Warranted Optimism Surrounds the New Bears Coaching Staff

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times writes a good article about the optimism surrounding new coaching staff. The piece is particularly impressive in its scope and perspective.

Amongst the quotes which stuck out was this one from left guard Matt Slauson:

“‘This is probably the most impressive staff that I’ve been a part of,’ Bears guard Matt Slauson said. ‘I haven’t looked at everybody, but I think every position coach has at least won a conference championship. That is unreal to me.’

“In actuality, nine coaches on John Fox’s staff have been to the Super Bowl, including five position coaches. But the point is, players like Matt Slauson — and he definitely is not alone — respect the fact that from Fox on down, the Bears’ newest coaching staff has credibility the Bears haven’t had since George Halas re-hired himself. And it can make a difference.

“‘I don’t know why other coaches do it differently when they get head [coaching] jobs,’ Slauson said, ‘but they feel the need to hire their buddy or their childhood friend who really has no credentials to be an NFL coach. But it happens all the time. Fox came in. [General manager Ryan] Pace came in and said, ‘We’re going to hire the best of the best.’ and they did that. As players, we notice stuff like that. That’s huge. We love it.'”

Slauson hits the nail on the head in this last paragraph. Each of the last two coaching staffs had faults that prevented them from hiring the best possible staff.

Former head coach Marc Trestman was partly limited because he’d been out of the league and probably wasn’t really in tune with who the best young coaches (like offensive coordinator Adam Gase) even were. But even given that, Trestman hired coaches from his former Canadian team, the Montreal Alouettes in Andy Bischoff and Michael Sinclair as tight ends and defensive line coaches. These were hardly the best available.

But former head coach Lovie Smith was much worse in this respect, consistently looking for coaches that he had personal experience with or coaches he had worked for previously over the best available candidates. Some of these, like former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, worked out fine. But the memorable standoff between Smith and former general manager Jerry Angelo over who would be the offensive coordinator in 2010 stands out as a good example of Smith’s closed minded attitude. Angelo forced Smith to interview a variety of candidates but Smith was set on Martz, who he’d previously worked with in St. Louis. In the end, Smith got his way and though they didn’t do badly that year, long term the organization suffered for the choice.

Even worse than Smith’s discomfort with coaches he didn’t personally know was the suspected reason for his hesitation to hire the best available candidates. Smith may well have been an adherent to the old philosophy that you should never hire your own replacement. Smith’s insecurity and fear of losing credit and power to a really good coach may have been an issue with Smith.  Recall that Smith more or less fired former defensive coordinator Ron Rivera for more or less not agreeing with Smith’s entire defensive philosophy.  Some would have said that the Bears defense was benefiting from the creative tension but Smith’s pride and the fact that Rivera got no small amount of credit for the excellent performance of the defense was undoubtedly a factor.

Regardless, Fox suffers from no such limitation. Gase and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio are or should be on every team’s radar as potential head coaching candidates. This doesn’t seem to bother Fox in the least.

As Potash points out, there’s alway s a lot of optimistic talk about new coaching staffs the first year. But there may be more reason than usual to believe that this time around, the optimism is warranted. This season, we may finally see a Bears team play to their talent level and beyond.

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