Filling the coaching vacancies

The Chicago Bears have ponderously gone about their business filling vacant coaching and front office positions this offseason. As of now, the team is still without two crucial offensive coaches.

The Chicago Bears signed the team's fifth general manager Phil Emery this weekend, ending a 26-day search for Jerry Angelo's replacement. Yet the team is still without an offensive line coach and quarterbacks coach, two crucial instructors on the offensive side of the ball. The team will be transitioning this season from Mike Martz to Mike Tice, the clubs' fourth offensive coordinator in Lovie Smith's eight-year run as head coach, making it even more important to get a full staff on board quickly.

Tice will still have final say in regard to his offensive line, so it's not necessary to find the next O-line coach immediately. There were reports two weeks ago that current University of Pittsburgh offensive line coach Bob Bostad was in line for the job. Various media outlets and supposed sources shot down the reports but neither Bostad nor the school publicly denounced the rumors, so the door is still open there.

The other candidate in play is Steve Loney, who spent the last four seasons as offensive line coach of the Rams. Loney and Tice worked together for four years (2002-2005) when Tice was head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. Tice promoted Loney to offensive coordinator in 2005 and the two worked together calling plays and developing offensive game plans – the same relationship they would have in Chicago.

In 2002, Loney's first season as O-line coach in Minnesota, the Vikings led the NFL in rushing. The following year, Minnesota led the league in total offense. In 2004, the Vikings set a franchise record for total yardage.

Loney is also reportedly a strong candidate for the available O-line position at University of Wisconsin – the post recently vacated by Bostad. There has been no word of any meetings between the Bears and either candidate. Reportedly though, coach Lovie Smith, who has final say over all his assistant coaches, is not in an hurry to fill the position.

The same can't be said for the quarterbacks/passing coach position, which the team has been trying to fill for weeks. To review: the Bears were denied permission by the Titans to speak with Dowell Loggains, Tennessee's QB coach; Tice pushed for Dirk Koetter, who instead took the offensive coordinator job in Atlanta; former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator had no interest; neither did Jedd Fisch, offensive coordinator at the University of Miami; the Bears offered the position to Greg Olson, former OC in Tampa Bay, who instead chose to take the same post with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

And yesterday, the Chiefs denied the Bears' request to interview Jim Zorn, Kansas City's QB coach.

Yet all that denial isn't deterring Chicago's search – although it says a lot about how attractive the job is around the league. Moving on, the Bears have scheduled an interview for this week with Alex Van Pelt, who served as the QB coach in Tampa Bay the past two seasons.

Van Pelt is a former NFL quarterback that spent time with the Steelers (1993), Chiefs (1994) and Bills (1995-2003). He served as offensive coordinator of the Bills in 2009, so he has experience develop passing attacks – something the position in Chicago would require.

With the Buccaneers, Van Pelt worked with QB Josh Freeman, who passed for 7,043 yards the past two years, with 41 TDs and 28 INTs, and QB ratings of 95.9 and 74.6.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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