordinator. “He is the reason why teams started going to all these three- and four-receiver sets.

“He never let offenses do what they wanted. The game of football is what it is today because of Buddy.”

Ryan did not create great defense. That had been done wholly or in parts by others – Bill George, George Allen, Dick Butkus, and so on. But what Buddy Ryan did echoes down through the history of the NFL, in more a few of its defining moments.

Super Bowl III is always remembered as Joe Namath’s day. Obscured by all that Namath and the New York Jets’ offense did was what the defensive line of Buddy Ryan was doing to the Baltimore Colts, specifically holding them to exactly seven points, on a late afterthought touchdown, a team that was coached by Don Shula and included John Mackey, Jimmy Orr and averaging nearly 29 points per game.

Super Bowl III was beyond cataclysmic for the growth of the modern NFL. And all that was long before Super Bowl XX.

Maybe the best measure of how truly great a coach Ryan was lay in the fact that he managed to turn OFFENSIVE players into fire-breathers.

“He’d say to the offensive line, ‘you fatasses can’t block anybody in practice, how you gonna do it in a game?’” recalled Hall of Famer Dan Hampton. “And [left tackle Jimbo] Covert and [left guard Mark] Bortz would just turn into animals.”

Ryan loved his players. But it was tough love, affection that had to be earned, and once earned, was something they treasured.

At the end of Otis Wilson’s rookie (1980) season, No. 55 may have been the team’s first-round pick, but Ryan was publicly blunt.

“We did OK, but that ‘55’ killed us," Ryan said after one game. 

Wilson turned the humiliation into something, becoming a student of the game, his craft, even to the point of cramming for Ryan’s legendary written tests.

“'I’m out of school, Buddy,'" Wilson said he wailed. “'Why you givin’ me these exams?'"

“You need to understand the total package,” Ryan ordered. “I want you to know what everybody’s doing.”

Today that sounds almost quaint; everybody’s supposed to know everybody else’s assignments. But never lose sight of the originator, who beat that concept into every head on his defense.

In the end, Ryan belonged to more than Chicago. He was a Jet. He was a Viking. He was Bear. He was an Eagle. And finally a Cardinal.

He belonged to the NFL, which, exactly as Ditka said, was changed forever by him.

Mike Ditka on Buddy Ryan: 'We never were as good separately as we were together'

Mike Ditka on Buddy Ryan: 'We never were as good separately as we were together'

They feuded, on the practice fields, on the sidelines, in locker rooms, even in showers. Yet Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan were joined in football history in one of the great “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” in all of sports.

“We had a helluva run,” Ditka told CSNChicago.com. “Buddy had a helluva run. Was it always as smooth as it might have been? Noooo. But I don’t think Buddy would’ve wanted it any other way.

“We accomplished so much together and we were never as good separately as we were together.”

Ditka saw Ryan about eight months ago.

“I knew he wasn’t doing real well. But you know, he was always a tough guy, right to the end.”

Ryan was Ditka’s defensive coordinator, inherited by Ditka when Ditka was hired by George Halas in 1982 to restore the lost passion to one of the NFL’s charter franchises. Ryan’s players convinced Halas to keep Ryan as defensive coordinator even as head coach Neill Armstrong was dismissed.

Ryan refused to run the Dallas Cowboys’ “flex” defense that Ditka wanted, bluntly declaring that Halas had hired him, Ditka didn’t. Ditka ran the offense, Ryan the defense, and the fire was never far from the surface.

Ryan didn’t care if his defensive players went hard in practice to the point of blowing up Ditka’s offense.

“He’d get those guys going, and I remember yelling at him, ‘Check the schedule. We’re not playing the Chicago Bears this week,’” Ditka said. “But he made us a great offense.

“He attacked you. Always attacked you. All the time. He made you – made every offense – adjust to what he was doing.

“He changed the game of football forever.”

Bears chairman George McCaskey releases a statement on Buddy Ryan's passing

Bears chairman George McCaskey releases a statement on Buddy Ryan's passing

Bears chairman George McCaskey released a statement Tuesday morning after the passing of legendary Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, who died at the age of 85.

“Buddy Ryan was the architect of the greatest defense our league has seen," McCaskey said. "He was brilliant when it came to the X’s and O’s of the game, but what made him special was his ability to create an unwavering confidence in the players he coached. 

"From the day he was hired in 1978, his defenses bought into more than the scheme, they bought into him and took on his personality. Buddy was brash, intelligent and tough. He was a perfect match for our city and team, which is why George Halas took the extraordinary step of keeping him at the behest of his defensive players while transitioning to a new coaching staff in 1982. 

"We will always be grateful for Buddy’s contribution to the Bears. He is one of the team’s all-time greats. Our prayers are with his family.”

McCaskey has been chairman since 2011, but his older brother, Michael, was chairman of the Bears during the last few years of Ryan's run as defensive coordinator, including the Super Bowl XX championship.