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!
Back in 1992 the Dallas Cowboys were in draft deliberations around the No. 17 spot of the first round, looking for upgrades on defense. A scout made a suggestion that they target Ohio State defensive end Alonzo Spellman, one of the most physically imposing (6-4, 280 pounds) players and best athletes in that draft.
Coach Jimmy Johnson responded, "Tell me about the production."
Came back the answer: Three years at OSU, nine total sacks.
"Oh, please!" Johnson scoffed, calling in cornerback Kevin Smith and leaving Spellman to the Bears at No. 22. Spellman had several respectable seasons but never more than 8.5 sacks in nine NFL seasons.
As investment advisers counsel, past performance is not necessarily a predictor of future results. But past performance can be, and an axiom in NFL personnel rooms is, look at the film.
CSNChicago.com is doing that as the NFL Scouting Combine approaches (Feb. 29) along with free agency and the start of the league year and its trading window. It becomes an increasingly relevant exercise to look at the intricacies behind some of the key players and positions the Bears will be addressing through the upcoming weeks. CSNChicago.com previously looked at the need to evaluate quarterbacks from the intangible standpoints first, then the measurables.
Using Jay Cutler as an object lesson for how immense physical skills have questionable correlations to immense NFL performance, a look at one aspect of quarterback "film" warrants more attention than the measurables that command a disproportionate share of attention and scrutiny.
It has been Cutler's single biggest issue through his eight Bears seasons, was a reason why coaches once wanted to stay with Josh McCown instead of returning to Cutler following a Cutler injury absence, and why Brian Hoyer played his way into prominence in the discussion of 2017 Bears plans. Adam Gase went from offensive coordinator to hottest head-coach prospect in no small measure because he managed Cutler into better ball security.
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But the point here is less Cutler – expected to be traded or released within the near future – than the level of ball security in the available options beyond Hoyer.
So, look at the film:
The widespread drooling over a possible trade with New England for Jimmy Garoppolo. The best thing in Garoppolo's favor is that he has been a Patriots backup to Tom Brady. Garoppolo, drawing distant comparisons to a Matt Flynn, Matt Cassel and other past experience-lite quarterback options, has thrown 94 NFL passes without an interception, which is impressive until matched against Hoyer's 200 last season without an interception, for comparison purposes.
But evaluating Garoppolo against the coming chief draft competition – DeShone Kizer, Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson – suggests comparing apples to apples, meaning college ball security, since that's all the kids have to this point.
Garoppolo vaulted up draft boards (to New England's second round) on the strength of an Eastern Illinois senior season with 53 touchdown passes vs. nine interceptions, against chiefly FCS opposition. But in his first three seasons Garoppolo threw for 65 touchdowns and was intercepted 42 times.
Kizer? In his two Notre Dame seasons, 47 touchdowns, 19 interceptions.
Trubisky? 30 touchdowns last season, six interceptions. Including his two years as a North Carolina backup, 41 touchdowns, 10 interceptions.
Watson? 90 touchdowns, 32 interceptions in three Clemson seasons, the last two as Tigers starter.
Garoppolo put in four college seasons, but has a little of the Trubisky/Flynn/Cassel, one-year-wonder feel.
Kizer and Watson have more starting seasons, but the Watson intangible of getting his team to two national-championship games speaks to another level of "intangible."
GM Ryan Pace will incorporate heavy input from coach John Fox and coordinator Dowell Loggains. Coaches love ball security. Garoppolo? Watson? Trubisky? Kizer?
Look at the film.
In this edition of the BearsTalk podcast, CSN's Chris Boden, Sun-Times Bears beat writer Patrick Finley, and CSNChicago.com's Scott Krinch discuss the Bears' approach to the two-week window opening to franchise-tag Alshon Jeffery again, the risk/reward in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo or drafting a QB (and how high to draft one), Scott's 2.0 mock draft, plus the workers' compensation controversy the team found itself in last week and the club's decision to raise ticket prices.
Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: