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Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Will Bears buck the NFL's age trend?

By Kevin Seifert


As word filtered out Monday night on the finalists for the Chicago Bears' coaching job, some of you immediately expressed support for Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Why? Everyone has their reasons, but without a doubt, age is one of them.

Via Twitter, @cubbieBearHawk wrote: "We need a young Innovative mind not senior citizens." Meanwhile, @MikeDBears recognized how unusual his hopes were: "cant believe im rooting for the 2 old guys."

Fans tend to gravitate toward the "young, innovative mind" narrative -- especially for first-time head coaches. And quite frankly, NFL teams do as well. That undeniable fact makes the Bears' other two known finalists -- Marc Trestman and Bruce Arians -- unique.

Bevell is 43, which puts him neatly in the profile of recent NFL hires. Arians, meanwhile, is 60 and Trestman is 57. As silly as it might sound, their ages make them outliers in the candidate pool teams have recently dipped into among candidates who have not been NFL head coaches before. (In the video, ESPN's Adam Schefter implies Trestman could be a finalist for the job.)

I did a quick look Tuesday morning at the ages of the 21 current coaches who -- like Bevell, Trestman and Arians -- had never been NFL head coaches when hired into their jobs. The average age of those men was 45.3 years old, with a range of 34 (Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers) to 51 (Mike Munchak of the Tennessee Titans, Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings and Chuck Pagano of the Indianapolis Colts.)

There are seven men who are in their second jobs as NFL head coaches, meanwhile, and Arians is older than all of them were when they were hired. Trestman is older than all but Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who was 58 when he accepted the job.

In a vacuum, I hope we would all argue that age shouldn't be so relevant in a job that should require leadership and experience. But in recent history, at least, it's clear that NFL teams are just as drawn as fans are to young coaches with potential for growth, favoring them over those who -- like Arians and Trestman -- have spent decades working their way through the coaching ranks.

It would take weeks to fully report out the reasons for that trend. I'm sure that identifying with players, energizing fan bases and bringing "new" schemes are all part of the allure.

What we can say is this: The Bears would certainly buck recent NFL thought by hiring Arians -- whose role as the Colts' interim coach this season was temporary and came only after Pagano's bout with leukemia -- or Trestman. I don't think it is the least bit fair to see that kind of ageism taking place, but as I'm sure every NFL coach in recent history has said at some point, it is what it is.