Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
Tribune's Bears columnist answers readers' questions on coaching search,
Chicago Tribune reporter
12:22 p.m. CST, January 3, 2013
Do you think the Bears will call Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher? -- @bWalk01, from Twitter
I don't think the Bears will go that route. I believe Phil Emery is looking for an unassuming grinder, probably an up and comer, who will work with him in lockstep. A high profile coach who has had success like Gruden or Cowher is more likely to want to control various aspects of the team. I don't see Gruden and Emery as a fit from a personality standpoint. Emery would probably be more apt to try to hire the next Cowher than the original Cowher. Besides, indications are neither Gruden nor Cowher will be candidates in the coaching arena this year.
Mike Holmgren says "I'll listen," per ESPN. Will Emery even think of sharing his job? And regardless, would you like him here? -- @cimerians, from Twitter
Emery will not share his power with Mike Holmgren or anyone else. He also won't hold it over his coach's head though. He will allow his coach to influence him on personnel decisions. But the ultimate call is his. Emery won't be telling his coach what to do on fourth and one, either. There is a healthy separation of responsibilities on the Bears. And really, Emery can't even determine who has final say. George McCaskey and Ted Phillips set up the organizational flow chart. The power is divided the way they want it to be, and all the principles believe this is a good way to do it. As for Holmgren, he was a special coach in his prime. Whether he still would be one at the age of 65 and after four years away from coaching would have to be determined.
What's your input on Mike McCoy as the head coach and what will the change in command do for the defense and special teams coaching? -- Chuck Durante, Guiling, China
I think McCoy is an outstanding candidate. He has been prepared by a fine head coach in John Fox. He understands offensive football and how to put players in position to succeed. He is young but can command a room. And McCoy is a flexible strategist. We had a talk about his philosophies awhile back. He told me, "I learned from Dan Henning a long time ago that if the quarterback doesn't like something, or he can't do it, you eliminate that from the game plan. Same with the running game. If there are schemes up front that our offensive line runs better, why try to force feed something else? I always say I don't care what we want to do, but what can our players do well? That's where it all starts." Whoever is hired as head coach will be able to hire his own defensive coordinator and special teams coach. New head coaches usually bring in their own people for key positions.
Should the Bears at least consider interviewing Pat Fitzgerald for HC position? -- @scan35, from Twitter
Absolutely. Some say Fitzgerald is ideally suited to be a college coach, and especially suited to be Northwestern's coach. But I think he would be a fine, fine coach at any level. His passion for the game would play well whether he's coaching pee wees or pros. The Rams were interested in him one year ago. He has strong leadership traits and knows how to get the most out of his roster. He has a great touch with people. And I think he and Emery would work very well together.
How soon will a head coach be hired? -- @leech11, from Twitter
In his press conference, Emery said ideally he would have a head coach in place by the time practices for the East-West Shrine game kick off Jan 14. But the chances are not good that he can conduct a widespread search, interview candidates all over the country, come up with a list of finalists, go through an second round of interviews and choose a finalist in less than two weeks. Part of the problem is the Bears will be at the mercy of some of the teams who are still alive in the playoffs. They want to interview Tom Clements, for instance. As long as the Packers are not eliminated, they will have a say in when Clements will be allowed to interview. So I think there is a good chance this process will stretch into late January, and possibly even February depending on which teams are still playing.
Do you think that Lovie Smith's mentality was winning games through his defense? That seemed the case to me since they went the Super Bowl. Do you think that was true? Matteo Pompei, Seattle
Smith preferred to have a balanced attack. He wanted a team that could beat you with defense, special teams or offense. But the defense was his baby. And that, not coincidentally, is what the Bears excelled at. When the Bears made the Jay Cutler trade in 2009, it marked a departure in philosophy for Smith and the team. It said they no longer were interested in an offense that merely would not lose the game. They were now going to try to win the game on offense. But, for a variety of reasons, they rarely have been able to win on offense since Cutler was acquired. If they could have, Smith wouldn't be dusting off his resume.
Can the Chicago Bears afford to sign Jay Cutler to a long term contract extension? What has he done to deserve paying him more money? He has never been on a winning team even going back to high school. I am tired of hearing how much talent he has when he has yet to prove it. James A. Madden, Aurora
Cutler has not proven he deserves to be paid like one of the elite quarterbacks in the National Football League in my opinion, but he probably thinks he has. So it might be difficult to reach agreement with him on a long term commitment at this point. If I were in charge of the Bears' roster, I would probably let him play out the last year of his deal in 2013. If he plays well, they can pay him then. If he plays OK and they don't have a better option, they can franchise him. If he plays poorly, they can let him walk.
I would think Tyler Eifert is a much better player and I think of he used correctly he can be a great addition for Jay, Thoughts? @FlashTG5, from Twitter
Eifert would be an excellent addition to the Bears offense, and would give them a dimension that has been lacking. He probably will be the first tight end taken in the April draft, and he probably will still be on the board when the Bears get their first pick at No. 20. The Notre Dame tight end absolutely should be a consideration for Emery. He has a nice combination of receiving skills and blocking skills. He runs very good routes and has very good hands. One front office man said he projects Eifert being a 70-catch a year guy. Another compared him to Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, but said he isn't quite as athletic.
Gabe Carimi--bust or salvageable? -- @Blackhawks1963, from Twitter
Carimi is absolutely salvageable. He can't be judged on his 2012 season for a couple of reasons. The first is he came into the season after knee surgery and was affected by it, especially early. As his knee came around, it became apparent that both his lower body strength and confidence had suffered. He never did get comfortable. What Carimi needs is time -- time to rebuild his physical and mental strength. My bet is he ends up being a very good right tackle in the NFL.
If anyone has written a detailed reason why Chris Williams was cut when he was cut, I have not read it. I know that for whatever reason, he was not a Mike Tice kind of player and that he would not be brought back next year. But he was a more than competent lineman for this season compared to the current backups now forced to start. There has to be more to the story, no? Because if not, that has to be viewed as a horrible roster blunder, right? Did he tell a coach off? Did he blow off meetings or show up late? This does not make any sense. -- Marc Blumer, Chicago
I think you've been watching too many Oliver Stone movies, Marc. Here is what happened with Williams. The Bears needed a roster spot because of an injury at another position. Williams had fallen to the 53rd man on the roster and the eighth offensive lineman, and his contract was going to be up in the offseason. He had gotten in for a few plays a couple weeks before being cut, and did not play well. He just wasn't consistent enough in his opportunities. Williams was far from the least talented player on the roster, but coaches deemed he was the least useful. Part of that was because Jonathan Scott had come on strong in practice. He clearly had passed Williams even though he wasn't playing yet. And another part of it was because the coaches were enamored with practice squad player James Brown. They hoped to get him in the mix before the season ended, and they did. Brown, the thinking went, had a better chance of impacting this team positively over time than Williams did. It was a risk to cut Williams, but don't assume that if the Bears had kept Williams, he would have solved any problems. That would not have been a given.