- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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With Dave Toub drawing plenty of interest around the league, the Bears attempted to interview Cleveland Browns special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, but were denied permission along with five other teams, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Tabor just completed his second season in Cleveland where he helped transform the Browns into one of the best special teams units in the league, finishing the 2012 campaign ranked No. 2 in kickoff coverage, No. 1 in field-goal percentage, No. 3 in punt return average and No. 8 in kickoff return average.
Before being hired by the Browns, Tabor worked three seasons under Toub as the Bears' assistant special teams coach from 2008-10. They first worked together at the University of Missouri from 1997-2000 where Tabor began his coaching career as the Tigers' offensive graduate assistant coach before eventually moving up to coach running backs and special teams. Toub spent 12 seasons in Columbia where he served as the school's head strength coach and later coached the defensive line before making the jump to the NFL in 2001.
But with Tabor seemingly off-limits despite Cleveland firing head coach Pat Shurmur and hiring Rob Chudzinski, the Bears must explore other avenues to protect themselves in the event Toub departs.
One name the Bears could consider is their current assistant special teams coach Kevin O'Dea, a respected and experienced assistant who previously worked as the special teams coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals (2004-05) and New York Jets (2008-09). O'Dea spent four years in the Bears' system (2011-2012, 2006-2007) and is viewed by many players as an extremely viable candidate who works well with kickers and understands all the club's schemes on special teams.
Bears general manager Phil Emery also talked with three other special teams coaches during the team's search for a head coach – Atlanta's Keith Armstrong, Dallas' Joe DeCamillis and Minnesota's Mike Priefer – although it's unknown if any of those candidates would want to or be permitted to make a lateral move to Chicago if they don't land the head coaching position.
While the Bears' roster is bound to experience a certain degree of turnover with a new head coach, the team remains positioned to excel on special teams, with core members such as Blake Costanzo, Eric Weems, Robbie Gould, Patrick Mannelly, Adam Podlesh, Sherrick McManis and Craig Steltz all under contract through at least next season. The Bears could also move to re-sign cornerback Zack Bowman, who thrived on special teams when the club brought him back early in mid-October.