Phil Emery's target date for Bears' new coach: Jan. 18
By Mark Potash
Bears general manager Phil Emery would prefer to hire a head coach before the Jan. 19 East-West Shrine Game. But outside of that loosely defined parameter, the search for a coach to replace Lovie Smith is wide open.
Anybody who can be a candidate is a candidate. Previous head coaching experience is not necessary. Previous NFL experience is not necessary. Emery is not looking for an offensive guy or a defensive guy. He can be young or old as long as he has good energy. And according to team president Ted Phillips, money is not an object. From current special-teams coach Dave Toub to Super Bowl winning coaches Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher, Emery will consider anyone and everyone.
''[The] No. 1 criteria is excellence in their role,'' Emery said at a press conference Tuesday morning at the Halas Hall auditorium. ''Whatever that role is, we're going to look at a wide variety of candidates. We're going to look offensively. We're going to look defensively. We're going to look special teams. We're going to look NFL. We're going to look college.
''Whatever that person possesses in terms of excellence in combination with the individuals that would comprise his staff will have a lot of weight on that person being right for the Chicago Bears.''
Emery cited the Bears' consistently subpar offensive performances in Lovie Smith's nine seasons as one of the key reasons behind the change. But he said he doesn't necessarily want an offensive or quarterback guru to work with Jay Cutler.
''It's real important to find somebody who can help lead and develop all our players,'' Emery said. ''Jay being our quarterback and that being a franchise position in terms of importance, it's very important that that person either himself or staff-wise has the right person to help Jay develop. But it's also that they help everyone develop.''
With the Bears coming off a 10-6 season with a veteran defense and Jay Cutler at quarterback, their head coaching job figures to attract prime candidates. But with six other NFL head coaching jobs open, the competition for the best candidates could be intense.
That's the balance Emery has to find in his search -- being thorough enough to find the right coach, but efficient enough to find him quickly. The Bears reportedly have interviews set up with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan.
''I'm going to do everything with a sense of urgency,'' Emery said. ''I think it's important that we be very thorough to get the absolute right person. My druthers would be ideally that I could stand shoulder to shoulder with this person during the All-Star games -- the East-West is [Jan. 19. The Senior Bowl is [Jan. 26].''
But Emery also said he might have to be willing to wait if a candidate is on a team that goes deep into the playoffs.
''We have to be thorough, though,'' Emery said. ''The playoffs are a consideration. There might be some candidates that we might not be able to interview during that time frame. So far we have them scheduled and we're on course. There may be a candidate that's in the playoffs and may be unavailable to us. We may have to wait out. It depends on how these courses of interviews go.''
Emery said he will conduct the initial interviews. But he said others in the organization will have a hand in selecting the new coach. When he's down to two or three finalists, Phillips and George McCaskey, the team's chairman of the board, will be part of that interview process.
''In the end, the final decision will be mine,'' Emery said.