This is the time of year when head coach candidates start popping up in full force. Some of them are sensible rumors. Others are obvious long shots. And some might even get you to raise an eyebrow. For instance, Dan Wiederer (Tribune) explores why Bills Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier is surfacing as a head coaching candidate ahead of this offseason. And the framing seems to hint that he should be a candidate for the Bears job when it becomes available (which, no, it’s not open yet, but the writing is pretty clearly on the wall). So let’s discuss.
You’ll recall, this isn’t the first connection between the Bears opening and Frazier. But the difference between this and the earlier mention is that Wiederer’s story comes chock-full of anecdotes from Super Bowl winning head coach Tony Dungy.
The retired head coach, who had Frazier on his staff with the Colts in 2005-06, provides perspective and spins yarn when discussing Frazier’s candidacy, going as far to connect some dots regarding a possible return to Chicago. And there’s more to it than that.
Days earlier, after the Bears’ comeback win in Seattle, Wiederer’s Tribune teammate Brad Biggs unloaded a variety of useful nuggets in his post-game column. And among the juiciest notes was a conversation he had with a source who discards the idea of the Bears hiring a President of Football Operations. At the core of this source’s argument is the concept of bringing in a new person with a fancier title to do the same thing a GM does. On its own, that’s not something that will fix Chicago’s issues. For what it’s worth, Biggs’ source rolls through examples of these high-title execs don’t have much more than fancy titles.
However, the name Tony Dungy pops up once again:
“The one exception is maybe Tony Dungy. He’s a great human being. He’s a mentor. If you want to hire a mentor, fine. It better be Tony Dungy or I don’t know who else. I don’t know why he would want to do it.”
Hmm. So a few days after a source casually tosses Dungy’s name out for a gig that even said source isn’t sure he would want, Dungy is on the record dropping strong suggestions regarding a coaching hire. That’s wonderful timing. And to think, this isn’t even the first-time Dungy has been name-checked in connection with the Bears.
Back on Thanksgiving, The Athletic’s Dan Pompei made a declaration that the Bears need a President of Football Operations in the building. Someone whose job it is to oversee the GM and head coach. A person who can serve as a buffer between the team and upper management. Essentially, football people (GM and coach) reporting to a football person, who then reports to ownership. It’s a post worth reading, especially considering that Tony Dungy’s name is mentioned as someone who could conceivably fit that role.
So, now, we have three reporters with deep Chicago roots who have openly tossed Dungy’s name into the atmosphere. And it’s got me thinking about some things. Mostly about how this feels like a good time for team ownership to be kicking the tires on how to get this team on track.
The Bears have a young, toolsy quarterback with upside, as well as some playmakers sprinkled throughout the roster. But it’s a group that could use better leadership in the coaching department, and better decision-making processes from upper management. As things stand, Chicago has a GM whose deal expires when this season ends. It also has a head coach who might as well have one foot out the door. With that in mind, the Bears aren’t well-positioned to find replacements for both. Hence, a need to reach out for help. Admittedly, Dungy might not be the guy for the tip-top “Football Guy” job. Dungy hasn’t been on the coaching side of things for a while. And he looks comfortable in his analyst gig on NBC. However, Dungy seems like the type of person the McCaskey family would lean on in search for advice.
The last time the Bears were in a similar predicament, they found themselves leaning on Ernie Accorsi. As a Super Bowl winning former executive with ties to the New York Giants, reaching out to Accorsi made sense. After all, the McCaskey family has been doing business with the Mara family (who own the Giants) going on decades. And George McCaskey himself has openly said he reaches out to rival owners when he needs to bounce ideas. But with Accorsi out of the consultant game, Chicago has to go elsewhere for help. So … why not someone like Dungy?
Think about it for a moment. When the Bears last needed a change of direction, they brought in a general manager with no previous experience. And when he got to hire his own head coach, that general manager brought in a coach with no experience. In the NFL, teams tend to zag after zigging. An offensive-leaning head coach goes out the door, only for the team to hire someone with a defensive background. Hire a young leadership during one cycle, go with experience the next. That’s just the nature of the beast.
In the end, this all feels like another data point suggesting change is on the horizon for the Bears. And with just two games left, it’s getting late early around these parts.