John Fox likely blew his last chance to save his job with that uninspired mess at Soldier Field against Green Bay. This means the Chicago Bears 2018 head coaching candidates list can become more serious now. The odds of him being gone are higher than ever. So it will be important to get a head start on reviewing the likely names the team will look at.
Odds are the list might grow in the months to come but this will cover the ones that are bound to get the most attention.
THE HOT NAMES
Josh McDaniels (New England Patriots OC)
- 5x Super Bowl champion
- 9x offense finished top 10 in scoring
- Renowned for creative play calling
- 41-years old
- First head coaching stint was a disaster
- Struggled to connect with players
- Rumors hint he’ll desire control of personnel
- Bulk of success has come with Tom Brady at QB
McDaniels is filling the role of that outstanding coordinator whom many are debating deserves a second chance at the head job. This is because his first shot in Denver ended in such spectacular failure. He alienated Jay Cutler, leading to him getting traded. An assistant he hired got caught videotaping another team during practice and to top it off he was part of the group that drafted Tim Tebow in the first round.
At the same time there is no more proven or experienced offensive mind in the game today. McDaniels is a mastermind of play calling and has a scheme that would fit Mitch Trubisky well. He’s still young and reportedly humbled by his prior experience. Most feel he’s ready for a second chance.
Jim Bob Cooter (Detroit Lions OC)
- Noted QB specialist
- Has turned Matthew Stafford into a star
- Personally sought out by Peyton Manning
- 33-years old
- One-dimensional in his offensive success
- History of bad decisions off the field
- Only been an OC for equivalent of two seasons
Fans are all over Cooter of late. His work with Stafford is undoubtedly the driving force behind it. The Lions quarterback was good before, but under Cooter’s direction he has become a much more efficient and effective player. Combined with his young age it’s felt this could be the next Sean McVay.
The problem is Cooter doesn’t get much done outside of the passing game. Detroit finished the last two seasons 32nd and 30th in rushing respectively. They rank 29th in 2017. What would that portent for Jordan Howard if he were made head coach? Then there’s the fact Cooter got in trouble twice. One was for drunk driving, the other for aggravated burglary.
Frank Reich (Philadelphia Eagles OC)
- Extensive QB background
- Has worked with top QB specialists
- Every offense he’s worked on has had success
- Motivational speaker
- Noted for being cool under pressure
- Turns 56-years old in December
- Much of his success as OC hasn’t involved play calling
- Long history of losing in big games
Probably the name that is gaining the most steam of late. The Philadelphia Eagles are red hot and it’s their offense leading the way. The man tasked with organizing that impressive group is Reich. He’s been coaching since 2008 but before that the man was one of the most decorated backup quarterbacks in NFL history. He was part of all four Buffalo Bills Super Bowl runs from 1990 to 1993 and was the architect of the greatest comeback ever. Down 35-3 against the Houston Oilers in the 1992 playoffs, he rallied the Bills to a 41-38 win.
That proves Reich never believes his team is out of a game. His time spent before getting into coaching as a motivational speaker also means he can communicate well with people. His primary issues are he is getting older. The Bears have already gone the aged route with Trestman and Fox. Much of his success as a coordinator involved head coaches with deep play calling backgrounds as well. To date he’s also lost five Super Bowls as a player and assistant coach.
Matt Patricia (New England Patriots DC)
- 3x Super Bowl champion
- 5x defense finished in top 10 in points allowed
- Ability to adjust to players he has
- Engineering background
- 43-years old
- Never coached anywhere else
- Feared he’s a cog in Bill Belichick machine
If only Patricia coached on the offensive side of the ball. He’d be the top option and it’s not even close. Unfortunately the advent of the quarterback era has made teams wary of defensive coaches. Never mind that five of the teams with a 6-3 record or better this year are defensive coaches. Patricia entered the NFL with the Patriots and worked his way up the ladder until he became their defensive coordinator in 2012.
Since then they’ve won two Super Bowls and consistently had one of the hardest defenses to score on in the league. His background as an engineer also helps him with details and to make adjustments with personnel, like a mechanic repairing an engine. The lingering question is how much of that is him and how much is it playing under Belichick?
THE OLD GUARD
Jim Harbaugh (Michigan HC)
- Previous NFL head coaching success
- Former QB background
- Ties to the Bears
- Winning record vs. the Packers
- Hiring could help retain Vic Fangio
- Fiery personality that tends to wear on people
- Could clash with Ryan Pace over control of roster
- Turns 54 in December
- History of losing big games
For a vast portion of Bears fans, this is the hire they need to make. Harbaugh gas so much going for him. His lone stint as an NFL head coach lasted four seasons. During that time he never finished worse than 8-8, went to three NFC championships and reached the Super Bowl in 2012. His background as a quarterback and quarterbacks coach will aide the development of Mitch Trubisky. Harbaugh revived the career of Alex Smith and turned Colin Kaepernick into a near-superstar.
Best of all Harbaugh has Bears blood in his veins. He was their starting quarterback for a number of years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a coach he also has a 4-0 record against the Packers. Where it gets dicey is his history. Harbaugh has a tendency to wear out his welcome. As a head coach he’s never held a job longer than four seasons. His exit from San Francisco was reportedly due to his exhausting personality and his clash with the front office over the roster.
Throw on top of that a long history of losing big games. He lost an AFC championship as a player, three as a coach and lost the Super Bowl with San Francisco. He’s also not getting any younger. Then there’s the matter of his contract with Michigan. Currently he makes around $7 million, which is more than the Bears are paying Fox. He also has an escalator in his contract that will raise his salary whenever another coach makes more than him. Long story short? The McCaskeys will have to pay big for his services.
Jon Gruden (Retired HC)
- Won a Super Bowl as head coach
- Tireless worker and detail-oriented
- Turned decent QBs into Pro Bowlers
- Appreciates defense
- Retired since 2008
- Will be 55-years old
- Has never developed a young QB
The allure of Gruden is easy to understand. He did all there was to do as a head coach in the NFL. He turned a team around in Oakland, making them contenders. Then he was traded to Tampa Bay and immediately led them to a Super Bowl title. Best of all he developed a reputation for taking grade B and C quarterbacks and making them play at A levels. He also never took the defense for granted.
Thing is though there are all sorts of concerns. He hasn’t been on a sideline in close to a decade. The game has changed a lot since then even though he’s stayed close with his Monday Night Football gig. He’s not the young buck he was back then either. Last but perhaps most important, his career successes are tied to veteran quarterbacks. Not once did he turn a young QB into a viable starter.
John Morton (New York Jets OC)
- Comes from a strong coaching tree
- Proving he gets the most from his players
- A wide receiver specialist
- Only been an OC for one season
- Not noted for any quarterback history
Morton is among the newest names to join the list of viable candidates. The work he’s done with the New York Jets this year stands out the most. Despite a considerable lack of talent he has the unit playing well. His background is heavy in wide receiver specialization, something that would specifically benefit the Bears. Best of all he’s learned at the knee of coaches like Harbaugh, Sean Payton and Norv Turner. That’s quite a collection.
At the same time he’s never had any sort of reputation for developing quarterbacks. His biggest success is with a 38-year old veteran. Also he’s in his first year as an offensive coordinator. Perhaps it might not be prudent to jump on his bandwagon until NFL defenses have had time to adjust.
Teryl Austin (Detroit Lions DC)
- Super Bowl champion
- Sustained success as an assistant for years
- Highly experienced and respected
- Shows ability to adjust with his play calling
- Turns 53 next year
- Has no background in coaching quarterbacks
In terms of the most qualified and polished coaching candidate, that has to be Austin. There aren’t many holes to poke in his qualifications. He’s got a ring as an assistant with the Ravens in 2012. He reached two other Super Bowls with Seattle and Arizona. So success follows him. Four years as a coordinator reveals his ability to adjust and adapt to his players from year to year.
Best of all he’s gotten his education from several offensive head coaches including Mike Holmgren and Jim Caldwell. Not to mention a fine run under John Harbaugh. There are two lingering issues. He’s a defensive specialist so it’s unknown if he can coach up quarterbacks. Also he turns 53 by next season. That’s not old, but it does raise long-term questions.
Matt Lafleur (Los Angeles Rams OC)
- Deep background coaching QBs
- Offensive success everywhere he’s been
- 38-years old
- Only one year as a coordinator
- Doesn’t call the plays
This might be the most intriguing name on the list. Once somebody digs into the background of Lafleur, they find a lot of success. He’s learned under some really good coaches including Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan, Gary Kubiak and Dan Quinn. Three of those men went to Super Bowls. He’s also a great influence on his quarterbacks.
Robert Griffen III went to the Pro Bowl under his watch in Washington. Matt Ryan became MVP in Atlanta. Jared Goff is streaking towards All-Pro status. Perhaps most impressive though? He got Everett Golson to throw 29 touchdowns in 2014. The other two seasons he didn’t have Lafleur? He threw 23 combined. That’s tangible impact. Of course being a head coach is about more than the quarterbacks.
He’s only been a coordinator one season and doesn’t call the plays for it. This makes it difficult to determine how much of its success is truly his.