Bears offense neglected for far too long

Emery's mission clear: Find coach who knows offense, can get most out of Cutler

Bears GM Phil Emery discusses why he fired Lovie Smith and the search for a new head coach.

There is no need for Phil Emery to be locked into hiring a head coach with an offensive background.

But there is an overwhelming need for him to be locked into hiring someone who has foolproof answers on how to fix the offense.

And that probably means the Bears should hire an offensive guy.

Emery has a clear vision of what he is looking for, and he knows what he's doing. The Bears general manager has made excellence priority No. 1 in a head coaching hire.

He won't settle for an offensive mind who might not be as strong a leader or administrator. And he shouldn't. But he should exhaust all offensive options in the head coaching search.

This coaching change really is all about offense, and the Bears' offensive problems are beyond chronic.

They are institutional.

One reason for that is offense rarely has been prioritized by this organization. That was all well and good 30 years ago, but it doesn't work anymore. Offense is king, and if you aren't bowing at its throne, you will be feeling its wrath.

Since assistant coaches have had specialties, the Bears have hired one head coach with a true offensive background — Abe Gibron 41 years ago. And good old Abe was to the modern offense what a blunt club is to the smart bomb.

When Mike Ditka came to the Bears in 1982, he mostly had been a special teams coach. And the majority of Jim Dooley's assisting experience when he became head coach in 1968 was on defense.

All of the other Bears head coaches — Jack Pardee, Neill Armstrong, Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron and Smith — were defensive specialists.

The Bears are not unlike a lot of teams though. More than half of the head coaches in the NFL this season had defensive backgrounds.

That's because good offensive minds are like deep blue diamonds. There aren't enough of them to go around, so we settle for what we can get.

Mike McCoy of the Broncos looks like he could be in the pole position to replace Lovie Smith, and he should be, given his work with the Broncos offense. Tom Clements, holder of the Packers' secrets, also should be highly regarded.

Other offensive minds are worth talking to as well, such as Bruce Arians, Jim Caldwell, Troy Calhoun, Jay Gruden, Mike Holmgren, Dirk Koetter, Doug Marrone, Bill O'Brien, Greg Roman, Kyle Shanahan and Ken Whisenhunt.

Emery has interviews set up with at least two special teams coaches that we know of. He probably will be talking with defensive coordinators too.

His first question for those candidates should be: Who is your offensive coordinator going to be?

If the answer is a young offensive coordinator who could get a head coaching job if he has success, that candidate can't be valued as highly as someone who would have a longer-lasting offensive solution.

If a candidate without an offensive background were to guarantee he could bring along someone like Norv Turner or Chan Gailey as his offensive coordinator, he would be worth listening to. Turner and Gailey have had offensive success and are not likely to become head coaches again.

It's a lot easier for an offense-minded head coach to take care of the defense than it is for a defense-minded head coach to take care of the offense. Why is that?

It's more difficult to coach offense. It's especially difficult if you don't have Peyton Manning or Aaron Rodgers.

The Bears have Jay Cutler. And they sure sounded committed to him Tuesday.

"I see Jay as a franchise quarterback," Emery said. "We've got to build around him, that's been the goal from the beginning, to build around Jay and to build our team toward championships."

Chairman George McCaskey took it a step further, calling Cutler the most talented quarterback the Bears have had in 60 years and comparing his "outstanding" leadership skills to George Halas' leadership skills as a player.

But this season Cutler's play and demeanor often did not match those descriptions.

Cutler won't be able to live up to his billing and take the Bears further than they ever got with Smith unless he has a coach who can bring something out of him that no one else has been able to.

The Bears offense was the reason Emery was standing behind a lectern for close to an hour Tuesday.

If the Bears don't find a coach who can take care of that offense, Emery — or another general manager — will be standing behind a lectern again in the not-too-distant future.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei

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