When Bears general manager Phil Emery fired Lovie Smith on Monday morning after nine years as the head coach, the news stunned many fans and longtime observers of the club.
RELATED: Smith fired after latest second-half collapse
However, in talking with multiple sources this morning both in the NFL and college football world, it appears that this decision was made a few weeks ago and nothing other than a deep playoff run would have been enough for Smith to save his job.
Emery has quietly been evaluating the situation and, according to sources, he had come to the decision that the Bears offensive woes could not be fixed under Smith and that for the team to build a foundation for long-term success, a change had to be made. In addition, had the Bears made the playoffs yesterday Emery was fully prepared to fire Smith when the Bears were eliminated unless a deep playoff run occurred.
The top candidates that are on Emerys list include Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. -- whose father worked as Bears assistant coach -- Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong -- who worked under Dave Wannstedt in Chicago -- and former Tampa and Oakland coach Jon Gruden, just to name a few.
RELATED: Kelly, Saban among possible Bears candidates
The big question is: Will Emery and Co. go after an established, proven former head coach or are the Bears wedded to hiring a coordinator with a history of coaching successful offenses?
RELATED: After Lovie Smith? Bears have issues to consider
On Wednesday, I will run down all of the top candidates and their backgrounds. Happy New Year!