Job posting: Head coach, Chicago Bears: Playoff experience helpful

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Job posting: Head coach, Chicago Bears: Playoff experience helpful

The search for the Bears next head coach already is underway, with a couple of strong guidelines in place under general manager Phil Emery.

And Bears Chairman George McCaskey added a strategic one of his own: We are building, not rebuilding.

That may be true. Then again, events have peculiar ways of altering even the staunchest of goals and plans. A year ago, the Bears were hiring Emery and planning on another year of Lovie Smith. Two months ago, they were 7-1 and Emery was addressing rumors that he was working on a Smith contract extension.

Tuesday was spent addressing questions about Smiths successor and whether the whole 2012 season was a wasted year in franchise development.

It certainly didnt look like a lost year at 7-1, McCaskey said. And looking back on it, Ted Phillips, Bears president and I thought it was the right decision. We thought Lovie deserved another year and Phil was fine with that.

The succession plan

Emery now embarks on his first-ever hiring of an NFL head coach with a plan, a timetable and an idea of how the new coach will work with his personnel structure.

Ideally I could stand shoulder to shoulder with this person during the college All-Star games the East-West is coming up, the Senior Bowl is coming up. All those things are important, Emery said. We have to be thorough, though. The playoffs are a consideration.

The playoffs are a consideration even though the Bears arent in them. But assistants with playoff teams cannot be hired until their teams are out of the postseason.

Emery will conduct the initial interviews with candidates, with those beginning this week with a list that includes Atlanta special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.

A short list of perhaps three finalists will be brought in for second interviews that will include McCaskey and Phillips.

The candidates will include college and NFL coaches and assistants from all three (offense, defense, special teams) areas.

Control issues

Some attention invariably focuses on possible big-name coaches who might be brought in to run the Bears. But a problem with the likes of Mike Holmgren, Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden is how much control they will have over personnel decisions.

Emery was explicit that the GM determines the 53-man roster with input from coaches, not the other way around.

Its important for the general manager to have 53 authority for this reason, Emery said. The 53If youre going to hand that all to one person, I think youre not developing personnel talent, youre putting it all in one persons hands. Sometimes thats been successful but even that person has had a partner thats been helping him with personnel.

I just dont see that to be a good mix.

All candidates are expected to have some NFL experience in their backgrounds, Emery said. And the chosen one may have the choice of serving as his own offensive coordinator, if he has had strong NFL experience and all they have to do is convince me thats the best way to operate, Emery said, not sounding convinced that this is the best way.

There have been other coaches that have called the plays offensively, defensively and have had some success.

The checklist

Emery ticked off what he viewed as his criteria for hire:

Excellence in their role

Regardless of what specific job the candidate comes from, he will need to have been very good at and successful in it.

Great organizational skills and administrative skills, along with leadership skills

You have to be highly organized, thorough, meticulous to make sure that youre always putting your team in position for success.

High energy

Somebody that pulls people together in the building I want somebody that has some warmth that pulls everybody together and that we have synergy, not only with our players but with everybody in the building to work towards our common goal. Upbeat and positive.

Good on their feet

I want this person to stand up and represent us well There needs to be a level of consistency in this individual and how he presents himself. Not only when were up, but when were down.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Mark Sanchez officially signs with Bears

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Mark Sanchez officially signs with Bears

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Chris Emma, Seth Gruen and Danny Ecker join David Kaplan to discuss the Mark Sanchez signing. Does this mean the Bears won't draft a quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft? 

Later, the White Sox named Jose Quintana their Opening Day starter, but lose Carlos Rodon and Todd Frazier to injuries. 

Finally, Robin Lopez is back after serving a one-game suspension. The panel looks at the Bulls matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

Listen to the SportsTalk Live Podcast below. 

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

Noise around QB Mark Sanchez misses bigger, far more important goal for Bears ’17 offseason

The tumult around the Bears quarterback position this offseason – signing Mike Glennon, cutting Jay Cutler, not signing Brian Hoyer, now signing Mark Sanchez – was to be expected. (Well, not all the brouhaha around Sanchez; if there has ever been more hyperventilating around the arriving backup quarterback, it’s escaping my recollections of a quarter-century on the beat.)

All of that, and a lot of the noise around Mike Glennon is really missing a larger point. A couple, really.

GM Ryan Pace established fixing the quarterback situation as a top priority, something it has been just about since Jim McMahon left, with the exception of a few Jay Cutler years. Doing that to any meaningful degree with the castoff options available in free agency or via trades wasn’t ever going to happen. What Pace has done with the quarterback situation, however, is more than a little intriguing.

The quarterback additions and subtractions, coupled with also suggest a draft plan far from locked in on a quarterback. The signings of Glennon and Sanchez don’t mean the Bears have solved their quarterback position, but it does mean the Bears have positioned themselves with the distinct option of NOT taking a quarterback – this year.

But here’s the bigger point.

Even with the optimum quarterback solution unavailable – Pace arguably did go best-available in his and the coaches’ minds with Glennon and Sanchez, all derision aside – Pace’s goal needs to be building a team that can reach a high playoff level regardless of quarterback.

Meaning: defense. And while the 2017 free agent and draft classes did not offer must-have quarterbacks in most evaluations, there are those elite-level defensive talents, and every indication is that the Bears will look there, in the draft, and should be. It had that feeling when the Bears, with ample, money to spend, backed away from day one free-agency runs at a couple of pricey defensive backs. The Bears simply think they can do better for less in the draft.

A perspective: With a defense at its levels during the Brian Urlacher era, the Bears could reach the NFC championship game with what they have at quarterback now. They did, twice, with Rex Grossman and with Cutler. Sanchez got to AFC championship games in each of his first two seasons. The Bears reached a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as their quarterback. They went 13-3 in 2001 with a solid-but-unspectacular Jim Miller as their quarterback. They reached the 2005 playoffs with Kyle Orton as their starter most of that year, and should have been in the 2008 playoffs with him as well. The Bears reached the NFC championship game in 2010 with Cutler.

There is a common denominator in all of these situations, and it is within Pace’s grasp, and that was an elite defense. Rex Ryan had one with the Jets and Sanchez, Grossman and Orton and Cutler had theirs with Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Mike Brown, Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman, etc.

Forget the quarterback situation for now. Nothing anyone, including Pace, can really do anything about it (other than land possibly Deshaun Watson, based on their turnout at his Pro Day).

But if Pace and his personnel staff do this right, they can lay in the foundation for something elite on defense that will transcend the quarterback, or at least allow the Bears to play more than 16 games in a season even if they do not have a great quarterback. With the Urlacher core defense, the Bears went to postseasons with four different quarterbacks.

The prime directive now for Ryan Pace is to create precisely that model again.