It may have taken the full season, but fans in the Windy City and beyond got their wish as the McCaskey family finally pulled the trigger and let go of head coach Matt Nagy (along with general manager Ryan Pace) after yet another middling campaign leading the Chicago Bears. The good news for the franchise is that this is far from a complete rebuild as the new brain trust will look for replacements after two playoff appearances in the last four seasons and inherits a quarterback of the future in Justin Fields.
Where do the Bears go from here though? There’s a wealth of options the team will consider as they embark on a bit of an organizational revamp designed to turn around the fortunes of the historic franchise that is searching for somebody to give the team a bit of a spark. Here are a few candidates who should be on the Bears' list.
Dan Quinn, Cowboys defensive coordinator
Few assistants have made an impact quite like "DQ" has on the Cowboys, helping spark an incredible defensive turnaround that has resulted in a division title and trip to the playoffs in Big D. His past head coaching experience, while not the kind of ending he or Atlanta wanted, still should be viewed as a positive and will likely count a lot when it comes to getting the team turned around quickly. Not to be overlooked is just how quickly Quinn could get buy-in from the locker room and fan base with his high-energy style.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator
Daboll has played a massive role in back-to-back division titles for Buffalo and, just as importantly for the Bears and their young QB, done a masterful job molding the physical talents of Josh Allen into a quarter-billion-dollar signal-caller. He’s won titles with both Nick Saban and Bill Belichick and his blue-collar background would probably fit in well with Chicago’s mentality.
Leslie Frazier, Bills defensive coordinator
Frazier is likely to appeal to the franchise brass for both his on-field work the past several years in Buffalo and his connection to the city as part of that historic run in 1985. It always felt like he had unfinished business with the franchise and this is one way to address that, especially if he's interested in the job. The overall head coaching record with the rival Vikings wasn’t great (21-32-1) but Frazier is far enough removed from that to where it shouldn’t be a huge red flag.
Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers offensive coordinator
Getting a Tom Brady and Bruce Arians seal of approval is a good thing to have when you’re the hot candidate coming up for a number of searches. Leftwich's age and status as a former first-rounder are bound to also work in his favor after so many grey-haired hires in recent years by the Bears. It’s a bit of a risk given inexperience but the upside in finding somebody to link up with your franchise QB for the next decade might be too hard to ignore.
Todd Bowles, Buccaneers defensive coordinator
The soft-spoken Bowles has won it all in the league in various different positions and even his Jets tenure looks much better in retrospect knowing what that organization has done. He earns rave reviews for the way he connects with players and the defenses he’s put together would play well with the Bears' personnel and fan base.
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
McDaniels’ success with the Pats over the years combined with turning Mac Jones into a rookie of the year candidate could be of plenty of interest to a number of teams like Chicago. He’s grown from the young coach that flamed out in Denver and has indicated he could be open to the right landing spot outside New England.
Former Head Coaches
Brian Flores, former Dolphins head coach
Flores’ early exit out of South Beach could allow for a trip north, especially if he’s in sync with a GM hire. He won a lot of games he wasn’t supposed to in Miami and is responsible for a winning streak this season the Bears would love to have on their books sometime soon. He would bring a bit of an edge to the top position too that the franchise has lacked since the days of Ditka.
Bill O’Brien, former Texans head coach
As long as O’Brien comes in with an experienced GM in tow and doesn’t occupy that gig himself, there are plenty of boxes that his resume ticks off. His development of QBs over the years is certainly notable with Fields’ underlying toolset but he’s also done a great job this season at the college level with Alabama too. Fans may not like it because of the way things ended in Houston but there are few better veteran options available.
Doug Pederson, former Eagles head coach
Let’s see, a head coach is available that won a Lombardi with a team that hadn’t experienced Super Bowl success in many years, is an offensive mind, and works well with young QBs and when Nick Foles is on the roster? Seems like a fit.
Ryan Day, Ohio State head coach
Yes, Day made magic with Fields in Columbus and is certainly somebody the franchise QB will heartedly endorse. But spend some time around the Buckeyes coach and you’ll walk away thinking he’d kill it at the next level too. He’s one of the best play-callers at any level of football but it will take a lot to lure him from one of the best jobs around.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
Harbaugh’s interest in returning to the NFL has been noted the past few weeks and where better to make the move to than with the franchise that drafted him in the first round way back in 1987. While he made his mark more with the Colts, he still has some fond memories in the Windy City and certainly knows how to develop Fields after seeing what the young signal-caller can do up close and personal. Patient ownership that doesn’t meddle, a hefty payday, and the ability to pick his own GM could make this a quick and easy move across the Midwest.
Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach
If the McCaskeys wanted to go a bit outside of the normal route and truly double down on rebuilding the culture around Halas Hall, Campbell would be an excellent call. He’s won at pretty much every level but the pros and has transitioned seamlessly from DIII all the way to the Big 12. He would need some NFL experience around him but in terms of getting everybody on the same page and getting the most out of a roster, there wouldn’t be many better to take a chance on.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.