The old college try
Coordinator hunt has Bears looking outside the NFL
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.
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.