There are but eight head coach openings in the NFL and only many people who can fill them. Such is the nature of the job churn beast.
This week, the Bears have appropriately followed suit. They’ve already extended their list of candidates to don a cap, beanie, or visor with the orange C on the front, and it will likely continue to grow over the next few days.
But for as much as all of these football people bring something different, unique, or special to the table, some do stand out more than others. They’re ahead of the pack, and in the right situation, may lead the Bears for a generation — no pressure on George McCaskey and General Manager A or anything.
In the final part of a wide-spanning roundtable, the Windy City Gridiron staff makes its picks for our absolute favorite head coach candidates.
Spoiler alert: Disagreement is abundant, but so is the list of quality candidates.
In case you missed it:
Who is your ideal Bears head coach?
Robert Zeglinski: Count me as the Byron Leftwich Fan Club president. Over the past few years, no coordinator has impressed me more than Tampa Bay’s 41-year-old offensive coordinator. He helped integrate an elder statesman like Tom Brady seamlessly. Even before Brady, he designed a deep-shot offense that would be the perfect fit for a quarterback who loves to hunt downfield like Justin Fields (in addition to the benefit of being his mentor as a former successful passer himself). Based on the ever-prevalent sentiments of the Buccaneers, I have the utmost confidence he’d also command the respect of a veteran locker room from Day 1 with a patient, transparent, and challenging approach that never panders to grown men.
Leftwich is a superstar lead coach in the waiting. The Bears would be fortunate to have him regularly speak at the Halas Hall media room podium in navy and orange clothing.
Erik Duerrwaechter: If Sean Payton leaves New Orleans, that’s the guy. Who else can say they’ve adapted themselves to win in every way imaginable? The Saints have found ways to win, whether it was with Drew Brees, Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, or any other random name at quarterback. And he’s built quite the strong culture in New Orleans.
Josh Sunderbruch: Brian Flores is at the top of my list right now. I think he has handled adversity well, and I like what he brings to the table.
Sam Householder: I am finally at a point in my life where I realize I have no idea. I am not an intelligent football person, and I think it’s futile for me to play armchair general manager and know what qualities it takes to lead a billion-dollar organization to a championship.
I’ll still give you a name: Others will make better points about other candidates, but I’ll make a case for a meatball pick.
Toub has been around the league for years and has been a part of two very successful coaching staffs. He likely has no shortage of names and contacts to build his own. I also think that special teams need more consideration for head jobs because we’ve seen the success of guys like Rick Bisaccia and John Harbaugh. One of the keys to a successful head coach is delegation. Special teams have to do that because so much goes into them. You’re dealing with multiple position groups. You have kickers, punters, gunners, hands teams, the like. Toub has had the assistant head coach designation for a couple of years now, and some duties come packaged with that, too.
Aaron Leming: Josh McDaniels is my favorite candidate. Yes, some maturity questions must be answered between his time in Denver and leaving the Colts at the altar. That said, he has proven that he can get the best out of quarterbacks. He was said to be very high on Fields out of the 2021 Draft. He has also shown he can hire good coordinators (see: Matt Eberflus). In terms of evaluating him as a well-rounded coach that could build a good staff and get the most out of Fields, McDaniels has to be at the top of the Bears’ list.
Jack Silverstein: Again, as I wrote in 2017, I like Harold Goodwin, now assistant head coach of the Buccaneers, due to five factors:
- The breadth of his coaching experience (offensive line, running game, offensive coordinator, assistant head coach)
- His championship experience and the coaches he’s worked for (Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Chuck Pagano, Bruce Arians, with Super Bowl championships in 2008 and 2020 and a Super Bowl appearance in 2006)
- The quarterbacks he’s worked with (Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady)
- What people say about him
- The way he describes the head coaching position
I also like Dave Toub and Byron Leftwich, Eric Bieniemy, Jim Caldwell, Jim Harbaugh, and Todd Bowles.
Ken Mitchell: On the pro side, if the Bears go with an offensive mind, I would say Byron Leftwich while keeping Sean Desai as defensive coordinator and Chris Tabor as special teams coordinator.
If the Bears go defense, I think Bryan Flores is the top choice.
Jack R. Salo: Bill Belichick. You asked “ideal” instead of “ideal and realistic.”
But if you want one ideal and realistic person: Byron Leftwich.
Unlike some others whose success could be written off with an asterisk (pointing out a Hall of Fame quarterback), Leftwich actually coached the Tampa Bay offense to the third-most points per game in the NFL in 2019 — while Tom Brady was still in New England. The Buccaneers’ quarterback at the time? Jameis Winston, playing the part of Oprah with interceptions and still scoring points.