Retaining assistants could drive away Bears' head coach candidates

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Retaining assistants could drive away Bears' head coach candidates

When Phil Emery discussed the firing of Lovie Smith during his press conference on New Year's Day, the Bears general manageralso said he was open to possiblykeeping some members of the coaching staff.In recent days, there has been a feeling that Emery would maybeopt keep some members of the defensive coachingstaff. Several players have publicly stated their fondness for the scheme and the coaches they worked with on a daily basis. There are no doubt some good teachers on that side of the ball, most notably defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and secondary coach Jon Hoke.Retaining the defensive staff may look good from the outside looking in, considering the success they have had, but it istypically not a good way to move forward. There will be potential head coaches that willnot want the job if they are forced to keep current members of the staff.Everyone knows the Bears system defensively has worked and they have the personnel to fit it, and thatmany of the players are loyal to it . However, there are bigger issues with the arrival of a new coach.Head coaches want to choose their own staff. They want guys that they have worked or share the same philosophies with, not people forced upon them. The biggest reason is loyalty. If the defensive coaches are retained, who are they loyal to? Not the head coach, but thegeneral managerand front office that showed thatthey had the power to keep them at Halas Hall. A new head coach needs everyone on the same page. Think ofBill Belichick and Nick Saban--two coaches that have showed that long-term success is almost always predicated on everyone doing it one way, and only one way.Another problem involves the players. If the Bears keep Marinelli and others, the defensive players will favor the staff on their side of the ball and may not give full respect to the new head coach. If times get tough, who will they lean on? Certainly not the new guy. It's a sure-fire way to fracture a team and in many ways undermines what a new coach is trying to do. If the Bears want change, it has to be a full and complete change.If the Bears force their new coach toretain several assistants,it is likely there will be candidates that will remove themselves from consideration or view the job as less appealing. Why would an offensive coach,who hasworked withquarterbacks andserved asa coordinator, want to keep quarterbacks coachJeremy Bates--who may have a different style, set ofbeliefs and philosophy? No coach wants to begin a job feeling thathis hands are tied.

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.