Trust is going to be the most important factor in where the Bears go from here.
Ryan Pace is in his third year as GM for a franchise that has won 12 games since he took over. That’s 11 fewer than the guy he replaced and he only got three years to do the job. George McCaskey may still have faith in Pace but he’s admittedly not a patient person. Whoever the next coach of the Bears is, they must trust that Pace picked the right quarterback and knows how to build the rest of the roster.
On Pace’s part, he has to trust the person he hires to create a successful environment around the franchise quarterback, while not losing sight of what else is going on around him. For those reasons, I believe the next coach of the Bears is likely going to be somebody Pace knows and already trusts. We’ve seen these kinds of relationships come together recently in Jacksonville, Buffalo, San Francisco and Philadelphia. Pace not only needs somebody he trusts, he needs a quick turnaround and three of the four aforementioned teams are enjoying the most success they’ve had in a number of years.
Here is my guess on which current pro coaches have the best odds of being the Bears coach next season:
1. Dennis Allen, DC, New Orleans Saints
Everyone wants an offensive guy, I get it. But Allen has connections to John DeFilippo, Mike McCoy, Al Saunders and Bill Lazor. It’s also possible he can lure another veteran coordinator — Norv Turner, Gary Kubiak or Dirk Koetter — to run his offense with a young stud quarterback. This goes back to the trust factor because Pace worked with Allen for five years in New Orleans. Allen is said to be uniquely organized and detailed — the opposite of the Bears current coach. He failed in Oakland but he had just one year as a coordinator at that point and didn’t have any talent. Since he took over for Rob Ryan late in the 2015 season, the Saints have had a drastic improvement defensively.
2. John Morton, OC, New York Jets
Pace doesn’t have as much familiarity with Morton, but the two crossed paths with the Saints in 2006 and Pace’s mentor Sean Payton hired him again in 2015. He has also been hired twice by Jim Harbaugh and once by Pete Carroll. That’s one hell of a reference list. He has the Jets, quarterbacked by 92-year-old Josh McCown, in the top 20 in scoring and yardage.
3. Pete Carmichael, OC, New Orleans Saints
This is a guy I’ve gone back and forth on, but his resume is remarkable, at least on paper. Payton and Brees get — and deserve — most of the credit for the Saints offense, but Carmichael called the plays in 2011, 2012 and most of 2016. In 2011 they were first in yardage and second in scoring, in 2012 they were second and third and in 2016 they were first and second. The question is his personality. Is he a leader like Payton or just a play caller like Trestman? He interviewed for the Bears job in 2013, but hasn’t had much interest since then. Pace knows him so, if he gets an interview, I like his odds.
4. Pat Shurmur, OC, Minnesota Vikings
No coordinator in the league has done a better job this year. Pace is familiar with Shurmur from their teams competing against one another numerous times over the years. The Vikings offensive coordinator was a part of two top-five offenses under Chip Kelly and now has the Vikings as among the best units in the league despite losing their quarterback and running back.
5. Matt Nagy, OC, Kansas City Chiefs
There’s no connection to Pace here but the Chiefs were said to love Trubisky before the draft. In his much talked about post-draft Monday Morning Quarterback, Peter King wrote that Kansas City had a deal with Tennessee to move up to the fifth pick, but that deal died once the Bears took Trubisky. Nagy took over play-calling duties for KC last week and got them out of their funk with a 31-point performance. He’s only worked for Andy Reid, however, so it’s hard to pinpoint who his assistants might be.
6. Matt LaFleur, OC, LA Rams
Again, there’s no direct connection to Pace but LaFleur is a young, bright offensive mind who just might knock the Bears GM’s socks off in an interview. He’s been a QB whisperer, with RG3, Everett Golson, Matt Ryan and Jared Goff having career years with LaFleur nearby.
7. Todd Wash, DC, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags have the best defense in the league and Wash is the guy calling the shots, working for a former Pace buddy in Doug Marrone. If he can bring in a good, veteran offensive coordinator, he deserves a long look.
8. Sean Payton, HC, New Orleans Saints
Unlikely, but let’s not completely rule out Payton telling ownership he’s ready to move on and that 2017 was just a last shot at a championship. It’s no secret that Payton has been flirting with leaving for several years. In Chicago, he could see a young quarterback he liked – New Orleans is rumored to have been the “other” team trying to get the second pick from San Francisco last April – and a front office chief he’s worked with before.
9. Mike McCarthy, HC, Green Bay
There’s a chance the Packers win out and make the playoffs but, even if they do, there are some who think McCarthy might want out of Green Bay. He’s been there a long time and has, at times, been frustrated with GM Ted Thompson. He completely revamped Aaron Rodgers’ mechanics and there may not be anyone more qualified to fix Trubisky’s footwork.
10. John Fox, HC, Chicago Bears
Fans don’t like Fox but people in the league do. If he were to catch wind of his potential firing he could call a meeting with ownership and point out that he’s turned two teams around. He can point to his record before he got to Chicago as evidence that he can coach, but he doesn’t have the talent to win with. Fox could then say, he wants to bring in a veteran offensive coordinator — Mike McCoy, perhaps — and he’ll figure out how to get the defense to a dominant level because he’s done it before. Using things that are entirely true, he can make an argument that he is not the problem with the Bears. But, if the McCaskey family allowed Phil Emery to fire Lovie Smith, I don’t think they’ll stand in Pace’s way if he wants to fire Fox.