Now the Dick Jauron era is part of a checkered history of Bears coaching. There have been good ones, and some not so good ones. It is up to Jerry Angelo to take a stand and find the best possible candidate for the job of head coach. The future of this franchise depends on the wisdom of this choice.
As I have said many times before, I truly respect Jauron. He has a high degree of integrity, which is a rare commodity. He's a bright man who built a good rapport with the players, but overall the wins just weren't there. For the past two seasons, there have been clear signs that changes needed to be made.
Neither Jauron nor Jerry Angelo are what you would consider forceful men. That can be pretty important when you are dealing with professional football players. Just think back to the days of Coach George Halas. There was one tough fellow. You knew exactly where you stood with him at all times.
The same was true of Mike Ditka. Like Halas, Ditka knew how to motivate. If you played for either of these men, you left it all out there on the field every single week. I never saw anything like that with Jauron at the helm. The current players have ability but no direction and no passion for the game. That points directly to the coaching.
At one point, I played for a coach here who never got the motivational thing down. Richie Petitbon and I used to hide when he'd give the big pep talk each week.
I remember one time when the Bears were playing Green Bay. It was an important game. The coach sat us down before we left the locker room and said "boys, do a good game." We looked at each other and shrugged our shoulders. How in the heck do you "do a good game?" Evidently we never figured it out that day because we lost.
Angelo says he is looking at 6-8 candidates right now but isn't expecting to make a decision until later in January. That's fine, but the fans should be hoping that he doesn't wait too long. There is a good pool right now of available candidates for the Bears job.
What qualities should he be looking for? You want an experienced coach with a strong background. The usual wisdom is that someone who is offensively minded is the best pick. That's generally true, but there are also a number of fine defensive coaches around. Look at the Bears in ‘63 and ‘85. Two championships, both with defense oriented teams. It will be interesting to see whom Angelo interviews, and who ultimately gets the job.
Historically, Angelo has refused to take a tough stand on anything. He hides behind tradition; he hides behind the owners of the team. I can see that happening again, particularly since his contract has just been extended through 2008. Angelo's seemingly bulletproof. If the new coach doesn't work out, the coach will be a scapegoat and he'll be gone. Angelo will come out unscathed.
However I do agree with Angelo's long term plan: draft well, to develop young players, and to reward the Bear's own. That approach makes sense and it can have excellent results. We are seeing step one of this in the success of this year's rookies, so old on to them and let them mature.
What we don't want is a revolving door, or a repeat of the recent "quarterback debacle" on display so clearly in the season finale. Grossman is very good. Teach him well, then stick with him.
Free agency has made developing a team much more difficult. Players used to want long term contracts. Now their agent will go for shorter deals coming out of college then hope go for the big deal when they hit free agency. That's something that GM and the head coach need to be aware of and guard against. When Ditka took over as head coach, it took Mike 3 years to build a championship team. Wouldn't it be great to see that happen again?
Personally, I'd love to see offensive line coach Bob Wylie stay. He's done an unbelievably good job with raw players and seemingly endless injuries. The poor guy never knew from week to week who would be able to play. But he held thing together, teaching the rookies what they needed to know, and motivating the veterans. He and his "assistant coach" Olin Kreutz deserve medals for doing so well under incredibly difficult circumstances.
Something I'd like to see on the Bears "coaching shopping list" is a top rated quarterback coach. Is Steve DeBerg available? Rex Grossman learned a lot at his camps. How about Steve Spurrier? To say that he worked successfully with Grossman would be an understatement. The right person in this position is vital to the success of the franchise. Angelo needs to do an extensive search to find, then sign, the best possible candidate.
Things are beginning again for the Bears. There's a clean slate. Although there are a lot of unknowns up at Halas Hall right now, there are also a lot of possibilities. Where will the team be at this time next year? A positive direction is vital to player morale and to the health of the franchise.
If the Bears end up with the right coach, they could be going to the playoffs in 2004. If they sign a top quarterback coach, Grossman could become a major force in the NFL. Radical changes are in process and it could be exciting. Let's hope that Angelo can step up, make good choices, and take responsibility for his decisions. What he does from here on will have an enormous impact on this team.
Mike Pyle played center for the Bears from 1961-69.