Rumors have persisted now for a few weeks that the Chicago Bears continue researching possible head coach candidates for 2022. The belief is growing that Matt Nagy won’t return barring an unexpected turnaround from the team’s 3-6 record this season. Thus speculation remains rampant on who George McCaskey and his inner circle may end up targeting. There are plenty of names out there.
The obvious focus is on top NFL possibilities like Kellen Moore, Brian Daboll, and Todd Bowles among many others. However, a source indicated to me that the Bears’ search has focused a surprising amount of time on the college ranks. The term used was “zoned in.” Some possible names involved? Jim Harbaugh of Michigan is an obvious one given his previous NFL experience and connection to Chicago. Matt Campbell of Iowa State remains popular in pro circles as well. Yet one fascinating name the source mentioned?
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley.
This is a name that has gotten lots of attention in the past few years. Riley is considered one of the top young offensive minds in football, college or pro. His ability to cater to the strengths of his quarterbacks is a big reason the likes of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray became #1 overall picks. Since he took over in 2017, the Sooners have ranked 1st, 6th, 6th, and 8th in total offense.
So why are the Bears interested? The recent success of college coaches coming to the NFL is part of it. Matt Rhule has his Carolina Panthers squarely in the playoff hunt despite quarterback issues. The bigger selling point though is Kliff Kingsbury. Many thought his hiring was a mistake back in 2019. Now his Arizona Cardinals are 8-2 and hurtling towards the playoffs despite playing in a brutal division. Riley has many similar traits as Kingsbury did coming out of Texas Tech.
Chicago Bears face a challenge in luring guys like Riley
While the head coach is connected to rumors about the LSU opening, most feel he won’t take it. A big reason why is he has a cushy job at Oklahoma. However, it is speculated the right opening in the NFL could lure him. Perhaps one that has a quarterback in place. There is also the money. Riley makes over $7 million per year with the Sooners. Would the Bears be willing to pay that or more in order to get him?
Maybe they are. Either way, the indication remains unchanged and the Chicago Bears’ intent remains the same. They are seeking a head coach with prior experience. There are plenty to find in the college ranks. So this approach would make sense. It comes down to whether they can find somebody they want, be it Riley or another notable name. With two months still to go, the parameters of the search can always shift.
That is how the process goes.
This would certainly be a departure for the Bears. Of the 11 head coaches they’ve hired in the Super Bowl era, none of them have come from the college ranks. The only notable non-NFL move was bringing Marc Trestman from the CFL. So hiring Nagy’s replacement from that pool would be uncharted territory for this organization.