The club added quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to the staff on Friday along with linebackers coach Glenn Pires.
Hardegree spent the 2014 season as an offensive quality control coach with the Denver Broncos, which finished second in the NFL in scoring offense (30.1 points per game) and fourth in total offense (402.9 yards per game).
Hardegree worked for three years at Louisiana State prior to joining the Broncos, serving as an intern on the offensive (2012-13) and defensive (2011) staffs. In Hardegree’s three seasons at LSU, the Tigers compiled a 33-7 record, and won the 2011 SEC championship, in addition to advancing to the BCS National Championship Game.
Hardegree started his coaching career at Duke, working as a graduate assistant from 2008-10.
Hardegree played quarterback at Tennessee, and also participated in tennis, graduating in 2007 with a degree in exercise science.
Now it’s time for general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox to turn their attention to evaluating the players currently on Chicago’s roster, which should make for some interesting developments over the next couple of months.
All the change naturally leads to questions about what might transpire in the future. So thanks to everyone for participating and sending all your questions for today’s Twitter mailbag.
Let’s get started:
Pace told a story recently about an experience with the Saints that played a role in shaping his draft philosophy.
"When I first started with the Saints, I might have just become a pro scout or a scouting assistant. We were in the draft. I want to be honest with you guys, honest assessment. When I talk about taking best player available, you have to be careful in the draft ... that's what I believe in. In the draft, it can be human nature to want to push up a position that you need. And that doesn't happen on draft day. That happens in the process leading into the draft, right? So we're talking about defensive linemen. We really need a D-lineman. Hey I know we don't have great grades on this player, but we're pushing him up because we need it. So we drafted a defensive tackle in 2003 that didn't end up being a good player for us, and I think that was partly because we pushed him up because of need. We should've just taken best player available. Honest answer."
Anyway, I did try my best to project how some of the current Bears would fit into a 3-4 scheme provided the club decided to go that route. You can check that out right here.
@mikecwright: I can tell you this much: not many. I go back to Ryan Pace's first press conference when the Bears introduced him as the general manager.
#bearsmailbag After they review the film and the players that quit, how many will remain??— Eliseo Gonzalez (@leech11) January 21, 2015
He said: "There are certain traits and qualities you look for at each position. But overall, the discipline, toughness, instincts, intelligence. We want reliable players that you know what you're getting from them on game day."
We obviously didn't see those qualities on a consistent basis with the Bears in 2014, and I agree with your assessment that some of the guys simply quit. That will definitely show up on film, and I doubt many of the guys displaying that on the tape will be showing up for 2015 Bears training camp in Bourbonnais, Illinois.
Here's what Urlacher said during ESPN 1000's "Waddle & Silvy" show on Jan. 21 regarding the possibility of him rejoining the Bears as a coach.
"I knew a lot about the defense they used to play in. Vic Fangio runs a 3-4. That's a whole different animal. I wasn't the greatest technician when I played. Technique wasn't my favorite thing to learn, and I doubt I would be great teaching it. [Coaches] work so much. Maybe when I'm older and my kids are older, but right now my kids are still young. So it's hard to imagine coaching now with my kids so young and all the things I do with them. ... To go along with my golf game and fishing. It's tough to imagine working 90 hours a week during the football season and wanting to do that."
As per its custom, the NFL will follow a modified set of procedures to prepare game balls for Super Bowl XLIX. Established long before allegations of underinflated balls in the AFC Championship Game, the process includes independent equipment managers and ball attendants.
Still, the league "expects that the Competition Committee will review all of these procedures in the offseason," according to NFL spokesman Michael Signora.
The league found earlier this week that 11 of the New England Patriots' 12 game balls were significantly underinflated during the AFC Championship Game, ESPN's Chris Mortensen has reported. In that game, the Patriots' equipment staff supplied balls to referee Walt Anderson at the required two hours, 15 minutes before the game for inspection. As per NFL policy, Anderson marked each ball with his approval and ultimately returned them to the Patriots' ball boys.
In the Super Bowl, however, the NFL will use Chicago Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin to organize the process. Ball boys were hired prior to last week's games.
Here is the full statement Signora provided:
"Like many aspects of our policies and procedures, there are modifications for the Super Bowl.
"At the Super Bowl, the equipment manager of another team [Bears, Tony Medlin] is in charge of the game balls and arranging for the ball attendant crews, which are hired before the Super Bowl teams are determined. The officials will maintain strict control of the game balls for the Super Bowl.
Obviously, we all know it takes a few years to truly measure a draft class. But Kiper did put together some parameters in explaining the process. He wrote:
I look at first-year impact from the rookie class based on relative value -- contributing to a winner is worth more than piling up reps for a bad team. I included rookie undrafted free agents added after the draft. (That's part of the process, really. Like the rookie rankings, I try to ask whether players who contributed could do so for most teams. Again, relative value matters.
So Kiper’s draft grades aren’t necessarily based on performance as much as they are based on the total value added based on where he had originally ranked the players.
While defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton flashed at times as rookies, the former appears to possess more long-term upside than the latter. Ferguson and undrafted free agent pickup linebacker Christian Jones each finished 2014 tied for 14th among NFL rookies with two sacks apiece. Ferguson also broke up two passes and Jones notched both of his sacks in the last two games, as he showed growth throughout the season and appears to be set to take on a role at some point as a starter.
A third-round pick, Sutton (25 tackles, no sacks) appeared to be overmatched as a rookie, as did safety Brock Vereen, a fourth-round selection.
The verdict remains out on fourth-round running back Ka’Deem Carey because he didn’t get much action playing behind Matt Forte. Carey averaged 4.4 yards per attempt as a rookie, but didn’t play in the last two games. The expectation moving forward is for Carey to receive more playing time with the Bears moving to more of a run-first philosophy under new coach John Fox.
Sixth-round pick David Fales was active for only one game all season and didn’t play a down. Punter Pat O’Donnell, another sixth-round selection, finished with a 43.8-yard gross punting average, which actually ranked as seventh-best in franchise annals.
Seventh-round pick Charles Leno Jr., meanwhile, played in six games with one start. Still, Leno didn’t see enough action to glean a true evaluation.
Given Chicago’s need at safety headed into the draft, the Bears missed the mark somewhat with the first-round pick. No doubt about it, Fuller will be a long-term fixture at cornerback for the Bears. But current Green Bay Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was available with the Bears picked at No. 14 and he’s coming off a rookie season in which he contributed 94 tackles and an interception. In the postseason, Clinton-Dix’s two interceptions in the NFC Championship Game nearly helped the Packers advance to the Super Bowl.
Gase signed a three-year contract, according to a source.
Gase, 36, spent the day Wednesday interviewing with general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox along with chairman George McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips. The interview marked the second time Gase spoke with the organization's decision makers. Gase interviewed with McCaskey, Phillips and consultant Ernie Accorsi during Denver's postseason bye week, just after the conclusion of the regular season.
A source told ESPN that St. Louis and San Francisco made efforts Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to bring in Gase before he flew to Chicago, including a Tuesday night phone call from Rams coach Jeff Fisher.
Gase worked the last six years with Fox on Denver's staff, spending the last two seasons as the team's offensive coordinator. The Broncos led the NFL in scoring offense (34 points per game), total offense (430.1 yards per game) and passing offense (315.8-yard average). The unit also racked up 157 plays for gains of 20 yards or more, which ranked No. 2 in the NFL.
In 2013, the Broncos set an NFL record by scoring 606 points, including a league-record 76 touchdowns. In 2014, the Broncos finished second in the NFL in scoring (482), which also ranked as the 25th-most in NFL history. The Broncos also accumulated 6,446 net yards, good fourth in the NFL.
With the hiring of Donatell, the Bears informed secondary coach Jon Hoke he will not return to the coaching staff for the 2015 season.
A 36-year coaching veteran, which includes 24 years in the NFL, Donatell worked the last four seasons with recently-hired defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in San Francisco, where the 49ers defense ranked second in the league in scoring defense (17.4 points per game) and opponent passer rating (76.8) while tying for second in interceptions (78), ranking third in total defense (210.2 yards per game) and sixth in pass defense (218.2 yards per game).
Four members of Donatell’s secondary in San Francisco received a total of six Pro Bowl nods under the coach, a group that includes safeties Dashon Goldson (2011-12), Eric Reid (2013), Donte Whitner (2011-12) and cornerback Carlos Rogers (2011).
Donatell served as secondary coach of the Denver Broncos (2009-10) prior to joining the 49ers. It was Donatell’s second stint with the team, and under his guidance, the Broncos ranked No. 9 in the NFL in passing defense (211.3 yards per game). Donatell previously worked as secondary coach for the Broncos from 1995-99.
Dontell’s other NFL coaching stops include the New York Jets (1990-94, 2007), Green Bay Packers (2000-03) and Atlanta Falcons (2004-06).
Loomis, the New Orleans Saints’ GM who worked with Pace for more than a decade as he climbed the scouting ranks, used that analogy Wednesday between Senior Bowl practices.
“Well, first of all, if anybody has a son who’s graduated from high school or college, you know how excited and proud you are. And yet, he’s not your kid anymore. So it’s a little bit of that feeling,” Loomis said. “Look, I know that feeling of being overwhelmed right at first. But, man, he’s handled it well. He’s made a lot of great decisions already. He did a great job in his press conference. So I’m just proud of him.
“And we talk a little bit, mostly about personal things and how he’s doing, and a few questions here and there. So he’s gonna do well.”
When asked if Pace got the right coach in John Fox, Loomis said, “Yeah, absolutely.”
The Saints began moving on without Pace on Wednesday when Loomis announced the hiring of former Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland to oversee college scouting. It sounds like both Ireland and pro personnel director Terry Fontenot will both play key roles in filling the void left by Pace. Loomis described Fontenot as another future NFL GM.
Pace will certainly be missed, but Loomis repeated what he’s been saying for years – that he knew it was a matter of when, not if, Pace would get away.
“I knew years ago that Ryan Pace was gonna be a general manager, he was gonna have that opportunity,” Loomis said. “He was very patient. He’s had opportunities to interview in the past, he’s turned some of those down. But this one felt right for him. And, man, I’m excited for him.”
Pace also took longtime Saints scout Josh Lucas with him and named Lucas as his player personnel director. Lucas was one of two regional scouts for New Orleans.
“That’s a good opportunity for Josh. He’s a good scout. He’ll do a good job in Chicago. But, look, we’ve got a good staff there and we’ll make up that,” said Loomis, who said both men were under contract, but, “We’re in favor of our people getting opportunities.”
“That just tells me we’re hiring the right people; we’ve got the right people in our building,” Loomis said. “And we’ve got some behind them that are gonna be just as good. So I’m excited for those guys.”
"The 2014 season started with high hopes and ended in total disappointment," Phillips wrote. "We decided a new direction was necessary, and we have acted quickly and decisively."
Phillips added: "It's time to bring back a winning identity to the Chicago Bears."
Additionally, Phillips promised season-ticket holders "new enhancements to Soldier Field" in 2015.
This could be in reference to replacing the video screens that sit atop the north and south endzones inside Soldier Field. The Bears have actively researched the idea of installing larger and digitally enhanced video screens at Soldier Field, such as the Cleveland Browns unveiled in August at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns received rave reviews after the installation of two, high-definition video boards that measure 192 feet wide and 40 feet tall.
"We will continue to deliver value to make your gameday experience at Soldier Field second to none," Phillips added. "Our goal is simple. Play tough and smart and bring the Super Bowl trophy back to Chicago for the greatest fans in the world. You deserve it."
Trestman wants to stick with the same basic terminology the Ravens used last season because it's easier for one person to adjust. He'll defer to coach John Harbaugh on whether he will call plays on the sideline or in the coaches' box. And he'll base how much shotgun alignments they'll use on the strengths of Joe Flacco.
"It's never going to be my offense," Trestman said Wednesday, a day after he agreed to a three-year contract with the Ravens. "It's always going to be the Ravens' offense."
Remember he's called the "Quarterback Whisperer," not a running back one. Trestman's offense has ranked in the top 10 in passing seven times and ended up in the top 10 in rushing once. Under Trestman, the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders and Chicago Bears finished 17th or lower in rushing attempts in 10 of his 12 seasons.
“I don't know what he's known as, or who knows him as what, but we have a way we want to play and we have a system in place," Harbaugh said. "We've been running the ball here for a long time. That has been our philosophy and our belief, and Marc understands that. I understand what kind of an offense we're going to be going forward and Marc believes in that, and we're ready to roll with that.”
Harbaugh only interviewed two candidates when searching for a replacement for Gary Kubiak, who left to become the Denver Broncos' head coach. Trestman met with Harbaugh on Monday afternoon, and former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase spoke with him Monday evening.
Even though Harbaugh and Trestman had only been acquaintances, something clicked during their sit-down.
"Once we had a chance to get talking, along with his background, the main thing is that he's such a good fit for us going forward," Harbaugh said. "His experience level, his background in this offense, the fact that he can take us exactly from where we are, offensively, in terms of the terminology and the system that's in place and move it forward and build off of that, that was the determining factor.”
The most impressive part of the foundation laid by Kubiak in his one season with the Ravens was his stretch zone-blocking scheme. It's turned eight different running backs into 1,000-yard rushers over the years, and it turned the Ravens from the 30th-ranked run offense to the No. 8 one.
Harbaugh said the Ravens have been using this as their primary blocking scheme since 2010, but he acknowledged Kubiak and his staff took it to another level. Trestman is familiar with this system, and he's spoken to Kubiak about it over the years.
"It's essentially a zone-blocking system, but there are also other gap plays and trap plays and draw plays and other things that go in," Trestman said. "But the platform, or the starting point, is certainly running the zone plays, and that's not going to change.”
But with the club’s hiring Tuesday of former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, all indications point to the Bears making the transition to a 3-4 scheme at some point, even if they decide in 2015 to utilize more of a hybrid attack.
“Spending 25 years in this league as a head coach or a defensive coach, I think sometimes maybe on the outside more is made of [a defensive front] than reality,” Fox said. “We’re going to put our players in the best position for them to have success, and that’s how we’re going to earn their respect moving forward because they know we can help that. Whether that’s a 3-4 or 4-3 has not been determined yet.”
“I’ve got so much respect for him,” Capers said of Fangio in 2011. “He is so intelligent. He knows what he is doing. He understands the game.”
Once Fox finally assembles the staff and turns his attention to schemes, there’s a good chance he’ll defer to Fangio regarding the direction of the defense. That means new general manager Ryan Pace and the club’s personnel department need to start acquiring the requisite talent to make the move.
Even if the Bears decided to continue operating out of a 4-3 look, the talent -- specifically at linebacker and in the secondary -- needs to be upgraded significantly.
Let’s take a look at some of the club’s current front-seven defenders to figure out who might be fits for a 3-4 scheme:
DT Ego Ferguson: Ferguson’s size and skill set make him more of an ideal fit in a 4-3 scheme. His best position in a three-man front would likely be at end. Ferguson would have to bulk up some to play the nose in a 3-4.
DT Jeremiah Ratliff: Interestingly, Ratliff, at 303 pounds, is listed as 12 pounds lighter than Ferguson. But Ratliff has extensive experience as a 3-4 nose tackle, dating to his time with the Dallas Cowboys, and at one time he was considered one of the best at the position. Playing in a three-man front also put lots of wear and tear on Ratliff’s body. When Ratliff first came into the league in 2005, it was believed he didn’t possess the size to play nose in a 3-4. So his ascension was somewhat rare. But he’s certainly capable of making the move. Keep in mind, Ratliff played in more of a penetrating one-gapping 3-4 scheme in Dallas.
DE Lamarr Houston: Since coming into the league as a 305-pound defensive tackle, Houston has gradually dropped weight and in 2013 he basically played in Oakland as an outside pass-rushing linebacker, which naturally led to some of his struggles in 2014 at defensive end, according to a former Bears staffer. Houston is listed at 300 pounds but played last season at around 275 to 280 pounds. So if Houston drops to the 270-pound range, he possibly play outside linebacker on the strong side in a 3-4. If Houston stays at end, he’d have to get into the 300-pound range.
LB Shea McClellin: Ideal size for a 3-4 weak outside linebacker is around 6-3 and 245 pounds, and that’s exactly the size the team lists McClellin, who was projected as a 3-4 linebacker coming out of Boise State in 2012. Maybe the new staff can finally coax the best from McClellin.
LB Christian Jones: Played two outside linebacker spots and defensive end at Florida State, so Jones possesses the versatility and athleticism to make the move. Jones fits a 3-4 scheme as a rush linebacker.
LB Jonathan Bostic: Inside linebacker in a 3-4 is very similar to the middle linebacker spot in a 4-3. The difference is 3-4 inside linebackers don’t have to cover as much ground as 4-3 middle linebackers. So Bostic fits, but he’d struggle fighting off blocks at the point of attack, which is what we’ve seen throughout his two seasons with the Bears.
DE Jared Allen: Allen probably could serve as a rush linebacker on passing downs, but he’ll be 33 next season and isn’t interested in moving from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. There was talk prior to the 2012 season of the Vikings moving to a 3-4 scheme. Here’s what Allen had to say about that back then: “I want to end my career as a defensive end. And I'm not playing a 2-gap, let me just throw that out the window now.[Moving to a 3-4 scheme] is something that will be addressed if and when it happens. I know that we have enough mutual respect for each other that they would at least give me a head's up and give me an option of what I would want to do. I don't see that in the future."
DT Stephen Paea: Although he possesses the strength and athleticism to play in a 3-4, Paea doesn’t have the physical dimensions at 6-1, 300 pounds. If Fangio and the Bears utilize a one-gap 3-4 scheme, Paea might fit. But that’s doubtful.
DT Will Sutton: Sutton’s is similar to Paea in size, but he’s not nearly as strong or as athletic. Sutton looked like a bust as a 4-3 defensive tackle, and he’d definitely be out of place in a three-man front.
QUESTION MARKDE Willie Young: Coming off a 10-sack 2014 season, Young is rehabbing from a ruptured Achilles tendon. But at 6-4, 251 pounds, Young doesn’t possess the size to play defensive end in a 3-4. But that’s not to say he can’t bulk up or maybe even drop a few pounds to move to outside linebacker. At outside linebacker in a 3-4 there would probably be questions about whether Young moves well enough in space. Either way, if the Bears move the 3-4 direction, it will be interesting to see how Young might fit.
But is it that simple?
Gase was scheduled to interview for the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator position on Wednesday, sources close to the situation tell ESPN, a full five days after Fox became the 15th head coach in franchise history.
Gase’s employment options have dwindled, so perhaps the 36-year old coordinator does reach an agreement with Fox to coordinate the Chicago offense.
One source noted that while Fox and Gase “have a strong mutual respect for one another,” they have differing views on offense, with Fox preferring a more traditional ground attack, mixing in impact plays down the field when available, while Gase is described as a “cutting edge offensive mind” who places of higher emphasis on passing the ball.
Fox is not opposed to throwing the football. Under Fox’s watch, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad thrived in Carolina’s offensive system, and Fox reaped the rewards of having talented pass-catchers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Wes Welker in Denver.
However, Fox is known as an old-school head coach who comes from a hard-nosed defensive background.
Gase’s offense enjoyed tremendous success in Denver, led by one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, Peyton Manning. With Gase calling plays, the Broncos won 25 regular-season games, two straight division titles, and earned a berth in Super Bowl XLVIII.
But for all the accolades, the organization and both men parted ways.
The Bears moved fast to snatch up Fox, but Gase remains in limbo, passed up not only for a handful of head-coaching gigs, but also for potential offensive coordinator openings in Atlanta, Jacksonville, Baltimore and Oakland.
One source explained that perhaps the reason Gase is still available is because teams have concerns that he will bolt after 2015 for a head-coaching job.
Does a team on the rebuild, such as the Bears, want to have to look for a new offensive coordinator after only one year?
It’s also curious that Fox didn’t move sooner to bring Gase aboard in Chicago, if in fact, the veteran head coach wants to rekindle their working relationship.
However, Gase has several things working in his favor in Chicago. He’s the son-in-law of longtime New Orleans Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt, who worked with Bears general manager Ryan Pace. Gase and Pace have a good relationship. Gase also interviewed to be the Bears’ head coach before Fox and Pace were hired.
Maybe the Bears feel like Gase is simply the best available offensive coordinator (he probably is), and whatever professional disagreements exist between Fox and Gase can be quashed.
But if for whatever reason the Bears decide to let Gase leave Wednesday without a contract, remember that Fox has a proven track record of finding quality assistant coaches -- including Gase, Mike McCoy, Dennis Allen and Jack Del Rio.
The head coach always has the final say on the coaching staff. If Fox doesn’t want to reunite with Gase, then so be it. Fox’s background earns him the benefit of the doubt.
Allen builds, purchases or remodels the homes to help disabled veterans in their returns home.
Allen founded Homes for Wounded Warriors in 2009, and since the foundation was established, it has raised more than $3.5 million as it tries to donate 10 homes every year to wounded warriors.
Here’s more information about Allen’s selection as a finalist for the award on the team’s official website.
It is more likely than not the two coaches will reunite, with Gase assuming the same role he had the past two seasons after he was promoted by Fox as Denver's offensive coordinator in 2013, sources said.
Gase, who interviewed for the head-coaching vacancies in Denver, San Francisco and Buffalo, also met with the Baltimore Ravens on Monday about their offensive coordinator opening before Baltimore named former Bears head coach Marc Trestman to the position. Gase also has received interest from the Raiders, Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Gase is still considered to be in the mix for the 49ers and Rams. The Rams had reached out to Gase last week but have so far been unable to secure an interview, a source said. They reached out to Gase again over the weekend and again on Tuesday night after Gase didn't land coordinator jobs in Baltimore or Jacksonville.
ESPN.com Rams reporter Nick Wagoner contributed to this report.