A complete house cleaning is underway at Halas Hall.
Three football seasons have passed since Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace won top honors for their efforts in leading the 2018 Chicago Bears to a 12-4 record and NFC North title, and the time has come for the franchise to find their replacements.
Despite this team’s issues, the head coach and general manager vacancies are highly sought-after. And with Super Bowl winning Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian lending a helping hand, the Bears are in a position to make some impact hirings. Over the following days, weeks, or however long it takes, we’ll be diving into the top available candidates, including their history, what they offer schematically, how they fit culturally, where they can take this team, and more. Let’s do it.
Name, Current Team and Position
Doug Pederson, Coaching Free Agent
Relevant Coaching Experience
• Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach (2016-2020), Quarterbacks (2011-12), Offensive Quality Control (2009-10)
• Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator (2013-15)
Pederson is one of the most accomplished head coach candidates in this hiring cycle. His five years in Philadelphia were mostly successful: Three playoff trips happened consecutively in 2017, 2018, and 2019. Pederson oversaw the drafting and development of quarterback Carson Wentz, and was the beneficiary of Wentz’s best years slinging the pigskin. He also saw his offensive scheme executed to perfection by Nick Foles in a pinch. Not just once, but twice. And not just in the regular season, but in the playoffs. At the end of the day, Pederson is a Super Bowl winning head coach who should be on any team’s watch list.
Existing Rumors and Bears Ties
Chicago’s search committee didn’t waste much time targeting Pederson as a candidate. On the same day Matt Nagy was fired, reports surfaced that the team was planning to interview him for the head-coaching position his friend and former co-worker had just left. Awkward? Maybe. But progressive (on the Bears’ end of things)? Definitely. And as we were able to share in Bullets this morning, Pederson’s interview with the team was set for today. Again, that’s a quick move for a franchise that is also simultaneously trying to fill a general manager opening.
When the Bears and Pederson meet, there should be ample familiarity. Pederson’s Super Bowl MVP QB Nick Foles is one of two Bears signal callers under contract for the 2022 season. Not that Foles will be playing over Justin Fields, but that could be something that helps grease the skids if necessary. John DeFilippo, who was Pederson’s QBs Coach on that Super Bowl title-winning squad, remains in that position in Chicago until a new staff decides what to do with coaches currently under contract.
Perhaps the most important Bears connection has to do with what we saw last summer. You might recall Pederson lending a helping hand at Bears training camp in August. We might’ve been joking when we said Pederson was getting a sneak-peek at his future team, but there is a non-zero chance that it plays out with that actually being the case. If that is how the cookie crumbles, please do not ask me for tonight’s lottery numbers. I do not have them.
Hey, It Might Work…
Don’t let the visor fool you, Pederson isn’t Nagy. Sure, both were quarterback coaches and offensive coordinators under Andy Reid before getting opportunities to be head coaches after leaving the nest. But Pederson has been far more successful than Nagy. It’s not even close.
Quarterback development? Pederson checks that box. As was mentioned above, Wentz played his best football while under Pederson’s watch. Foles’ best work came during that Super Bowl run, and then a year later to get the Eagles into the playoffs after another season-ending injury for Wentz. Pederson also had involvement in the drafting and on-boarding of Jalen Hurts in 2020. One year after landing in Philly as a second-round pick, Hurts led the Eagles to the playoffs and is a Pro Bowl alternate quarterback. Not bad for a second-rounder.
Implementation of an effective offensive system? Advantage: Pederson. In the Eagles’ three playoff runs, the team’s offense ranked 7th, 14th, and 14th in yards. The unit checked in with the 3rd, 18th, and 12th best scoring offenses. The passing offenses were in the top-10 in each season. While the rising offense ranked in the top 12 in four of the five seasons under Pederson’s watch. All in all, that group was productive.
Also … this man won a Super Bowl with Nick Freaking Foles. And did so while beating Tom Brady and Bill Belichick at the peak of their powers. That’s gotta count for something, right?
OK, Maybe He’s Not The One…
There’s no talking around the bottom falling out from under Philly at the end of Pederson’s reign. It was tumultuous and chaotic, as is often the case with the Philadelphia sports scene. But finishing 26th in points and 24th in yards on your way out the door is such a rough look. I can’t look at that situation and not think that the Eagles thing was like a supernova that burned brightly, but flamed out quickly. It happens in sports every now and again.
Near the top of my wish list when it comes to traits the next Bears coach will have is an ability to build a strong coaching staff. With all due respect, Nagy couldn’t match the hiring energy he had when he first arrived. It’s almost as if having long-standing relationships and an expansive list of contacts could be quite helpful. Pederson staffed his Eagles well early, with Frank Reich, John DeFilippo, and Jim Schwartz. But Pederson also had Marty Mornhinweg as a senior offensive assistant.
You might remember Mornhinweg as the failed Lions head coach who notoriously chose the wind over taking the ball in an overtime loss to the Bears.
There’s also the Nagy factor. This might hit too close to home for him to take the job of a close friend. In a way, it reminds me of when Bruce Weber turned away interest from the Southern Illinois basketball gig after being let go from Illinois, as it would’ve set up awkwardness in replacing friend/former assistant Chris Lowery. We would be wise to keep the human element in mind when discussing this coaching search.
In The End …
All but two head coach hirings by the Bears since Mike Ditka’s departure have been first-year head coaches. With that in mind, it sure would be nice to hire an accomplished head coach for a change. It would be an added bonus if said coach happens to work in a system similar to the previous coach sold us on working here (but obviously didn’t). Pederson could be what Nagy was sold as upon his hiring.
Admittedly, Pederson isn’t at the top of my list. But the idea of teaming Pederson and DeFilippo to build Justin Fields into a special quarterback is awfully enticing. At the end of the day, Pederson – despite his flaws – is an intriguing candidate whose résumé is legit. Could you imagine if he could finish what Nagy couldn’t?
As an additional bonus, it would be fun to have viral moments like this again:
Doug Pederson is basically the opposite of Urban Meyer. Urban kicks his players. Doug serves them ice cream. pic.twitter.com/f2ivQc8Qia
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) December 29, 2021