The last five Super Bowl champions have all finished in the top five in the NFL in points per game and the top seven in yards per game. Good luck winning with ball control and defense.
The last time the Bears went looking for a head coach, they had a Sunday morning interview with an offensive coordinator whose team had hosted a first-round playoff game the night before. Matt Nagy’s Chiefs were stunned so badly — they led the Titans 21-3 and lost by one — that the Bears offered to put off the morning interview so the coordinator could compose himself. Nagy refused, wowed general manager Ryan Pace in a Kansas City conference room and was hired hours later.
Sunday, the Bears had another interview with an offensive coordinator whose team had played in the first the night before. Brian Daboll, though, didn’t have the same problem Nagy did, though — all his Bills did Saturday night was come close to hanging half a hundred on Bill Belichick’s Patriots. In their 47-17 win Saturday night, the Bills did something no NFL team had ever accomplished in either the regular season or postseason: they didn’t punt, kick a field goal, turn the ball over or reach fourth down.
Those facts — that score! — had to be racing through George McCaskey’s head when he fell asleep Saturday night. Last week, the Bears chairman repeatedly refused to state his preference about the expertise of his next head coach. He said he wanted leaders first — not an offensive or defensive mind.
McCaskey would be foolish, though, not to weigh offensive expertise more heavily than he does defense.
The Bears thought Marc Trestman and Nagy would bring them into the world of modern offensive football, albeit kicking and screaming. Neither stuck — but that doesn’t mean the Bears can stop trying to find that coach. The last five Super Bowl champions have all finished in the top five in the NFL in points per game and the top seven in yards per game. Good luck winning with ball control and defense.
To paraphrase James Carville: it’s the quarterback, stupid. It’s always the quarterback. If McCaskey doesn’t understand that, here’s hoping that his next general manager — the person whose vote on the head coach matters most — does.
The fastest path for the Bears to return to relevance is for rookie quarterback Justin Fields to turn into the superstar they believe he can be. The head coach needs to be the man to do that — or have a plan to bring in an assistant who will. That coordinator or quarterback coach, though, can always be lured away to a new team next year — precisely what the Bears would do if they hired Daboll with hopes he could develop Fields the way he did Josh Allen. The Dolphins have the same idea about Tua Tagovailoa — they interviewed Daboll on Sunday, too.
Hiring an offensive-minded head coach ensures that no team can break the bond between the team’s offensive architect and Fields. That was the plan when the Bears hired Nagy four years ago. And that was the plan for literally every NFC team that made the playoffs. All seven teams have an offensive-minded head coach. Four were offensive coordinators given their first head coaching job with their franchise — including Matt LaFleur, whose Packers are 13-4 and enjoying a first-round bye.
The Bears interviewed LaFleur’s offensive coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, on Saturday. Only 42, Hackett fits the prototype of the dynamic coordinator a team can pair with an up-and-coming quarterback. He doesn’t call plays, though, and is hardly the first coordinator to get the most out of Aaron Rodgers, who’s been a star in three different decades.
Hackett has interviewed with four of the seven teams that have actively been conducting interviews. Teams can’t talk to him again until the Packers are eliminated from the playoffs.
The Bears interviewed Jim Caldwell on Saturday, too. He won a Super Bowl as Peyton Manning’s quarterback coach and was the head coach of both Manning’s Colts and Matthew Stafford’s Lions.
In seven years, he went 62-50 as a head coach — with 14 of those losses coming in 2011, when Manning’s neck injury forced the Colts to start Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky and Kerry Collins all season. Since 2001, the Lions have finished above .500 four times; Caldwell was the head coach for three of those teams.
Maybe that’s the leadership the Bears are looking for. Maybe Hackett can grow with Fields. Or maybe McCaskey can’t get the Bills’ 47 points out of head. Regardless, the chairman has to recognize that, in a league that prioritizes offense like never before, not all expertise is considered equal.