Now that the Bears have parted ways with head coach Matt Nagy, it’s time to look at potential replacements. The list is extensive as it is exhausting. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune named 27 candidates who may draw interest from Chicago’s front office, and each comes with positives and negatives. Let’s get into it.
Current NFL Coordinators
Chicago now has requested HC interviews with both of Buffalo’s coordinators, DC Leslie Frazier and OC Brian Daboll. The Bears are the only team that so far has submitted an interview request on Daboll, though others are likely to follow. https://t.co/2wSWrKX5y0
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 11, 2022
- Dennis Allen, Saints DC – Earlier this year New Orleans head coach Sean Payton missed a game against the Buccaneers because he was in COVID protocol. Allen took over and guided the Saints to a 9-0 win over Tampa Bay on national television. That pretty much stamped his resume for approval. Allen formerly coached the Raiders, guiding them to an 8-28 record and a dismissal in Week 4 of the 2014 season. That said, his defense has led the Saints to four victories over the Buccaneers in the last two seasons.
- Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs OC – Every cycle, Bieniemy’s name gets mentioned for head coaching gig, yet he never lands one. The former running back has run the Chiefs offense over the past four seasons, coinciding with the growth and development of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He deserves a shot, but why is he continuously passed over?
- Todd Bowles, Buccaneers DC – The former Jets’ head coach (2015-18) has been in demand the past few years but has yet to land a non-coordinator gig. Disruptive defenses have been a historic trademark in Chicago and Bowles schemes are among the NFL’s best. Tampa Bay’s run defense has been elite three years running. It also figures that a guy who knows how to stop the run might know a thing or two about getting around similar defenses. That could bode well for David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.
- Brian Daboll, Bills OC – With Bill Polian leading the evaluation of potential head coaches, it speaks volumes that an interview with the hot OC has already been asked and granted. You’re always going to throw the guy you love the most first, right? Daboll, 46, is regarded as one of the NFL’s top offensive minds with two decades worth of NFL coaching experience, including stints with the Browns (2009-10), Chiefs (2012), and Dolphins (2011). An offensive genius with a blue-collar work ethic, Daboll has played a pivotal role in the growth of Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen and is very well regarded among his peers.
- Todd Downing, Titans DC – A native of Minnesota and former Golden Gopher, Downing also had a couple of stints as an offensive assistant with the Vikings before moving to Tennessee. He’s a candidate because of a couple other OCs under Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel have become successful once given their own team to run, namely Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.
- Matt Eberflus, Colts DC – The 51-year-old has been tasked with running the Colts’ defense for nearly half a decade and has had a top 12 defense in three of those seasons. Eberflus runs a 4-3 front with a Cover-2 zone shell on the back end, so the Bears would need a personnel overhaul, too. They have plenty of cap space available, but that might be tall of a request considering the team’s needs.
- Leslie Frazier, Bills DC – A star defensive back on the vaunted 1985 Bears defense, Frazier’s playing career ended when he injured his knee on a punt return during Super Bowl XX. He had his ups and downs as head coach of the Vikings, but has a stellar reputation and is one of the best defensive minds in the game. He’d be a great nostalgia hire, though not necessarily the best choice to guide a team that needs an offensive upgrade. Frazier is the current favorite to replace Nagy, at least according to the most recent Las Vegas lines.
- Aaron Glenn, Lions DC – It is believed Glenn is the top choice to replace Vic Fangio in Denver and the Broncos have already been granted permission to discuss their opening with the Detroit defensive coordinator. The Bears had an interest in Glenn as their defensive coordinator but were turned down because he wanted to follow Dan Campbell from the Saints to the Lions. Detroit finished the 2021-22 season 28th against the run, 24th against the pass, and 29th in overall defense. Hard pass.
- Harold Goodwin, Buccaneers running game coordinator – If you’re looking for a clone of Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, Goodwin is your man. Still, his coaching career started with the Bears in 2004 and after nearly two decades he’s still an assistant coordinator, though he did run the Cardinals offense under Arians from 2013-17. A head coaching gig with Chicago seems like a stretch, but like the candidate who follows, he’d be cheap and appealing to the historically tight McCaskey family.
- Patrick Graham, Giants DC – The Giants were a gigantic mess this year, but don’t blame Graham. With no semblance of an offense, (the Bears held New York to negative nine yards passing in Week 17), the defensive coordinator kept his team in most games thanks to his creative use of personnel and scheme. He’s a longshot at best, but might be far enough under-the-radar to make him appealing to Ted Phillips. In layman’s terms, that means he’d be an inexpensive hire.
- Nathaniel Hackett, Packers OC – Hackett was a hot name earlier this year ut let’s be honest here. Almost anyone would look great coaching Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. It remains to be seen how well he’ll do with Jordy Love and a receiver-to-be-named later. He’d probably be a better fit for a team with a proven signal-caller.
- Mike Kafka, Chiefs QB coach – A product of Northwestern, Kafka was drafted by Andy Reid, who then added him to his coaching staff. Kafka has climbed the offensive charts working with quarterbacks and having his hands involved in offensive play calling. We’ve seen this movie previously, correct? No thanks. The Bears would be better off hiring Pat Fitzgerald. He got more out of Kafka than anybody.
- Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers OC – The Jaguars will probably make the biggest push for Leftwich since they are the team that made him the No. 7 overall pick in 2003. The opportunity to work with Justin Fields may be too tough to pass up, however. The 41-year-old Leftwich is a well-respected offensive mind who has learned much from Arians. Let’s not forget he’s had two years to pick the brains of Tom Brady. Sometimes it is the student who is the master.
- Don “Wink” Martindale, Rams DC – I like the cut of Wink’s jib, though that should have nothing to do with his candidacy credentials. Heck, I thought Abe Gibron had a leading man quality back in the day. That said, Martindale is probably a better coordinator than he would be a head coach, and he annually engineers one of the top rushing defenses in the NFL. I’d bet he’d be great as an in-studio analyst though. The Giants were previously mildly interested in Martindale.
- Jerod Mayo, Patriots inside linebackers coach – A Mayo hire would be the biggest leap of faith since Mike Ditka grabbed the Bears head coaching gig in 1982 after serving as a special teams coordinator for the Cowboys. Mayo would smack a little too much of Nagy redux for my tastes, though anyone who works for Bill Belichick must be outstanding in his craft. I believe we said the same thing about Nagy and his tutelage under Andy Reid back in 2018.
- Josh McDaniels, Patriots OC – I’d rather the Bears do not pursue McDaniels because he’s flaked out just a little too often for my tastes. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Besides, he’s the highest-paid coordinator in the NFL and makes more right now than the McCaskey’s probably want to pay to replace Nagy.
- Kellen Moore, Cowboys OC – The 33-year-old is a rapidly rising star among potential NFL coaches and will likely be interviewed by each team with an opening. A former backup to Matthew Stafford with the Lions, Moore is the mastermind behind the Cowboys’ juggernaut offense. Dak Prescott had a career year, throwing for 4,449 yards and 37 TDs. It’s okay to drool when imagining what Moore might do with Fields. The talented OC will be a head coach somewhere next season, and he’ll be the youngest among his NFL contemporaries.
- Raheem Morris, Rams DC – A long time ago Morris replaced Jon Gruden as head coach of the Buccaneers. He also coached the Falcons in 2020. Morris went 21-38 in those four seasons, including a 10-6 mark in 2010, when the Bucs narrowly missed the playoffs. Nothing spectacular, though the rams ranked No. 6 in overall defense this season. He could be a candidate with the Raiders, where Gruden was dismissed midseason. There is no reason to not consider Morris in Chicago, though I tend not to get excited by failed-coach-turned-coordinator candidates.
- Kevin O’Connell, Rams OC – The Rams’ OC is also high on Denver’s list and the Broncos expect to interview O’Connell as soon as possible. A former journeyman quarterback, O’Connell transitioned to coaching in 2015, when he became the Browns’ QB coach. He spent time with the 49ers (“special projects”) and in Washington (OC, QBs coach, passing game coordinator) before landing with the Rams in 2020. His star is also rising, and if he doesn’t get a gig this year, he could be among the hottest candidates in the next cycle..
- Dan Quinn, Cowboys DC – The Cowboys have one of the best defenses in the league, which is why Quinn has been suddenly thrust into head coaching discussions. Last season, however, Dallas had one of the game’s worst defenses. Quinn previously had some success as head coach with the Falcons, leading Atlanta to an NFC championship in 2016., though the team quickly regressed thereafter.
- Greg Roman, Ravens OC – He’s loved in Baltimore, by fans and players alike, particularly Lamar Jackson, and it seems unlikely he’d leave because he’s not ready to be a head coach just yet. Plus he has some unfinished business to take care of if he is retained by the Ravens. Like Graham and Goodwin, that may play right into the hands of Ted Phillips. That said, if he can turn Fields into Jackson that’s a huge win for the Bears.
- DeMeco Ryans, 49ers DC – San Francisco has yet to receive any interview requests for Ryan, which should make him awfully attractive to Phillips. I know it seems like I’m unfairly picking on Chicago’s president and CEO, but he’s earned that. Still, Ryans will probably stay with the 49ers, something that would be welcomed by head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Current College Coaches
— Bears Talk (@NBCSBears) January 11, 2022
- Matt Campbell, Iowa State – Annually earning a mention when NFL coaching jobs become available, Campbell continues to reiterate his commitment to Iowa State. The 42-year-old declined when more prestigious gigs at Oklahoma and LSU became available. Last year he resisted overtures from the Lions. Is Campbell waiting for the right opportunity or is he married to the Cyclones? I’d go with the latter.
- Ryan Day, Ohio State – Day gets mentioned because he coached Fields at Ohio State. Why not add the rookie’s high school coach to the list, too. I’d say Day is the longest of shots to coach the Bears. It’s worth noting that Day earns $7.6 million per year at OSU, which is a perfect segue into the next candidate…
- Jim Harbaugh, University of Michigan – I am of the belief that Harbaugh is truly interested in returning to the NFL and coaching the Bears, but everything feels like a ploy to squeeze Michigan for a new contract. And why not? The former Bears quarterback earns $4 million annually with $100,000-plus increases each year and bonuses for Big Ten titles, College Football Playoff appearances, and national titles. Brian Kelly just signed a 10-year $95 million contract to coach LSU. Yeah, I’m positive this feels like a leverage play.
- David Shaw, Stanford – The 49-year-old has been linked to the Raiders for what seems like forever. In fact, it’s probably the one job that could actually lure Shaw from Stanford, where he leads an elite collegiate program. There’s no chance he would come to the Bears. Before going to Stanford, Shaw spent nine seasons in the NFL as an assistant coach, including a four-year run with the Raiders.
Former NFL Coaches
- Doug Pederson, Eagles – Oh dear God, please no. Wait… maybe. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the Bears are expected to interview the former Philadelphia head coach very soon. Pederson won Super Bowl LII in 2017 when current Bears backup QB Nick Foles outdueled Tom Brady in a wild, 41-33 victory over the Patriots in Minneapolis. He wouldn’t necessarily be a bad choice and carries a 42-37-1 career record in five seasons. You can’t discount the downward trajectory of Carson Wentz under his stead, however. At least that championship game inspired one of the better SNL skits in recent memory and made Foles one of the highest-paid second-stringers in NFL history.