The Chicago Bears are in the midst of some house cleaning following the firing of Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery. The next Bears head coach may have to do a major overhaul of a team that finished with a 5-11 record and near the bottom of numerous statistical categories.
Improving the defense is expected to be a top priority. Chicago finished 30th in total defense (394.6 yards) in 2013 and 30th (377.1 yards) in 2014. The Bears allowed 27.6 points per game, which was only better than the Oakland Raiders. Opponents averaged 264.4 passing yards (No. 30), while giving up 112.7 rushing yards (No.17). At one stretch of the season, the Bears were outscored in two games, 106-37.
Ernie Accorsi, a longtime executive with the New York Giants, has been hired as a consultant in the search for a general manager and head coach. He will almost certainly seek a head coach with a deep understanding of how to reinvigorate the defense and who can add stability to the quarterback position, with Jay Cutler’s future in doubt.
Accorsi will have several top names to choose from. While the Bears have had their struggles in recent years, the No. 3 media market may be a more tempting option for a prospective head coach than some of the other NFL openings.
Here are four candidates that should be on the Bears’ radar:
The Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator is regarded as perhaps the best available candidate for a head coaching job. Under Bowles, the Cardinals defense finished seventh in points allowed (20.3) in 2013, and fifth (18.7) in 2014.
He will almost certainly be a head coach with a team in 2015, but for now he will be concerned about playoff game with the Carolina Panthers this weekend. The 51-year-old has a rather even-keeled and soft-spoken demeanor, and is well-respected in coaching circles.
As a player, Bowles spent his most of his career as a safety with the Washington Redskins during some of the team’s best years (1986-1990; 1992-1993).
After only one season as a defensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions, Austin might be a dark horse candidate for the Chicago Bears job. The 49-year-old is reportedly a possible candidate for the Atlanta Falcons vacancy.
Austin, who has specialized in working with defensive backs, helped improve a defense that was in the middle of the pack in most categories in 2013. Detroit finished No. 2 in both total defense (300.9 yards per games) and points allowed (17.6).
The Bears are reportedly set to interview the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator on Friday. Head coach Pete Carroll has had success hiring defensive coordinators in the past, and Quinn has proven to be another strong move. Under Quinn, the Seahawks defense has intercepted 41 passes over the past two seasons, and finished the 2014 season with the No. 1 pass defense (185.6 yards) and the No. 3 rush defense (81.5 yards).
The 44-year-old might lean towards the New York Jets, with the team’s facility in the vicinity of his hometown of Morristown, New Jersey.
The only coach on this list with head coach experience, Kubiak might be the safest choice. He served as head coach of the Houston Texans from 2006 to 2013, and is currently the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. In his one season with Baltimore, the offense has seen a sharp uptick in total offense, improving from 4,918 total yards to 5,838. Quarterback Joe Flacco set a career high in touchdown passes (27) in 2014, and dropped his interception total from 22 in 2013 to just 12 in 2014.
Kubiak, 53, has been praised as a quarterback guru by many experts including Hall of Famer John Elway. By hiring Kubiak, Chicago would be showing a serious interest in bolstering the position.