Under NFL rules, teams are required to indicate which candidates they hope to interview for head coaching or GM positions. Not to mention the fact that the agents of those men would love for it to be public as well. Yet as this has happened, it is rather surprising that the Chicago Bears haven’t been connected to any college coaches. A big part of why is because the NCAA has no such rules. So guys are free to keep quiet about it.
To that end, the answer is yes. The Bears have been vetting notable names within the college ranks for their head coaching position. According to a source, some names sniffing around the job include Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day. No surprise there. Also involved are Matt Campbell of Iowa State, Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern, and David Shaw of Stanford. None of these should be considered a big surprise.
Starting with the first two.
Harbaugh has been connected to the Bears dating back to last year when rumors first surfaced that Matt Nagy might be fired. After an ugly 2-4 season at Michigan, the head coach was considering an exit door and quietly reached out to the organization about the job. In the end, George McCaskey opted to stick with Nagy. Harbaugh took a pay cut to stay with the Wolverines and is now coming off the best coaching season of his career. A 12-2 record and Big Ten championship.
Day is another unsurprising name. He’s had massive success at Ohio State and is the man that helped turn Justin Fields into a superstar for the Buckeyes in 2019 and 2020. Reuniting them makes plenty of sense. Campbell has done a phenomenal job elevating the Cyclones program into one of the best in the Big 12. Fitzgerald is a Chicago-area native and Bears fan. His work at Northwestern is some of the best in college football including four straight bowl victories and a top 10 ranking in 2020.
As for Shaw, NFL teams have tried prying him from Stanford for years. He holds a 93-45 record there with two Rose Bowl victories despite severe recruiting limitations. However, two losing seasons in the past three years has many wondering if he is ready to move on.
Chicago Bears would make history if they went this direction
In their century-long run as an NFL franchise, they have never hired a head coach directly out of the college ranks. Maybe that changes this year. Those five names certainly have garnered a lot of interest from pro teams. The tricky part is power. College coaches are used to having full control of their program. That includes roster construction. History shows that they tend to want the same thing in the NFL. Pete Carroll did in Seattle. Chip Kelly did in Philadelphia. Now Matt Rhule does in Carolina.
This might end up being a sticking point for the Chicago Bears. Since taking over as owners in 1983, the McCaskeys have granted that sort of power to the head coach only one. It was with Dave Wannstedt in 1993. He held that power for just one year before it was stripped. This ownership has long preferred the GM to have the final say over the roster. So it may come down to if any of the names listed above are willing to make that concession.
With Harbaugh and Day, that seems unlikely.
Then again there is no telling how these guys really feel. If they are truly intrigued by the Bears job, it might be a sacrifice they’re willing to make. Provided of course they’d be working with a GM they trust. All things considered, don’t place any bets on one of these coaches getting the job. It isn’t how the Bears have operated. Signs point to them targeting coaches with extensive NFL experience. Harbaugh is the only one that fits that criteria and he is far from a lock to leave.