(MCT) — CHICAGO — Twenty-four hours after he fired Lovie Smith, Phil Emery made it meticulously clear the decision wasn’t reached simply after the Bears were eliminated from the playoff race Sunday night.
The general manager, whom President Ted Phillips required to work with Smith for at least one year when he was hired 11 months ago, outlined Tuesday what will be a thorough and wide search for the 13th head coach in franchise history. Four candidates have been identified — offensive coordinators Mike McCoy (Broncos) and Mike Sullivan (Buccaneers) and special teams coaches Keith Armstrong (Falcons) and Joe DeCamillis (Cowboys) — and interviews are scheduled through next week.
Ultimately, Emery said the decision to fire Smith, who had an 81-63 regular-season record in nine seasons, rested on his inability to reach the postseason. Emery presented his intention to the McCaskey family and they instructed him the decision was his. The Bears have made the playoffs just once in the last six years despite a stingy defense, done in by extended offensive ineptitude.
“We haven’t had the balance,” Emery said. “We have not had consistency on the offensive side of the ball. We have gone through a number of coordinators. We have searched for answers.”
So, that means if Emery does not hire a replacement with an offensive background, the coach will have to do a tremendous selling job when it comes to his offensive plan and potential staff to implement it. Smith never got that part right as he plowed through four coordinators.
The search will include coaches from all backgrounds, including those at the college level. Emery will conduct all initial interviews before two or three finalists meet with upper management at Halas Hall. There is no timetable for completion of the process that could have taken place last year if Phillips had cleaned house then.
“Absolutely not,” Emery said when asked if the move, likely complicated by financial circumstances, set him back. “I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Smith’s assistants remain under contract to the Bears and Emery suggested some could wind up returning. There is going to be a league-wide game of musical chairs with six other clubs looking to hire head coaches.
“It’s very important that that person either himself or staff wise has the right person to help Jay (Cutler) develop, but it’s also very important that they help everyone develop,” Emery said. “It’s really important to find the person who has the knowledge and feel to make things fit with the talent they have.
“That’s the mark of excellence I’m looking for. Somebody who has adapted to the role or has the flexibility and skill set to make the players we have fit toward making a run for the championship.”
Emery said he has not been given a budget to use for the coaching search, a process that also involves the Bears paying any coaches who depart. That figure alone could exceed $10 million, including the remaining year on Smith’s deal.
Emery made it clear he will retain the full control he was given when he was hired of the 53-man roster, calling it a necessary part of “checks and balances.” He is seeking someone with a positive personality who will inspire those around him.
“I want somebody to have some warmth that pulls everybody together ... to work toward our common goal,” Emery said. “Upbeat and positive. Everybody has a different personality. Everybody represents themselves in a different way, but those qualities are paramount. We all want to work together in a position environment toward winning championships.
“I want somebody who’s good on his feet. Working with the media, not only in Chicago but in a national sense is very important. I want this person to stand up and represent us well. It’s a very tough job. It’s very demanding. Wins and losses weigh heavily week to week.
“There needs to be a level of consistency in this individual in how he presents himself, not only when we’re up but when we’re down and how we’re going to rebound from being down.
“It’s an open process. I want to talk to these individuals, listen to them, listen to their thoughts about how they can lead the Chicago Bears toward excellence.”