Martz, Bates, Fewell Still Atop Bears' List

Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith would presumably be more comfortable with Mike Martz as his new OC, although Jay Cutler may prefer Jeremy Bates. As for the DC, Perry Fewell is still the top candidate.

The search for offensive and defensive coordinators has already begun, with Lovie Smith's former head coach in St. Louis, Mike Martz, a popular candidate to lead the offense. Martz has already said he is hoping to get a call from the Bears. Southern Cal assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who was Jay Cutler's position coach for two years with the Broncos, is another possibility. Fired Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis may have been another person of interest, but Wednesday he took the same job with the Chiefs.

There is no doubt whom Cutler would prefer. He was effusive in his praise of Bates when his former coach got the USC gig.

"Jeremy is one of the best offensive minds in football," Cutler said. "He was extremely innovative with our offense and took our playbook to the next level with some of the things he did, keeping defenses off balance and changing our look, but at the same time keeping it simple for us players. Some of the things he did were amazing to watch. He was always watching other teams and coming up with new ideas for our offense.

"He helped me grow into my third NFL season and helped me reach the Pro Bowl, along with some of the other goals I set for myself. As a unit, our offense became one of the most productive in the league with Jeremy calling plays. He brought a lot of excitement to the meeting room and on the field. He made me want to come to work every day and get better. Jeremy will do great things in his new role, and USC couldn't have picked a better guy."

On the other side of the football, former Bears secondary coach Perry Fewell, who finished the season as the Bills' interim head coach, is a logical choice and the leading candidate.

OT Kevin Shaffer
Getty Images: Doug Pensinger

Offensive line: Whether Frank Omiyale winds up at guard, where he started 12 games this season, or tackle, where he spent most of the previous four years as a seldom-used backup, the Bears need more quality starters. Omiyale has not proven to be a starting-caliber player, and right tackle Kevin Shaffer is ideally a backup.

Defensive end: The pass rush was inconsistent and Adewale Ogunleye, the team leader with a modest 6.5 sacks, is an unrestricted free agent. Backups Mark Anderson and Gaines Adams offered little proof that they're capable of filling the void full time.

Free safety: The Bears have an abundance of strong safeties – Al Afalava, Kevin Payne, Craig Steltz – but lack a ball-hawking center-fielder type who can cover and make plays on the ball.

RB Garrett Wolfe, whose lacerated kidney is still healing, will have shoulder surgery soon, which will sideline him for 3-4 months. ... Ogunleye is recovering from a fractured fibula in Week 16 that did not require surgery. ... CB Charles Tillman is on the mend following fractured ribs and a lung contusion in Week 16. ... LB Brian Urlacher no longer is wearing a cast on his dislocated wrist, but he's still months away from resuming normal activity. ... LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, an unrestricted free agent, could be recovered from the torn PCL in his right knee by the start of training camp.

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