Thursday, January 27, 2022

Matt Nagy fired: Brian Flores, Eric Bieniemy top candidates to become next Bears head coach

The Chicago Bears moved on from head coach Matt Nagy after four seasons at the helm. While Nagy didn’t have a losing season until this year and had two playoff appearances in his first three seasons, his handling of Mitchell Trubisky and Justin Fields ultimately led to the end of his tenure in Chicago. 

Chicago also fired general manager Ryan Pace, so it will be a clean slate for a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2010 season. The Bears do have a young quarterback in Fields that’s heading into his second season and a crop of young offensive talent led by David Montgomery and Darnell Mooney. Chicago’s defense — led by Roquan Smith — finished sixth in yards allowed this season, so this is a franchise that can turn things around quickly (if Fields can be developed right). 

The Bears are in a major market and in the NFC North, which isn’t very good outside of the Green Bay Packers. The Minnesota Vikings just cleaned out their front office and coaching staff while the Detroit Lions are in the midst of a rebuild, so there’s an opportunity to win immediately. 

With the Bears one of five teams searching for a new head coach, here are the top candidates for Chicago’s vacancy. 

Brian Flores

All of a sudden the Bears have an opportunity to hire one of the top head coaches on the market in Flores, whom the Dolphins surprisingly fired after a 9-8 season. Flores is the only head coach to start a season 1-7 and finish with a winning record (2021), as the Dolphins went 24-25 in his three seasons — with two winning campaigns. Flores went 24-18 in his final 42 games as a head coach. 

Flores had his issues in handing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and had numerous personnel changes, including four offensive coordinators, two defensive coordinators, and four offensive line coaches in his three seasons on the job. While Flores was able to win in Miami (the first head coach to have consecutive winning seasons for the Dolphins since Dave Wannstedt) the continuity wasn’t what owner Stephen Ross wanted. 

Flores will have his players prepared to play and has an excellent on-field culture, which is what the Bears need. Perhaps he’ll be better with off-field personnel in his second stint as a head coach. 

Eric Bieniemy

The Bears shouldn’t shy away from the Andy Reid tree just because Nagy floundered. There are plenty of successful coaches that were assistants under Reid and Bieniemy looks primed to be the next one if given the opportunity. 

Bieniemy’s resume speaks for itself. The Chiefs have scored the most points per game in the NFL (30.3) since Bieniemy became the offensive coordinator in 2018, along with the most yards per game (404.2). Kansas City also has the best record in the NFL during Bieniemy’s run, going 50-15 with three conference championship game appearances and a Super Bowl title in the 2019 season. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes also has the most passing yards, passing touchdowns, and the second-highest passer rating since the start of the 2018 season. 

Bieniemy would do wonders with young quarterback like Justin Fields and would put a talented staff around him — aiding in his development. This is a perfect opportunity for Bieniemy to install his offensive game plan with an offense surrounded with young talent. 

Jim Harbaugh

Harbaugh’s career as a quarterback with the Bears is a lot to be desired, but his tenure as an NFL quarterback in the “Windy City” shouldn’t affect his chances of becoming a head coach in Chicago. 

Harbaugh is no stranger to success in the NFL, going 44-19-1 in four seasons as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers won the NFC championship in the 2012 season and reached the conference championship game for three consecutive seasons (2011 to 2013), as Harbaugh compiled a .695 win percentage in the regular season — fifth on the all-time list for coaches that have coached for four seasons. Harbaugh left for Michigan after the 49ers finished 8-8 in 2014, going 61-24 for the Wolverines and a Big Ten championship with a College Football Playoff appearance this past season — yet is 0-3 in New Year’s Six bowl games. 

Harbaugh brings a ton of credibility to the Bears and he’ll get to work with a quarterback he’s seen a lot in Fields (coached against Fields when Fields was at Ohio State). What Harbaugh was able to do with Colin Kaepernick is enough to showcase he can turn Fields into an NFL star, not to mention the collection of talented assistant coaches he’ll bring with him to Chicago. 

The Bears would be wise to see if they can court Harbaugh back to the NFL — and he would be able to stay in the Midwest. 

Ryan Day 

Day would be an outside the box hire, but it wouldn’t hurt for the Bears to give him a call. Day was Chip Kelly’s quarterbacks coach for the Eagles in 2015 and 49ers in 2016 before becoming the offensive coordinator at Ohio State — landing the head coaching job after Urban Meyer retired. 

Day, who coached Justin Fields at Ohio State, is 34-4 as the head coach of the Buckeyes with Big Ten championships in 2019 and 2020 and consecutive top three finishes in the Associated Press final rankings (with a top five finish in 2021 incoming). Fields completed 68.4% of his passes for 5,373 yards with 63 touchdowns to nine interceptions in two seasons with Day, while also rushing for 15 touchdowns. There’s an immense track record of success there. 

Reuniting Day with Fields could work wonders for the Bears, especially since Day has NFL experience and knows how to work with their franchise quarterback. Chicago may be the only NFL job Day would want, which is also an advantage for the Bears. 

Doug Pederson

Again, hard to shy away from the Andy Reid tree here — especially one that has a Super Bowl championship on his resume. Pederson went 42-37-1 in his five seasons with the Eagles, winning two NFC East titles and taking the franchise to three consecutive playoff appearances. 

Pederson turned the Eagles around in a hurry, becoming one of just 11 head coaches to win the Super Bowl in his first two seasons as a head coach. He accomplished this with a young quarterback in Carson Wentz, helping develop him into a MVP candidate in just his second season in the league before an ACL and MCL injury changed the fortunes of his young quarterback. 

In Chicago, Pederson will get to work with a young quarterback again with Fields — which is something he embraces as a former NFL quarterback himself. He’ll also get to turn around the culture with the Bears, which he quickly changed with the Eagles. 

The Bears can win big with Pederson, who is no stranger to the big market. Chicago has been searching for a winner, a bill Pederson fits really well. 

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