With the announcement on Tuesday that the Bears have signed former Kansas City Chiefs director of player personnel Ryan Poles to be their new General Manager, they have cleared an incredibly low bar that many people in Chicago thought they would still manage to botch. The team managed to put someone in charge of football operations BEFORE they signed a head coach. While this seems like a pretty basic rule of thumb, especially since nobody above the GM actually knows their ass from the fail son hole in the ground they popped out of, there was a lack of confidence in them doing the signing in the right order that was very discouraging. In Poles, they also pulled off the rare feat of hiring someone to a position that doesn’t require team owner, family matriarch, and former lover of William Henry Harrison, Virginia McCaskey to have to learn a new name. She can say Ryan Pace and it still sounds really close to the correct name, so she has that going for her!
Poles’ first move is going to be to sign a head coach. The Bears have already had a veritable “Who’s Who” of hot coaching candidates from seven years ago come through the door. Matt Nagy had a fine record as a head coach but ultimately proved to be the coaching equivalent of Wile E Coyote, never really learning lessons, only instead of strapping rockets to his back, Pace kept trying to run sweeps to the short side of the field. Coyote collected terrible gadgets. Nagy collected terrible tight ends.
Who are the real coaching candidates for this position, and who are the ones that should be left as defensive coordinator of the Cowboys? Let’s take a look with the power rankings of potential future coaches.
**Please note: I only put realistic choices into this ranking. That’s why Mike Tomlin isn’t on the list. I’m not brain dead enough to think that he would ever willingly leave Pittsburgh for Chicago. I’m sorry if you listen to ESPN1000 and can’t differentiate actual ideas from second rate sports radio fan fiction.**
1: Byron Leftwich
Call this a sentimental pick because I remember growing up to his insane highlights back from when he was quarterback at Marshall, and he even dragged along some moribund Jaguars teams to competency. More importantly, though, he has been the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the past three seasons. Even looking past the fact that he has gotten to work with Tom Brady, who is so super human that he makes me actually hate nightshade vegetables, Leftwich has worked with Bruce Arians, who has found offensive success wherever he has been in the NFL.
Leftwich was also the coordinator for that absolutely batshit crazy Jameis Winston 2019 season when he threw for over 5000 yards and 33 touchdowns (and 30 interceptions, gunslingers gonna gunsling).
If Poles and the Bears are looking for a young candidate that they can look at potentially building their team around for the next decade, then Leftwich would be a great choice. He brings a style of offense that has shown to work in today’s NFL, and has actually had the opportunity to run an offense for an extended period of time. He is the guy the Bears thought they were getting in 2018. As we know, it turned out that Nagy’s skull was filled old bubble gum, rather than offensive acumen, but that should not stop them from taking another chance on an offensive mind.
2: Sean Payton
The connections are obvious. Payton is a local guy who even played for the Bears for a spell. He isn’t number one on the list though, because he is too much of an unknown at this point. He announced he was leaving the team two hours ago, and there are conflicting reports as to whether he actually retired or is just taking a step back.
What is known is this: he currently has a contract with the Saints that runs for three more seasons, and is worth around 45 million dollars. By stepping away like he has, the Saints still have his rights. Any team that wants him to be head coach would have to be willing to take on that contract and give up compensation in the process. Is Payton potentially worth a second round pick? Or do the Saints use this as an opportunity to try to shed some salary from their bloated salary cap situation?
He also might just not want to coach this season. There are very few coaches who are solidly considered made men at the job they are at. Andy Reid, Tomlin, and Payton are those guys. Hell, it was even floated that Pete Carroll could get released in Seattle a few weeks ago. Very few coaches are bulletproof and it doesn’t make a ton of sense to walk away from a job where you are made just to go to a position where you very much aren’t.
Sean Payton could go be a television personality for a year or two and rethink his options. Hell, he could pull a Bill Cowher and just decide he likes television more and doesn’t come back. After a few years on television, would he even want to come back? It didn’t exactly go well for Jon Gruden.
Note: after I finished writing this, Payton did a press conference and makes it sound like he won’t coach this season. So that is that.
3: Jim Caldwell
Crucify me if you want for this, but there is one indisputable fact: Jim Caldwell led the Lions to the playoffs twice. The Lions, the team that puts the F.U. into futility. People who turned 21 this past year have been alive for a grand total of three Lions playoff appearances, and Jim Caldwell was the coach for two of them.
Oh, and another little fun fact about Caldwell. As coach of the Lions, his record against the Packers? 4-4.
While Caldwell would be an older candidate for the coaching position, he does have a track record as being a fine offensive mind and will surround himself with a coaching staff that can turn around the team in a hurry. He and Wink Martindale, who was let go as Ravens defensive coordinator last week, were both coaches for Baltimore during their Super Bowl run.
4: Brian Daboll
He has enough of a Matt Nagy feel to him that apparently he was nicknamed Fat Nagy at one point. He might also be getting a bit of the same rub with Josh Allen that Nagy got with Patrick Mahomes. In both cases, there is a chance that the offensive coordinator just happened to have a generational quarterback at the helm.
Daboll does seem to have something going for him that Nagy didn’t, though: he was able to evolve his offense based on the pieces he was given, and retool on the fly when there were injuries. He didn’t get too attached to players just because they were drafted, either. Zach Moss being a healthy scratch a bunch of times this season is proof of that. Being able to adapt is an underrated quality in a coach. Remember the Bears’ legendary incompetence in the third quarter last year?
5: Matt Eberflus
If I were a betting man, i’d say that Eberflus is currently the favorite to become the next coach of the Chicago Bears. The pick, to me, would just feel so…meh. He definitely improved the Colts defense, even though that ultimately lead to nothing. He deserves some credit for the defensive talent, but there is also something to be said for the fact that his General Manager is Chris Ballard, one of the better personnel minds in the league. Eberflus is a big culture guy, which didn’t actually seem to be the biggest issue on the Bears. There were not a lot of instances of guys getting in trouble on the team under the previous regime (though we can all agree Javon Wims was an asshat).
My biggest question with Eberflus is, why hasn’t be been a real coaching candidate before now? He turned the defense around in 2018, and all he got was Cleveland swiping right just to see whats up. He is now a hot coaching candidate because a team he coached didn’t make the playoffs and while his defense was good (8th in defensive DVOA), they still ultimately missed the playoffs even though they played in the same division as the Texans and Jaguars, two teams who were only nominally trying to win.
Also, this was a guy who was brought in by Josh McDaniel to be the defensive coordinator, and then Josh McDaniel went back and ran and hid under Mama Belichick’s skirt, leaving the Colts high and dry. You have to question how good of a mind Eberflus is if he was willing to work for one of the most sour lemons to ever grow on the Belichick coaching tree.
6: Brian Flores
This name started off with a ton of traction and has fallen of over the past week. I’m starting to wonder if word is getting around how he acted in Miami, which was that of a Babadook who loved to fire coaches.
While Flores undeniably won games wiht a bad team, all fingers are being pointed at him now as the guy in Miami who was pushing hard for Deshaun Watson and the massive baggage that comes along with him. Are the Bears really willing to bring in Flores and potentially trade away Fields AND multiple draft picks to bring in Watson, who is still potentially facing punishment by the NFL for reportedly sexually assaulting nearly two dozen masseuses and therapists?
Even if they don’t, it would seem his treatment of Tua Tagovailoa and his development under Flores would be concerning in the development of Fields, which was hampered enough by having noted washed up ginger Andy Dalton on the roster last year.
7: Doug Pederson
Somewhere, there is some asshole in Berwyn looking at his Jim McMahon jersey saying something along the line “You know they should bring in that Doug Pederson guy and have Foles quarterback and Fields and be a wide receiver or something.”
It’s wroth remembering that Doug Pederson won the Super Bowl by having one of the best offensive lines of the past decade. The Bears do not have one of the best offensive lines of the past decade, and they really don’t have a clear path to get to that point, either. Pederson is a guy who you could maybe, possibly squint at and say “this football team is ready to win now and they just need someone who can put the right people in place to close the deal.” The Bears are not ready to win. Not even close.
8: Leslie Frazier
The Bills had a good, bordering on great defense this season, and Frazier played for the Bears, which gives everyone who still gets erect over the 85 team the warm and fuzzys. That being said, it doesn’t feel like an inspired pick for a team trying to chart a new course moving forward. There are a lot of good defensive minds on the market right now that can come in and be a coordinator and have that be their main focus (Martindale, Vic Fangio).
If the Bears really want to go the former player route, give someone a front office position like Doug Plank, or give Mike Singletary some emeritus position like Vice President of Player Operations or something.
39: Mike Singletary
Or just blow it all up for the sake of chaos.
55: Love Smith
Don’t call it a comeback! No, seriously, don’t. He isn’t coming back, though his santa claus beard is adorable.
2,549,321: Dan Quinn
28-3. That stink is permanent.