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Self-Evident Truths from Playoffs and Interviews

Analysis: The playoffs have shown the Bears a path forward, whether it involves style of play or style of coach they should hire, but in typical fashion they're staring off into space.

The cheese had just begun to harden and grow moldy in Green Bay when celebrating Bears fans had to realize something.

Just because the Packers lost to San Francisco and Aaron Rodgers had to take his arrogance home for the season doesn't mean anything has really changed.

There have been some hard lessons for the Bears in these playoffs so far and here are the most noteworthy as this all-out manhunt continues for a coach and general manager.

The main lessons revolve around how this painstaking search is requiring far too much time and it's possible this comes back to bite the team. It's also possible it's going to produce the wrong results because they're talking to the wrong people. 


Here are self-evident truths for the Bears resulting from the playoffs and from their search.

1. Protect Their Own

The new head coach might not want Sean Desai as his defensive coordinator so it's understandable they haven't signed him on for the future. But special teams coordinator Chris Tabor did an excellent job the last two years in putting his groups in the top 10 in the league overall through turbulence like losing an all-time great kick returner, one of the league's best punt returners and both his gunners on punt coverage. There is a team in Green Bay that will be looking for a special teams coordinator after they lost in the playoffs largely due to the worst special teams in the NFL. The Bears should simply give Tabor a long-term contract extension regardless of who the head coach is to prevent some other team from signing him, like possibly Green Bay. "Save Tabes" should be the battle cry in Lake Forest.

2. Importance of Defense, Running

The two playoff slugfests on Saturday, a 13-10 49ers win and a 19-16 Bengals win, showed defense and running the ball can still matter. What really matters is being physical. The losing teams in the first eight playoff games have averaged 15.7 points a game. All you need on average to win a playoff game then, is 15.76 points a game. The winning team in seven of the first eight playoff games had more rushing attempts. The NFL talks all it wants about scoring and passing. Defense and rushing still win postseason games and the Bears need to remember what is their great strength before gutting it all in order to go off in pursuit of a 35-point-a-game passing offense. 

In 2021 the NFL saw the greatest decline in scoring average since the 1977 season. Average scoring dropped by 1.8 points per team. You can bet the owners will start changing rules again to benefit offenses and make it harder for enjoyable games like Saturday's playoff contests to happen. Make no mistake: Defenses will adjust again and get on top of it. The Bears need to keep their defensive edge, make it even better and find a coach who understands both the roles of offense and defense. They've just gone through four years with a coach who understood only the importance of passing, or at least said he understood it.

3. Secondary is Primary

The importance of good pass defense has been obvious through these playoff games. A need exists for the Bears to complement their pass rush with coverage. It has to be obvious at this point and must be a point of emphasis in the draft and free agency. 

Sure, they lack any wide receivers, but finding competent cornerbacks has to be the primary goal. Their ability to rush the passer was obvious with 49 sacks, fourth most in the NFL. However, the Bears finished dead last in the NFL in passer rating against. Teams had a 103.3 passer rating against them. This shouldn't even be possible when your pass rush produces as many sacks as theirs did. 

In 2018, the Bears' No. 1 scoring defense led the NFL with a 72.9 passer rating against, and they led by a wide margin. This all just shows how poor of a job Ryan Pace did in finding cornerbacks last offseason when Kyle Fuller was cut. There were obvious spots for passers to attack them, and they did. That defense can be far better at crunch time with a competent starting left cornerback, a slot cornerback who knows what he's doing, and possibly one or even two quality safeties. Eddie Jackson has done nothing since getting his big pay raise and Tashaun Gipson is approaching his mid 30s.

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The Bears have only 11 known coaching candidates, after considering several more than that for GM. They focused too much for coach on people with past ties to Polian or Polian's past organizations, like Leslie Frazier, Matt Eberflus, Jim Caldwell or even Brian Daboll and Nathaniel Hackett, although both Hackett and Daboll could actually be decent selections.

The playoffs have shown they definitely needed to consider people with ties to that Washington coaching staff of early last decade with Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur and Sean McVay on it. Zac Taylor is a McVay disciple, and look at what he has done with the Bengals. He's in the final four. Just look at the coaches making up the final four.

Current McVay offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell has been requested for interviews or done interviews with the Vikings, Broncos and Texans. He had no sniff from the Bears. 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel is responsible for their brilliant running game and should have been included in interviews.  

The only coach on their interview list with exposure to that style of offense or the Shanahan tree is Nathaniel Hackett, the Packers offensive coordinator. Because of this he needs to be one of the finalists. Then again, he also coached for Polian's old team in Buffalo. It seems there is too much cronyism in this hunt for a coach and not enough of an attempt to bring in many different types of candidates but then find the best coach. 

At first there was so much promise with Polian doing the hiring but this was only because it lessened the impact of George McCaskey and Ted Phillips on the hiring process. 

The Bears needed a fresh approach. Instead, they're looking in the past. 

With Polian running this, they're ignoring what will work in the present and the future NFL.

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