The first goal for the Bears in 2018 is to find a head coach that will bring a winning culture back to the city of Chicago.
In the John Fox era, the recently fired coach ended with a 14-34 record, finished last in the NFC North all three seasons and had countless head-scratching moments that left fans searching for the right expletive to describe them.
The time for change was inevitable and much needed.
With the Bears already having several requests to interview potential coaches, here are my top three candidates who could become the 16th head coach in Bears’ history.
If you want to listen to the podcast version where I go into more depth about these candidates, you can find it here.
1. Pat Shurmur – Offensive Coordinator Minnesota Vikings
You have to be crazy to not like what Pat Shurmur did with this Vikings’ offense in 2017. He took a unit that in 2016 finished dead last in the NFL in rushing yards, 18th in passing yards and 23rd in points per game and turned it into one of the best this season.
Despite the Vikings losing its starting quarterback and running back in Sam Bradford and Dalvin Cook, Shurmur’s offense finished seventh in rushing yards, 11th in passing yards and 10th in points per game.
The Vikings’ success running the football can translate well in Chicago in 2018. Shurmur’s current running backs Latavius Murrary and Jerick McKinnon in terms of playing style resemble Bears’ running backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. But the Bears’ running backs are better.
Shurmur was able to utilize both of Murrary and McKinnon’s strengths, while not putting his players in predictable situations, unlike what Howard and Cohen went through this season.
It also can’t go unnoticed what Shurmur was able to do with Case Keenum this season. Keenum, who has been primarily a backup his entire career, posted career highs in yards (3,547), touchdowns (22) and passer rating (98.3) under Shurmur.
With the Bears, Shurmur will have the opportunity to further develop Mitch Trubisky and help him make strides in year 2. Shurmur also has history of working with younger quarterbacks. In 2013, as the offensive coordinator with the Eagles he helped second-year quarterback Nick Foles throw for 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. In 2010, Shurmur was the offensive coordinator for the Rams and guided a rookie Bradford to throw for 3,512 passing yards and to win the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Not only does Shurmur have familiarity working with young quarterbacks, but also against the NFC North. This is Shurmur’s second season with the Vikings and his team went 5-1 against the division this year. The Bears on the other hand were 0-6.
Shurmur is going to become a head coach somewhere and do great things wherever he ends up.
2. John DeFilippo – Quarterback Coach Philadelphia Eagles
After reading multiple articles and watching several videos about John DeFilippo breaking down film, I’m convinced he will be a head coach that will be prepared for anything.
In Sheil Kapadia’s article from The Athletic, he wrote that DeFilippo quizzes his quarterbacks with a series of questions to make sure his guys know exactly what to do whenever any given scenario happens on Sundays.
Well, that was the case with how Carson Wentz played this season. The second-year player was the front-runner to be the MVP and helped his Eagles finish with a 13-3 record and an NFC East title.
In Wentz’s rookie year he threw 16 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and had 9 fumbles. With another year in the offense and the help of DeFilippo, Wentz ended 2017 with 33 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and four fumbles.
With how Wentz developed from his rookie year to his second season is why I believe DeFilippo is the right man to help Trubisky make a similar jump in 2018.
One of the main areas where Trubisky needs to improve on is his footwork. There were plenty of times this season where Trubisky didn’t set his feet, which resulted in inaccurate throws. Wentz had similar issues his rookie year, but were addressed with the help of DeFilippo in the offseason and that paid dividends this season.
Another aspect of the offense that will improve with DeFilippo is the unit’s preparedness going into and during games. How many times this season were you left wondering, “Did the offense even have a game plan this game? Or why is it that the Bears’ offense can never adjust during a game?”
DeFilippo doesn’t seem like a guy who is going to be out prepared by another coach and if he is, there will be a solution in place to give his players a chance to adapt.
3. Matt LaFleur – Offensive Coordinator Los Angeles Rams
It only took a season for the Rams in terms of scoring to go from worst to first. In 2016, the Rams scored the least amount of points with 224. Then just a season later those same Rams scored the most points with 478.
The turnaround began when Sean McVay took over as head coach and the play calling duties, which has made his offense flourish this season. A big reason for the offensive strides in 2017 is because of the play of second-year quarterback, Jared Goff.
But McVay isn’t the only man on the Rams’ roster who should take credit for Goff’s breakout 2017. Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur played a key role in developing an offense tailored to his young quarterback and making sure he progressed each and everyday.
Goff in seven games he played in his rookie season threw five touchdowns, seven interceptions and 1,089 yards. In 15 games played in 2017, Goff had 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions and 3,804 yards.
Not only did LaFleur help develop Goff, just a season ago he was also a contributor in making Matt Ryan the MVP of the league as the quarterback coach in Atlanta.
With LaFleur having a good diversity of not only working with a young quarterback like Goff but also a polished one in Ryan, that makes him a good candidate to coach up Trubisky.
LaFleur also would bring with him a great knowledge and background of working with a variety of offenses. He was the quarterback coach at Notre Dame in 2014 and helped coach up quarterback Everett Golson to throw for 3,445 yards and 29 touchdowns and in the same position in 2012 with Robert Griffin III, where in his rookie season he threw for 20 touchdowns and 3,200 yards.
Every NFL team is going to be looking for the next McVay and with LaFleur having a history of developing quarterbacks he could be the next one to help a franchise make a quick turnaround.
Whoever the Bears decide to hire as the next head coach, it will be hard for that individual to do worse than what Fox did in his tenure. That provides hope that the next head coach will hopefully bring some much needed winning back to Chicago.