NFC North: Mike Sullivan
My educated guess is that some interviews have been completed in secrecy, so I wouldn't be surprised if Emery has spoken with 15 or more candidates. We've discussed the possibility that Emery is using this opportunity to pick the brains of as many smart assistant coaches as he can, but I think we have also seen an undeniable quality emerge as well.
Here's how Tennessee Titans general manger Ruston Webster put it last week during an interview with my AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky on 104.5-FM in Nashville: "I know Phil Emery, and Phil Emery is about as thorough of a human being as I've ever known."
Meanwhile, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, two of the coaches Emery has spoken with said "they never have interviewed with anyone as prepared and detailed" as him.
So before we try to ascribe some kind of ulterior motive to Emery's approach, and rather than conclude he is flailing blindly in the night, perhaps this search is best viewed as a physical extension of Emery's meticulous personality. Where and when it ends remains anyone's guess. Former NFL coach Jimmy Johnson tweeted that Emery favored his former assistant, current Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, but nothing more has come of what appears to be Johnson's personal view.
For the record, here are the Bears' Lucky 13 to this point:
- Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong
- Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell
- New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.
- Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements
- Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis
- Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison
- Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy
- Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer
- Vikings special assistant to the head coach Mike Singletary.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan
- Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub
What stands out is how wide the Bears' net is. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Bears have either already interviewed or plan to speak with about a dozen candidates before circling back to a second round. Most of candidates have backgrounds on offense and, according to Schefter, they have all been told that two finalists will visit Halas Hall this week before an offer is made.
The names of nine coaches have emerged or been reported in recent days. The latest are Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, who is eligible to interview this week, and longtime NFL assistant Marc Trestman, who is currently the head coach of the CFL's Montreal Alouettes. Trestman will interview Monday. The Bears are also scheduled to speak Sunday with Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Already, the Bears have interviewed Atlanta Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, New Orleans offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. and Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.
In addition to McCoy, Dennison and Trestman, the Bears have requested permission to speak with Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
None of those coaches have defensive backgrounds, which makes the focus of general manager Phil Emery's search clear. It's worth noting that respected defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli remains under contract and employed by the team. But there are almost certainly other names on Emery's list that have not yet emerged publicly, and some could have defensive backgrounds. Stay tuned.
What does that tell us about general manager Phil Emery's goals and objectives in this process?
First, we should make clear that the list of seven, whose names are at the bottom of this post, might not be all of the candidates Emery has targeted. Others could have gone undiscovered to this point by reporters or have been kept under the radar for competitive reasons.
But it's certainly worth noting that Emery appears to be most interested in the offensive side of the ball, the part of the team he said Tuesday was most disappointing under former coach Lovie Smith. NFL teams routinely seek out candidates that offer a stark contrast to the predecessor, and an offensive schemer would certainly qualify given Smith's background on defense.
It's possible that some of the candidates are being interviewed as potential offensive coordinators. You also wonder if Emery is leaving open the possibility for an offensive-minded coach to preserve the Bears' defensive staff, led by coordinator Rod Marinelli. Emery said Tuesday that all assistants were given an extra year on their contracts last season, meaning they all remain obligated to stay with the team unless the new coach fires them.
Again, it's difficult to draw too many conclusions based on what might be an incomplete list. All we can say at the moment is that there are no confirmed candidates with defensive backgrounds to this point.
The offensive coordinators: Bruce Arians (Indianapolis Colts), Pete Carmichael Jr. (New Orleans Saints), Tom Clements (Green Bay Packers), Mike McCoy (Denver Broncos), Mike Sullivan (Tampa Bay Buccaneers),
The special teams coordinators: Keith Armstrong (Atlanta Falcons), Joe DeCamillis (Dallas Cowboys).
Emery provided a candid explanation for why he fired coach Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season, explained in unprecedented detail why he didn't address the Bears' offensive line last offseason, and was appropriately non-committal about the future of longtime franchise face Brian Urlacher.
What I thought was most important for the franchise was Emery's clear message of heightened expectations. In essence, Emery said that simply winning a lot of games -- as Smith did over the past nine years -- isn't good enough.
"Our No. 1 goal always has to be to win championships," Emery said. "And to win championships, we must be in contention on a consistent basis. And to be in contention, we have to be in the playoffs on a consistent basis."
Smith had an 81-63 regular-season record, but missed the playoffs in five of the past six years. Emery specifically quoted that drought Tuesday. He bluntly said the Smith's offenses were too inconsistent over time, and implied Smith had enough time to fix them. "We searched for answers," Emery said.
There is a risk in firing a coach who has won consistently, if not at a championship level. The next guy might not be able to win at all. That's the primary argument we've heard from those who think Smith should have been retained. Tuesday, however, Emery made clear he isn't willing to settle for good coaching or even very good coaching. He wants the best.
A year after taking control of football operations, Emery has ended an era during which the Bears were lulled into accepting good years instead of great ones. Lovie Smith is a very good head coach. By firing him, and by definition implying that the next coach will be better, Emery has set a high bar for himself and the franchise. But if you're a Bears fan, would you want it any other way?
Related: ESPN's working list of candidates that Emery has reached out to interview now includes four men: Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confirmed Wednesday that he has hired David Dunn of Athletes First as his new agent, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
Rodgers, who fired Mike Sullivan of Octagon Football earlier this month, decided to hire Dunn last week.
Rodgers fired Mike Sullivan of Octagon Football earlier this month.
Dunn is president/CEO of Athletes First.