Numbers grow in Bears coaching search, but 'target' difficult to ID

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Numbers grow in Bears coaching search, but 'target' difficult to ID

General manager Phil Emery promised that his search for the next Bears head coach would be thorough. If quantity is any indication, Emerys search already is close to qualifying as such.But while the number of candidates continues to grow almost daily, and it says that Emery was sincere when he said last week that no one is excluded, it is reasonable to wonder whether the Bears were certain they could do better when they fired Lovie Smith.The lineup of more than a dozen candidates suggests that a change was set in motion without a short list already developed. The search continues to be more shotgun than rifle, not necessarily a bad thing or even surprising for someone (Emery) going through the process for the first time.By contrast, when the Bears fired Mike Ditka after 1992, the consensus hot candidate was then-Dallas defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. Bears President Michael McCaskey had a short list but the clear target was Wannstedt and McCaskey simply out-hustled the New York Giants for him.The 2013 market is different and the Bears are in play with several of the current hot candidates: Indianapolis offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman.Besides current Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub, former colleague Dan Pompei over at the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday that Mike Singletary is also on the guest list for Halas Hall, along with Mike Priefer, special teams coach for the Minnesota Vikings. Singletary, also an assistant head coachlinebackers with the Vikings under coach Leslie Frazier, was sought as an assistant by Dick Jauron but was nixed by then-general manager Jerry Angelo.Singletary subsequently went on to coach the San Francisco 49ers for a couple of seasons, leaving with an 18-22 record that included the 2008 season with Mike Martz as his offensive coordinator.
Critiquing candidatesPhil Emery made it abundantly clear that his new coach will be someone who comes in with an ability to work with what he has, in addition to working with Emery on personnel additions. Some of the candidates pose interesting issues in the work-with area.Bruce Arians would bring a superb quarterback development portfolio, but whether he brings a system workable with the Bears talent base is what his interview would address.Andrew Luck was sacked 41 times last season and hit a multiple of that, according to one NFL source. The sack total was the most of a Colts rookie quarterback. Peyton Manning was sacked 22 times as a rookie and never more than 29 times with Indianapolis.Arians is aggressive and throws downfield even with shaky protection, which has a distant ring of Mike Martz. Luck is extremely mobile and physically strong, and is a timing passer. Whether Jay Cutler adapts to Arians system, or vice versa, is a franchise-level question.I discussed Houston offensive coordinator Rick Dennison previously and a question in his meeting with Emery will undoubtedly be whether the Bears can run a zone-blocking scheme in the run game. Right now the Bears are significantly bigger than the Texans line that runs this mobile system, and Emery and Dennison will need to be clear on what Dennison wants to run, what Emery has for him to run it, and what the Bears will do this offseason and beyond to facilitate that.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.