Shift in philosophy

The Bears defense has been the strength of the team for years, so it would make sense to go after a coach that can bring the other side of the ball up to speed.

"We need to be a better offense. We need to have more balance on our offense; we need to be able to score more points," said GM Jerry Angelo upon firing Dick Jauron.

The majority of the blame for the Bears offensive struggles has been placed at the feet of John Shoop, while a bulk of problem could lie with the former offensive coordinator, it goes beyond that according to Angelo.

"It's something that we've not been able to do for various reasons, I'm not putting this all on a coach, and I'm not going to go any further than that," Angelo said. "Sometimes it's been injuries, sometimes it's been poor play, the attrition at the quarterback position has hurt us as well."

That's not to say Jauron could have saved his job by sacrificing Shoop.

"I respect Dick and I know how Dick is committed to his staff and I respect that. So this wasn't about Dick and I negotiating over coaches or anything like that," Angelo said. "We talked prior to this past season about some things and I understood where Dick was coming from and I understood his points of view and I respected that."

Moving forward Angelo has compiled a list of 6-8 candidates that include Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, Patriots DC Romeo Crennel, Ravens DC Mike Nolan and the Steelers offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.

With a list that includes three candidates with defensive backgrounds it seems that Angelo might lean toward that way, but that's not necessarily the case.

A year ago Tampa Bay, Angelo's former team, won the Super Bowl with an offensive minded coach and the best defense in football. While the Bears defense doesn't compare to the Bucs it has the potential to become among the league's elite with some tweaking.

"History would tell you that the Super Bowl winners usually would have offensive backgrounds. But that's not to say that I'm not going to put that as No. 1 on the list," Angelo said. "Its certainly important. I've done a lot of homework in studying the coaches and know the successful ones obviously. Offensive coaches go a little bit better than defensive ones. But I would say as of late in these playoffs you're seeing the defensive coaches do a better job."

While the interview process can begin with Smith and Crennel, it must take place during their bye week, which gives the Bears till Friday. Both Smith and Crennel are African-American, an important note because of the NFL mandates that a team with a head coaching vacancy must interview at least one minority candidate.

Mularkey helped develop quarterback Donovan McNabb and worked with Bears pro scout Bobby DePaul is free and clear to begin interviewing. However Nolan can't talk to anyone until Baltimore is eliminated from the playoffs.

Steve Spurrier resigned as Washington's head coach meaning there are now 6 openings. Chances are the Bears are not going to make a decision until the end of January or early February because half of their candidates are involved in the postseason.

Angelo's name has been associated with LSU coach Nick Saban since he took over general manager duties for Chicago. However Saban has stated that he's happy at LSU, which has never stopped a coach from leaving, but his successful season could have priced him out of the Bears range.

"If he said that then he's out of the picture," Angelo said of Saban. "I don't know anything I'm going to do to unsay what he said. So once again, that will all run its course."

Another college name that has been appearing is Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. He has NFL experience, which is something Angelo would prefer from a candidate. He spent six seasons as an assistant coach for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens before becoming the Hawkeye head coach in December 1998.

Names such as Dennis Green and Dan Reeves are long shots because both would want some type of personnel power and that's something Angelo will not give up.

"I think I know personnel. That's my lifeline. That's what I do," Angelo said. "His lifeline obviously is to coach the football team and develop players. I don't do that well. I don't call plays and I'm not in the mind to learn our coach's playbook. I think these jobs are very very difficult and there's a lot involved and I want to draw from everybody's expertise. My expertise happens to be in personnel and I don't want to surrender that."

The financial aspect of things will also be a factor when it comes to hiring the next coach of the Bears.

Chicago is still on the hook to Dick Jauron for more than $2 million next season, which added to the new coaches salary means they could be shelling out over $6 million for their head man next year.

"We will be as competitive as we need to be to bring in the right guy who is the right person for this job," said team President and CEO Ted Phillips.

Despite the assurances from management there is major doubt that the organization will pony up that kind of cash for a head coach.

Although it seems to be a worth investment with a young team that seems to be on the verge of going back to the postseason if someone can push the right buttons.

Just ask the Cubs.


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