The Chicago Bears surprised no one when they fired head coach Matt Nagy after four seasons, as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. This move is a formality weeks, and perhaps months, in the making. The Bears allowed Nagy to finish the season even after a 4-10 start, but have been thinking about his replacement for some time. Here are three of the many potential candidates we expect the Bears to consider as they begin searching for their 17th head coach, and fifth since 2012.
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Matt Nagy fired in Chicago
Nagy is gone largely because his offense was among the league’s worst in each of his last three years as Bears head coach. Nagy did make the playoffs in two of his first three seasons in Chicago, but that was largely on the backs of a defense that even this year ranked in the top 10.
Three Bears head coach replacements
The Bears’ head coach candidates will be expected to: 1) Develop rookie quarterback Justin Fields into the franchise’s cornerstone piece, and 2) Lead Chicago to its first playoff victory since 2010.
So, it stands to reason that the candidates who will get the greatest consideration will have a proven track record doing both. These are three of the most credible names expected to be available who could accomplish both of these objectives.
Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, Michigan
Jim Harbaugh is one of the best coaches alive. He’s on a very short list of men who have won big in both college and the NFL. And the success of the Wolverines in 2021 — their first Big Ten title since 2004 and their first CFP appearance ever — has rehabilitated a reputation that had taken a hit in recent years.
But Harbaugh is not so subtly sending out signals that he’s unhappy with Michigan administrators after they strong-armed him into taking a pay cut last winter. The Athletic reported last week that Harbaugh was open to a return to the NFL. Was that posturing or something real?
Assuming it’s the latter, the Bears should absolutely kick the tires. Harbaugh went 44-19-1 in four seasons as coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 2011-2014 and developed Colin Kaepernick into a conference-champion quarterback. Plus, Harbaugh is a Midwest guy at heart — fewer than four hours separate Chicago and Ann Arbor.
Ryan Day, Head Coach, Ohio State
If not Harbaugh, how about his most bitter rival? Ryan Day has been seemingly linked to the Bears’ opening since the start of the college football season.
The whispers grew so loud that Day had to address them in mid-December. When asked directly about a CBSSports.com report that Day had been open to considering an NFL gig, he responded: “There’s nothing to that. There’s no truth to it. I love Ohio State, and I love being the coach at Ohio State.”
Of course, that’s the only thing he could say. The question came during his signing-day news conference, and it would have been a terrible look if Day gave the impression he had one foot out the door on the same day a bunch of the nation’s top recruits formally committed to attend Ohio State.
But a huge contract offer, the opportunity to reunite with Fields, and the prestige of coaching one of the league’s flagship franchises might be enough to change his mind.
Josh McDaniels, Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots
Is this the year Josh McDaniels finally leaves New England? Or is his plan to wait out Bill Belichick — assuming he ever retires?
McDaniels’ stock probably will never be higher. The work McDaniels has done with Mac Jones — Fields’ 2021 NFL Draft classmate — has been marvelous. And unlike Day, he has NFL head coaching experience.
Granted, that might be a double-edged sword. His time in Denver was — ahem, rocky — but there’s reason to believe that with age has come wisdom. Our advice to Bears management? If McDaniels is your guy, get something in writing ASAP. Just ask the Indianapolis Colts.