ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported the Chicago Bears have requested permission to interview five candidates as potential replacements for Phil Emery.
Here’s a quick capsule look at the candidates:
Kansas City Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard: Given his previous ties to Chicago, Ballard appears to be the local favorite for the opening. But he’s also generated quite a buzz in league circles as one of the NFL’s hottest candidates for GM openings, which means the Bears could face competition.
Ballard worked 12 years in Chicago as a scout (2001-11) and director of pro scouting (2012) under Emery and played a role in the club acquiring several standout players such as Charles Tillman and Matt Forte, and more recently Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett.
One scouting director who has worked directly with Ballard said: “If [the Bears] don’t hire Ballard, they would be making a big mistake. He knows players, but the underrated quality about Chris is the way he deals with people. He's second to none. One of the best evaluators around. Has deep knowledge because he has played college in the Big Ten (at Wisconsin), coached college (Texas A&M-Kingsville) and did both pro and college scouring. He’s more qualified than anybody I have ever been around in this business."
Tennessee Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson: The Fritz Pollard Alliance recommended Dawson to the Bears, but he could be a difficult sell, given the Titans just finished the season with a 2-14 record.
Dawson has worked with the Titans for eight years, and he interviewed for several GM openings last year.
Dawson oversees both the pro personnel and college scouting departments for the Titans, and plays a role in managing day-to-day football operations. Dawson also leads the team’s draft meetings and even plays a role in contract negotiations. Dawson worked with the Seattle Seahawks before joining the Titans and played six years in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts after a standout college career at Notre Dame.
Baltimore Ravens assistant general manager Eric DeCosta: The Bears requested permission in 2012 to interview DeCosta as a potential replacement for Jerry Angelo, but the 43-year-old declined. It’s obvious the Bears remain interested in DeCosta, who has spent 18 seasons working closely with Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore, playing a role in the organization winning two Super Bowls while advancing to the postseason in six of the last seven seasons.
Multiple reports indicate team president Ted Phillips’ involvement in the process being a potential deterrent for DeCosta, but it’s unclear whether that’s truly the case. Either way, DeCosta is probably the most sought-after candidate for teams around the NFL looking for new GMs.
Houston Texans director of pro scouting Brian Gaine: With 16 years of NFL experience, Gaine joined the Texans in February 2014 from Miami, where he worked for six seasons before the Dolphins fired him when they hired Dennis Hickey as general manager. Before joining the Dolphins, Gaine worked three seasons (2005-07) as an assistant director of pro scouting for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s also in the New York Jets’ personnel department (1999-04).
Gaine is noted for his time spent working with Bill Parcells. A personnel man who has worked directly with Gaine thinks he’d be a good choice for the Bears.
“He is an ultimate professional; very organized, detail-oriented and very thorough,” the source said. “He has a clear vision of how he wants things and communicates it clearly and concisely. He puts in work and knows this league very well.”
Ryan Pace, New Orleans Saints director of player personnel: Pace started to work his way up the ranks with the Saints not long after finishing a playing career at Eastern Illinois. Pace joined the Saints in 2001, working as an assistant in helping the team with matters such as operations on game day and at training camp before advancing into a gig in the scouting department.
Pace worked as the team’s pro scouting director from 2007-12 before being promoted to director of player personnel.
“He’s really good at what he does. He’s a big part of what we do,” said Saints coach Sean Payton via ESPN NFL Nation’s Mike Triplett. “He’s very talented, and I know he’s been promoted here, deservedly so, a few times. I know this: I get fired up when he comes to see me first thing this morning [on Monday]. His mind’s already racing. I know he’s all in with us.”