Nobody truly knows precisely what Bears general manager Phil Emery thinks after interviewing 13 known coaching candidates, not even Jimmy Johnson.
Nobody expects Emery to go all Jodie Foster on us anytime soon and reveal his innermost thoughts by rambling publicly in front of a microphone now that he has narrowed the field of candidates to at least three men. In alphabetical order only, they are Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman. (That's Marc with a C, as in CFL).
By now, everybody realizes it would be easier for Emery to read a crossword puzzle without his signature black horn-rimmed glasses than for us to read his intentions — obfuscation by the Bears design. So good luck deciphering the clues.
But as Chicago carefully tiptoes around an impressively thorough job search two weeks after Emery fired Lovie Smith and qualifies every conversation by saying the unknowns outweigh the knowns, we finally can surmise certain things about the next Bears head coach.
He will understand how to coach quarterbacks and attack defenses the way eight legitimate playoff teams averaging 34 points per game over the weekend reminded us what the Bears offense lacks: explosiveness and imagination.
He will have special qualities but not necessarily have coached special teams or defense on his previous team. He will not be Mike Singletary.
He will believe in developing players and building through the draft, a philosophy playoff rosters also reinforced. He will have connected with Emery well enough for the GM to project that leadership impacting players and influencing fans and media. He will represent sweeping change the Bears needed, especially on offense.
By notifying coaches Monday who didn't get the job, Emery efficiently stayed on pace to name Smith's replacement before the first college football all-star game Saturday. If the Bears are lucky, Arians will be the coach Emery stands "shoulder to shoulder with," scouting that game.
Nothing against the potential impact of offensive wizards Bevell or Trestman, but of all the Bears known candidates, Arians always has required the shortest leap of faith. The ending of the most meticulous of processes for Emery always has seemed simple: How could any GM improve upon introducing the likely NFL Coach of the Year? Nothing says automatic upgrade like a coach feted for having a better season than Bill Belichick and Jim Harbaugh.
A past that includes mentoring Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck bodes well for anybody enlisted to fix Jay Cutler's mechanics and mentality. A jewelry collection that includes two Super Bowl rings as a Steelers assistant suggests Arians understands how to beat playoff-caliber defenses with big plays and balance.
After Tuesday's scheduled interview with the Bears, perhaps the next phone call Arians gets will be as pivotal as the one he received around 11 p.m. Sept. 30 from Chuck Pagano. The Colts head coach called to tell Arians he had leukemia and would miss most of the season.
By 8 o'clock the next morning inside a Colts meeting room, Arians stood in front of an emotionally frayed 1-2 team as its interim head coach. Around Indianapolis, interim always will be synonymous with inspiring thanks to Arians.
Arians immediately made a suggestion that was his first of many bright ideas. He suggested Colts owner Jim Irsay leave the light on in Pagano's office 24/7 in his absence to symbolize his all-out fight against the disease.
Colts players knew Arians had a sense of humor — the training-camp practice he wore knee-high black socks and black shoes to grieve defensive backs his wide receivers "killed" in a drill drew laughs. But they quickly saw a side of Arians that endeared them even more to the 60-year-old coaching lifer. They observed the heart of a head coach disguised as an assistant all these years, a guy ready for his next challenge.
One league source still predicted that would come in San Diego, where the Chargers just hired former Colts executive Tom Telesco as GM and reportedly plan to interview Arians on Wednesday. But don't count out the Bears, who can sell the NFL's second-largest market and a playoff-ready defense.
Until Arians starts shopping for sunscreen, Emery still has a chance to hire the most qualified man for the job.