You hear it all the time, mostly from panicked fans tired of losing.
“WE NEED TO REBUILD!”
In the NFL that term has very little meaning. Teams that are rebuilding have one of two distinct characteristics: no head coach or no quarterback. Just look at the twenty teams not in the postseason this year.
New York Jets – neither, Buffalo Bills – no QB/possibly no coach, Miami Dolphins – jury out, Cleveland Browns – no QB, Tennessee Titans – no QB, Houston Texans – no QB, Jacksonville Jaguars – jury out, Oakland Raiders – no coach, Kansas City Chiefs – borderline playoff team/extremely limited QB, San Diego Chargers – borderline playoff team/jury out on coach.
New York Giants – football’s all time anomaly, Philadelphia Eagles – won 10 games, Washington Redskins – neither, Chicago Bears – no coach/possibly no QB, Minnesota Vikings – jury out, San Francisco 49ers – no coach/possibly no QB, St Louis Rams – no QB, Atlanta Falcons – no coach, Tampa Bay Bucs – neither, New Orleans Saints – who knows what happened there.
Rebuilding in the NFL means bringing a young quarterback along and putting as much talent around him as possible. This is far easier to do when the coach leading the way has a track record of success.
Not a single team in the non-contenders category is confident in their coach and quarterback. The Giants and Saints, the two franchises not in the playoffs with Super Bowl winning coaches and quarterbacks, enter every season with one definitive goal: another Super Bowl title. The three teams with both in place NOT in the postseason, Philly, KC and SD, will be right on the cusp of the postseason every year. (I’m crediting Philly with having a QB because I believe they have multiple characters capable of executing Chip’s system successfully.)
The Bears have a top running back, top tight end, two top receivers, a couple of top offensive linemen and some young & veteran talent spread across their defense. But their quarterback position is now a significant question mark.
Putting a head coach in place who has never been a head coach and pairing him in the years to come with a quarterback who has never been a professional quarterback is not a recipe for long-term success. It is a recipe for becoming the Jacksonville Jaguars. The historical track record of getting this combination right is not even in the same zip code as good.
Add to that the two experienced head coaches who will be pursuing the job aggressively – Rex Ryan & Mike Shanahan – would be able to maximize the ability of Jay Cutler over the next two seasons if the Bears chose to keep their quarterback while finding and grooming his replacement. Ryan’s power run/play-action attack would be the ideal system to limit Cutler’s attempts and Shanahan has not been shy about his desire to coach the man he drafted once again. Keeping Cutler is no longer a necessity for the Bears but these two coaches would enable the Bears to do so and win some games while developing the future at the position.
The Bears have never hired a head coach with previous head coaching experience. Coming off the most embarrassing season in franchise history, featuring lapses in leadership normally reserved for the hallowed halls of Congress, wouldn’t this be the perfect time to break the trend?