Bears Coach Search: Nick Saban And Other Candidates On Chicago's Radar

Nick Saban has won two national championships with Alabama.
Nick Saban has won two national championships with Alabama. REUTERS

Seven NFL head coaching jobs opened up on the Monday after the end of the regular season.

Among the teams searching for a new coach are the Chicago Bears. The team fired Lovie Smith on “Black Monday,” ending his nine-year run with the Bears.

Chicago has missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons, and is looking to hire a coach that will change that trend. General Manager Phil Emery has numerous options to choose from, and has already begun the process of looking for Smith’s replacement.

Below are some of the most likely candidates to become the next Bears head coach.

College Coaches

The recent success of former college coaches in the NFL has caused speculation about the future of the best coaches in the NCAA. Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll have made four playoff appearances in five combined attempts since 2010, shortly after leaving the college ranks.

Despite his failure in his two years with the Miami Dolphins, Nick Saban has been reported as a possible candidate to fill one of the open coaching positions. He’s been the most successful head coach, in college or the pros, in the past few years, leading Alabama to three title games in four years.

Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com claims the rumors of Saban making a return to the NFL are untrue, as the coach has informed teams of his intentions to stay with the Crimson Tide. Saban, however, has made similar claims in the past, only to change his mind, shortly after.

If Saban stays put, Chip Kelly could be the biggest name to see if he can succeed at the next level. In four seasons, he’s turned Oregon into a national powerhouse. The offensive success of his teams could intrigue the Bears, who have been lacking on that side of the ball. Kelly would have to make a major adjustment if he made the move to the NFL. According to Pro Football Talk, when asked how his offensive scheme would work in the NFL, Kelly responded, "Don't know, haven't been there."

Unlike Saban, Kelly has shown interested in leaving his college job. The Ducks coach has never worked for an NFL team, and will reportedly interview with the Cleveland Browns on Friday after the Fiesta Bowl.

Super Bowl Winners

Multiple coaches who have won a championship in the NFL are available, and could be ending their recent hiatus from the league.

Jon Gruden has been coveted by a few teams since he left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008. He’s been in ESPN’s "Monday Night Football" play-by-play booth for the past couple of years, but that could change soon. Reports say Gruden could return to the sidelines for the right situation, and it may be hard to find a better situation than Chicago. The Bears have a solid quarterback in Jay Cutler and one of the best defenses in football.

Bill Cowher’s name is discussed every year in regards to head coaching positions. However, he’s been out of the league since 2006 and seems to be content in his role as an analyst for CBS.

Brian Billick won a Super Bowl before Gruden or Cowher. The former Ravens head coach hasn’t ruled out a return to the NFL, and could fit nicely with Chicago. He’s a former offensive coordinator who’s proven that he can win with an elite defensive team.

NFL Assistants

With so many coaching jobs available, and possibly more to come, there’s a good chance a current NFL assistant will get a chance to be a head a coach.

Mike Sullivan might be the assistant with the best shot of landing the Bears job. The Tampa Bay offensive coordinator will reportedly interview for the position.

Sullivan spent just one season with the Buccaneers. He was credited for helping Eli Manning develop when he spent time with the New York Giants as the team’s wide receivers and quarterbacks coach. Under Sullivan, the Buccaneers went from 21st to ninth in total offense.

Kyle Shanahan might also be an option for Chicago. The offensive coordinator has helped his father, Mike Shanahan, turn the Washington Redskins into a dynamic offensive team. Under the Shanahans, Robert Griffin III finished third in the league in passer rating.

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