Chicago Bears begin interviewing head-coaching candidates, Ditka calls firing of Smith ‘stupid’
By Brandon Reid
At least three candidates have been interviewed and meetings have been arranged with at least two others as the Chicago Bears continue their search for the 17th head coach in franchise history.
Known candidates include special teams coaches Keith Armstrong of the Falcons and Joe DeCamillis of the Cowboys, and offensive coordinators Mike Sullivan of the Buccaneers, Mike McCoy of the Broncos, Pete Carmichael of the Saints and Tom Clements of the Packers.
Bears General Manager Phil Emery has said he would like to have a new head coach in place by Jan. 19 for the college football all-star East-West Shrine Game.
Emery worked with Armstrong previously with the Bears and Falcons, and interviewed him for the job Jan. 1. Sullivan and Carmichael reportedly met with Emery Jan. 3. DeCamillis will meet with Emery Jan. 5 in Dallas and McCoy will meet with Emery this weekend in Denver.
Since the Denver Broncos have a first-round playoff bye, the team is making McCoy available Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 5-6. He also has interviews with the Bills, Cardinals and Eagles for their head-coaching vacancies. After Sunday evening, Jan. 6, McCoy is off limits for interviews until his season ends.
A minority candidate, Armstrong has also drawn interest from the Chiefs and Eagles. He served as the Bears’ special teams coach from 1997 to 2000.
Meantime, since Clements is the offensive coordinator of the wild-card Packers, the Bears have a small window in which to interview him. The league’s anti-tampering policy states that interviews with assistant coaches from wild-card teams that advance to the divisional playoff round can be conducted between the wild-card and divisional playoff game. That means that if the Packers beat the Vikings Saturday, Jan. 5, the Bears could interview Clements between Sunday, Jan. 6, and Friday, Jan. 11. However, if the Packers lose their wild-card game against the Vikings, there would be no restrictions on interviewing Clements.
The Bears wanted to interview Clements for their offensive coordinator position prior to the 2010 season, but were blocked from doing so by the Packers. Instead, the Bears hired Mike Martz, who was the team’s offensive coordinator in 2010 and 2011.
Emery has said offensive instability contributed to the Dec. 31 firing of former Bears head coach Lovie Smith, and it has been speculated the team is seeking an offensive-minded replacement, which means Sullivan, McCoy, Carmichael and Clements are the likely favorites.
The Bears finished the 2012 season with the league’s 28th-ranked offense at 310.6 yards per game, and ranked inside the top 20 in the league in total offense only once (15th in 2006) during Smith’s nine years with the team.
Smith previously served as linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-2000) and defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams (2001-2003).
In terms of total offense among the offensive coordinators on the Bears’ list of head-coaching candidates, Carmichael’s Saints ranked second in the NFL with 410.9 yards per game, McCoy’s Broncos fourth with 397.9 yards per game, Sullivan’s Buccaneers ninth with 363.8 yards per game and Clements’ Packers 13th with 359.4 yards per game.
The Saints, Broncos and Packers also ranked among the top five in scoring in 2012, each with more than 27 points per game. Sullivan’s Buccaneers, meantime, ranked 13th in overall scoring at 24.3 points per game.
Emery said of the search for a new head coach: ‘‘[The] No. 1 criterion is excellence in their role. We’re going to look offensively. We’re going to look defensively. We’re going to look special teams. We’re going to look NFL. We’re going to look college.
‘‘We’re looking for somebody with great organizational skills and administrative skills, along with leadership skills,” Emery continued. “You have to be thorough, meticulous. … I want somebody that has high energy. I want somebody that has warmth that pulls everybody together, upbeat and positive. I want somebody that’s good on their feet. I want this person to stand up and represent us well.’’
Smith was 81-63 (.563) over nine seasons with the Bears. He had won three division titles, had a 3-3 record in three playoff appearances, and guided the team to two NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl appearance. He was named AP NFL Coach of the Year in 2005.
Despite going 10-6 and boasting the second-highest turnover ratio in the league (plus 20, trailing only New England’s plus 25) in 2012, Smith’s team failed to make the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The Minnesota Vikings’ 37-34 overtime win over the Green Bay Packers Dec. 29 pushed the Vikings’ record to 10-6, and knocked the Bears out of playoff contention.
Former Chicago Bears head coach and Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka said of Smith’s firing: “I think Lovie is a very good coach. Everybody is a little bit different in their manner. I think that’s a 10-win season. They started 7-1. This team, there’s a reason they lost some games in between. A lot of the wins they got in the 7-1 run were because of turnovers by the defense were turned into points. The offense didn’t score enough points in those other games. That’s the bottom line.
“If Minnesota would have lost last night (Dec. 29) and the Bears were in the playoffs, this wouldn’t have happened,” Ditka added. “That’s a fact. So how stupid is it then? It really is stupid.”
Smith, 54, reportedly is scheduled to interview for the head-coaching position with the Buffalo Bills.
Posted Jan. 3, 2013
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