The old col­lege try

Co­or­di­na­tor hunt has Bears looking out­side the NFL

Chicago Sun-Times - - Sports - BY NEIL HAYES

MO­BILE, Ala. — The Bears aren’t lim­it­ing their search for an of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor to long­time NFL as­sis­tants and have be­gun re­search­ing sev­eral candidates with more ex­ten­sive col­lege coach­ing back­grounds.

Coach Lovie Smith plans to in­ter­view two more candidates for his va­cant of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor po­si­tion. One source said ur­gency is mount­ing to wrap up the search.

The Bears have re­ceived per­mis­sion to speak with Min­nesota Vik­ings quar­ter­backs coach Kevin Rogers, who is ex­pected to in­ter­view to­day at Halas Hall. Uni­ver­sity of Pittsburgh of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Frank Cignetti could be the next to in­ter­view, and New Orleans Saints tight ends coach Terry Malone also is on the Bears’ radar, sources said.

A per­ceived lack of job se­cu­rity con­tin­ues to be the big­gest rea­son why coaches have seemed re­luc­tant to come to Chicago, ac­cord­ing to two of­fen­sive as­sis­tants at­tend­ing the Se­nior Bowl. Jeremy Bates, Rob Chudzin­ski and Hue Jack­son have been candidates for the Bears job but have ei­ther de­clined to change teams or joined an­other.

Bears pres­i­dent Ted Phillips said ear­lier this month that sweep­ing changes could be made if the team doesn’t im­prove next sea­son. That means who­ever takes the job could be looking for a sim­i­lar po­si­tion at this time next year if an­other medi­ocre sea­son re­sults in a staffwide changes.

‘‘You’ve only got one year to get it right, and some­times it takes longer than that,’’ one long­time NFL as­sis­tant said.

What many per­ceived to be a tough 2010 sched­ule may also be mak­ing candidates wary. Be­sides play­ing the divi­sion-ri­val Vik­ings and Green Bay Pack­ers twice next sea­son, the Bears will also play the Philadel­phia Ea­gles, New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, New York Jets and Seat­tle Sea­hawks at home and the Dal­las Cow­boys, New York Giants, Mi­ami Dol­phins and Carolina Pan­thers on the road.

Rogers has been with the Vik­ings for four sea­sons. Be­fore that, he was pri­mar­ily a col­lege coach at Vir­ginia Tech, Notre Dame and Syra­cuse.

The Vik­ings went 10-6 in 2008 with Tar­varis Jack­son and Gus Frerotte at quar­ter­back, which re­flects well on Rogers, who also had a suc­cess­ful one-year part­ner- ship with Brett Favre this sea­son. In fact, Rogers’ in­flu­ence on Favre may be es­pe­cially at­trac­tive to the Bears be­cause Jay Cut­ler’s arm strength and style of play is of­ten com­pared to that of Favre.

Malone was a long­time as­sis­tant at Michi­gan and has play-call­ing ex­pe­ri­ence af­ter serv­ing as the Wolver­ines’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor from 2002 to ’05. He was a fi­nal­ist for the Broyles Award in 2003 af­ter Michi­gan set school records in ev­ery pass­ing cat­e­gory and tied for 12th in the na­tion in scor­ing of­fense (35.4 point per game).

Ac­cord­ing to NFL pol­icy, the Bears would not be al­lowed to in­ter­view Malone un­til af­ter the Su­per Bowl be­cause only candidates for head-coach­ing jobs are al­lowed to in­ter­view be­fore­hand, The Saints are ex­pected to al­low Malone to in­ter­view af­ter the Su­per Bowl, a source said.

The rules also could pre­vent the Bears from im­me­di­ately in­ter­view­ing Indianapol­is Colts as­sis­tant head coach/re­ceivers coach Clyde Chris­tensen, an­other can­di­date.

Cignetti, whose fa­ther had a long and suc­cess­ful ten­ure as coach at Divi­sion II In­di­ana Uni­ver­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, is also ex­pected to emerge as a can­di­date, sources said.

Cignetti is cred­ited with de­vel­op­ing quar­ter­back Bill Stull, who be­came the first quar­ter­back since Dan Marino in 1981 to lead the Pan­thers to 10 wins in a sea­son. Stull passed for 2,633 yards last sea­son while throw­ing 21 touch­down passes and eight in­ter­cep­tions.

Be­fore arriving in Pittsburgh, Cignetti was the of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor for a Cal­i­for­nia team that av­er­aged 33 points in 2008.

Al­though Cignetti has spent the bulk of his ca­reer at the col­lege level, he also has pro ex­pe­ri­ence. He served as the San Fran­cisco 49ers’ quar­ter­backs coach in 2007 and coached Jeff Blake and Aaron Brooks as the Saints’ quar­ter­backs coach in 2000-01.

DOUG PENSINGER~GETTY IM­AGES

Terry Malone Frank Cignetti Kevin Rogers, the quar­ter­backs coach of the Vik­ings, is ex­pected to in­ter­view to­day at Halas Hall for the Bears’ of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor po­si­tion. Rogers has been with the Vik­ings for four sea­sons.

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