This week and next, Chicago Bears GM Phil Emery will be conducting preliminary interviews with candidates for the team's vacant head coach position. Six names have emerged as coaches with whom Emery will speak:
Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator
Tom Clements, Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator
Pete Carmichael Jr., New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator
Mike Sullivan, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator
Keith Armstrong, Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator
Joe DeCamillis, Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator
As you can see from that list, there isn't a defensive coach in the bunch. The Bears, a charter member of the NFL, have historically been a defense-first organization. For as long as anyone can remember, Chicago has had strong defenses and mediocre offenses.
The past 20 years have been especially bad. Since 1993, the year after Mike Ditka was fired, the Bears have finished in the top half of the league on offense just three times – the most recent being in 2006 (15th overall).
It has been one of the main reasons the organization has just one Super Bowl championship, won while Ronald Reagan was still in office. Chicago churns out top-notch defenses yearly yet that hasn't been recipe for championships. Think about it, in order for the Bears to win a Super Bowl with a defense-first team, they needed arguably the greatest defense to ever play the game, Buddy Ryan's 1985 unit.
Since then, the majority of Super Bowl winners have showed balance on both sides of the ball – something the Bears have lacked for decades.
Fans of the team are tired of the inept offenses and it appears Emery is as well. Chicago last hired a defensive coordinator, Lovie Smith, as the team's head coach. That won't be the case this time around.
"We have had defensive excellence. However, during the course of coach Smith's career, we've had one offense that was ranked in the teens, I believe 15th, during the course of that," Emery said this week. "We haven't had the balance between our defensive excellence. We have not had consistency on the offensive side of the ball. We have gone through a number of coordinators. We have searched for answers."
The first step in finding those answers was firing Smith, whose influence on the team personnel-wise was always toward the defensive side of the ball. Going forward, the new head coach will lean toward the offensive side of the ball when making decisions in both free agency and the draft.
Emery showed in his first offseason last year a tendency toward acquiring talented players on offense, trading for Brandon Marshall, re-signing Matt Forte and trading up to draft Alshon Jeffery in the second round. Don't expect that to change. Chicago's new head coach will have plenty of toys to play with.
"We need to get more consistency at playmaker," said Emery. "Whether it's adding to the talent mix, I need to do a better job. But we need to get more consistent. I have to provide a better competitive mix of players. That's the only way to drive up the mix, to provide more talent and that's on me."
To mold that talent, Emery is bringing in coordinators with histories of success. Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Denver all finished in the top 10 in offense this year, while Green Bay finished 13th.
Yet it's not just offensive success but success molding and developing quarterbacks. Emery made it very clear he sees Jay Cutler as the key to success in the future.
"Am I convinced that Jay has the talent to be [a franchise QB]? Yes, I am," Emery said. "I'll say the same thing that I said this summer: I see Jay as a franchise quarterback. We've got to build around him. That's been the goal from the beginning, to build around Jay." Cutler is one of the most talented signal callers in the league but has yet to reach his considerable potential. It's imperative that the next head coach be able to get the best out of Cutler because, in Emery's mind, that's the key to a championship: riding Cutler to the promised land.
Each of Emery's four offensive coordinator candidates has a solid history of working with and developing quarterbacks. McCoy built successful systems around quarterbacks as diverse as Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning. Sullivan was Eli Manning's quarterbacks coach and dramatically improved Josh Freeman's play during his first year in Tampa Bay last year. Clements is credited with helping mold Aaron Rodgers into an MVP, while Carmichael has been working with Drew Brees since 2006.
"Jay being our quarterback, and that being a franchise position in terms of importance, it's very important that [the next head coach], either himself or staff-wise, has the right person to help Jay develop," said Emery.
Emery recognizes that it's a quarterback-driven league. That defense alone isn't going to win Super Bowls, not in today's NFL, so his goal is to find a head coach that can turn Cutler into a champion.
If Emery succeeds and Cutler reaches his potential, while also surrounding him with playmakers, Chicago's offense will be a powerhouse for years to come.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.