NFC North: Rick Dennison

We're Black and Blue All Over:

And, just like that, the 2012 season is over in the NFC North. Three of our teams finished with double-digit victories. Two qualified for the playoffs. Now, after Saturday night's events at Candlestick Park, everyone is home for the winter.

The blog? We'll keep rolling on, as always. We have the Chicago Bears' coaching search to keep us busy. I have some "Rewind'12" items I would like to get to, and I also want to renew our "Big Decision" series to preview what is in store over the next few months. And, crazy as it might sound, draft season is right around the corner. The NFL scouting combine starts Feb. 20 in Indianapolis.

While we have a quiet moment (even after a late start), let's take a mid-morning stroll around the NFC North:
  • Green Bay Packers receiver Greg Jennings sounds like a player who knows he will be elsewhere in 2013. Speaking Sunday, via Sarah Barshop of, Jennings said: "But at the end of the day, you know the Packers are going to do what's best for the Packers. And that's not going to change whether you're No. 4 [Brett Favre], No. 80 [Donald Driver], No. 85 [Jennings], No. 77 [Cullen Jenkins]. That's going to be the case. They're going to do what's best for the Packers and the organization. And as the other half of the businessman sitting down at that table, I have to do what's best for myself and my family."
  • The Packers have some tough decisions coming on defense, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy will have to decide whether defensive coordinator Dom Capers "has lost his touch and no longer has the ability to keep up with the NFL's increasingly diverse offensive attacks" or whether the Packers' defensive issues are personnel related, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • All but one of the Bears' known 13 coaching candidates are available for second interviews this week, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
  • The Bears' interview with Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was "brief," according to Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo is in play for the New York Jets' open position, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
  • The Detroit Lions "have their usual array of serious personnel issues," writes Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press.
  • The Lions will add former Jacksonville Jaguars assistant Bobby Johnson to their staff, according to
  • Minnesotans shouldn't be quick to assume that the Packers' run of supremacy in the NFC North is over, writes Patrick Reusse for
By the end of Sunday, it's possible the Chicago Bears will have concluded their first round of interviews in what has already been an epic coaching search. Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was scheduled to be the 13th known candidate to speak with general manager Phil Emery. If there are more first-round interviews scheduled, they haven't been reported.

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:
  1. Arians
  2. Atlanta Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong
  3. Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell
  4. New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.
  5. Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements
  6. Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis
  7. Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison
  8. Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy
  9. Minnesota Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer
  10. Vikings special assistant to the head coach Mike Singletary.
  11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan
  12. Trestman
  13. Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub
I can tell that a few of you are starting to get antsy about the Chicago Bears' coaching search, which is now well into its second week. All I can tell you at this point is that it appears the first round of interviews will continue at least through Sunday.

According to this timeline from Michael C. Wright of, the Bears were scheduled to interview Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements on Thursday. Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will interview Friday, Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on Saturday, and Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will meet with them Sunday.

All told, the Bears have sought out first-round interviews with at least 13 candidates, including their special teams coordinator, Dave Toub. According to the Chicago Tribune, however, Toub interviewed recently for a job as an assistant with the Carolina Panthers, and also has a meeting scheduled with the Kansas City Chiefs.

At some point, the Bears presumably will narrow down their field and bring finalists to Halas Hall for second interviews. But you're looking at next week at the earliest for that portion of the process, assuming the second round doesn't start until the first round ends. Stay tuned.

NFC North links: Starks could face 49ers

January, 10, 2013
Chicago Bears

The Bears will interview Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison for their head-coaching position Friday, according to a source.

The Bears also received permission to interview Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Detroit Lions

Count wide receiver Nate Burleson among those who subscribe to the best-player-available strategy in the draft, reports's Justin Rogers. "I don't like to pinpoint positions that people might see as weaknesses during the year," Burleson said. "I'm a guy that firmly believes, get the best person available. If you get the best person available, you can't lose. You're going to get an athlete."

The Lions played the league's most difficult schedule in 2012, according to Rogers.

Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders says the Lions need to be more accountable, writes Tim Twentyman of the team's website. "Players have to be accountable for their mistakes," Sanders said during an event at Ford Field. "When you go to a team that's a consistent winner, their players are held accountable."

Green Bay Packers

Running back James Starks, who has been out for over a month due to a knee bruise, could return to play against the 49ers Saturday, reports Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Kicker Mason Crosby plans to reward the Packers for their patient approach with him through his slump earlier in the season, writes Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Minnesota Vikings

After the 2011 season, the Vikings were 3-13 and had 19 free agents whom they didn't re-sign. "This year," writes Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune, "they have 10 free agents from a 10-6 team, and there is a good chance they will make a strong effort to re-sign most of them, including starters Jasper Brinkley, Phil Loadholt, Jamarca Sanford, Jerome Felton and Erin Henderson."

Greg Childs was upbeat about the rehab of his torn patellar tendon, reports Tom Pelissero of "Everything's coming along good," Childs said. "I'll definitely be back. It's not even a question or whatever. It's just mainly me continuing doing what I'm doing out here, continue my rehab, continue to stay focused and just getting ready to go."
After a wild 24 hours of news, action and quarterback intrigue for the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, let's catch up on the Chicago Bears' coaching search as it enters its second week.

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.