|Bears general manager Phil Emery has specific elements he's looking for in a new coach. (US Presswire)|
From all indications, general manager Phil Emery plans to bring in head coaching candidates who realize the talent currently on the roster and adjust their own offense or defense to fit it rather than gut the entire locker room for a reboot.
Or as team board chairman George McCaskey put it succinctly, "Building, not rebuilding."
The Bears' use of a 4-3 defense with one-gap assignments as opposed to a 3-4 with bigger linemen and two-gap assignments is not something likely to change.
"I think it’s really important to find the person that has the knowledge and feel to make things fit with the talent that they have," Emery said. "That’s the mark of excellence that I’m looking for."
Emery pointed out he came from a Chiefs team that had a 3-4 with two-gap responsibilities up front rather than the single gap, smaller, quicker defensive front the Bears.
"We have 4-3 personnel," he said. "For somebody to move from 43 to 34, they’re going to have to convince me that we have the players with the skill sets and the body types to move toward that defense and having that experience on a true 34 team."
The Packers run a 3-4 with traditional big defensive linemen, as Kansas City did when Emery was in the organization. Emery is skeptical that such an approach could be effective with the Bears.
"We don't have those people, so they're (coaching candidates) going to have to convince me that that's the direction we want to spend additional time and resources constructing our defensive talent base to fit a brand new system."
Whether this means some free agents will be back with the defense remains to be seen, however. LB Brian Urlacher is a free agent. He will be 35 next year, and he's coming off a hamstring pull that took him out of four games and also has a problem knee, so there's no guarantee he can play in Chicago again.
Urlacher said Monday he wants to keep playing. Emery was non-committal and has seen both positive and negative in the veteran's play.
"Coming back from the (knee) injury, there was a time where he looked a little rusty, and I think he admitted that himself in public," Emery said. "There was a time that he got better, that he got his feet back under him, certainly he showed like in the Seattle game that he still has a burst. He chased Russell Wilson up the sideline. He was the only one to get to him. Certainly, he has shown that he has a burst in the center of the field.
"In our Tampa-2 system, he had to turn and get deep. Now from my own eyes, I never saw that to be an issue with Brian in terms of this year -- him being able to do that. There are times because of the injury that he had that early in the situation, his ability to stop, re-gather himself and redirect laterally was not there, but it did get there as the season progressed, and just about as he was able to turn the corner he had the injury that ended his season.
"So, did he make progress? Yes, he did. The things that are very difficult to replace -- and would be to replace if we were to move in any other direction -- is the leadership that he has and the knowledge base that he has of our system."
Offensively, it's not likely QB Jay Cutler will find himself in another situation like he did in Denver. He'll still be wanted by whatever coaching candidate comes to Chicago. Cutler felt he wasn't wanted by Broncos coach Josh McDaniels and demanded a trade in 2009.
"I’ll say the same thing that I said this summer: I see Jay as a franchise quarterback," Emery said. "We’ve got to build around him, that’s been the goal from the beginning, to build around Jay and to build our team toward championships."
In fact, McCaskey said Cutler was the best Bears quarterback in over 60 years and said Cutler reminds him of a young "George Halas," his grandfather, in terms of his gutsy style of play.
It will be Cutler's fourth offensive system in Chicago. Virtually his entire career has been spent changing from one offense to another. Regardless, it's going to have to happen again because a new coach is going to bring a new offense.
"Well, it would be a concern for any of our offensive players, not just Jay," Emery said. "Jay’s a very intelligent guy. I don’t see him as somebody who’s inflexible or not unwilling to adapt. I think that Jay wants to get better in all aspects and be a top level quarterback, so no, I’m not concerned. I’m concerned again about that head coach and who he’s going to bring and whether they can adapt Jay’s talents towards winning."
Follow Bears reporter Gene Chamberlain on Twitter @CBSBears.