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!
John Fox and the Bears have added another assistant coach.
Zack Azzanni is leaving the University of Tennessee to become the Bears' new receivers coach.
Azzanni has been with Tennessee since 2013 as a receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Prior to that, he spent time at Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Florida, Central Michigan and six seasons at Bowling Green.
Azzanni was on Urban Meyer's coaching staff at Bowling Green in 2001-02 and also coached Pittsburgh Steelers superstar receiver Antonio Brown at Central Michigan. Under Azzanni's tutelage at CMU from 2007-09, Brown totaled 305 receptions for 3,199 yards and 22 TDs, earning a sixth-round draft selection in 2010.
Curtis Johnson spent 2016 as his first season in the role of Bears' wide receivers coach, but announced he was leaving after the Senior Bowl to take a job with the New Orleans Saints.
It's unknown if Azzanni will get a chance to coach Alshon Jeffery (who is currently a free agent) but the incoming coach will have an important job in molding young receivers like Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.
The Bears also announced the additions of assistant coaches Brandon Staley and Derius Swinton II Wednesday morning:
Staley will replace Clint Hurtt as outside linebackers coach and Swinton will be the assistant special teams coach under Jeff Rodgers.
Swinton is reprising his role he held on the Bears coaching staff in 2015 before leaving to take a promotion with the San Francisco 49ers special teams.
Hurtt left the Bears to take a position as the defensive line coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Staley spent last season as the defensive coordinator at Division-III John Carroll University, the alma mater of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.
In the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Hub Arkush (670 The Score/Pro Football Weekly) and Brian Hedger (NHL.com) join Kap on the panel.
ESPN is reporting that the Bears have begun shopping Jay Cutler. Will there be any takers?
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Miguel Montero makes his peace with Joe Maddon but was this even a big deal? Sammy Sosa says he put Chicago on the map, and compares himself to Jesus. When he will the Cubs welcome him home?
Plus, Pat Boyle drops by to talk Blackhawks and the “Roly Poly Goalie” is looking for work all because he ate a pie.
Check out the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast right here: