Adam Gase-watch will escalate as head-coaching jobs open next week

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With the extended clock for the 2015 season ticking inexorably toward “Black Monday” and its annual spate of coach firings, the efficacy of Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase as a head coach moves again to the forefront of what’s-next? discussions for the Bears and elsewhere.

The latest is Peter King’s “MMQB” and a piece by columnist Jenny Vrentas on why Gase will top head-coach wish lists for next offseason. If it’s all on Gase’s mind right now, he’s "not saying.”

“Right now, I’m focused on this week,” Gase said on Thursday. “I know that’s not the answer anybody wants. This is a big game for us. We feel like we’re headed in the right direction with what we’re trying to accomplish this year. We had a big win last week and we need to try to make it two in a row.”

But somehow the real underlying topic is a referendum on Jay Cutler.

[MORE: Bears open to long-term deal for Alshon Jeffery]

Because by his role in making over the turnover machine that the Bears’ quarterback has been too often in his career, Gase has become to some a made man in NFL circles. And Cutler has left no doubt about his belief that Gase would succeed at the next coaching level.

“You never know until you get into that role, but I’m sure he’d be similar to what he is as an OC,” Cutler said. “I think he’s going to be good. If he gets that shot, I’m excited for him.

“I think he deserves it. He’s done some really good things in this league and they speak for themselves, whether it’s Tim Tebow or Peyton [Manning] or myself or Kyle Orton. Whoever he’s worked with he’s found ways to manage the system and make them successful.”

As was posited here back when Gase was hired, 2015 projected to be the only season Cutler and Gase would be together. If the year and Cutler went superbly well, Gase would be gone. If the season and quarterback went badly, Cutler would be gone.

What has played out, however, is something in between. Cutler has had the best season of his career but the Bears haven’t won enough. Meaning: A GM has to decide whether he believes in the success of the Cutler Project, and then decide how much of that success traces to Gase.

And is that GM looking only at Gase’s work with Cutler or at the offense as an entity, which is more likely.

The offense is averaging 13 more yards per game than it was at this point last season. Rushing yards are predictably up, given Marc Trestman’s scant use of the run game.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Passing yardage is actually down nine yards per game. But that in fact may be the single best testimonial to Gase, given the nightmare his receiver group has been due to injuries, from Kevin White before training camp on through to Alshon Jeffery joining Martellus Bennett on IR. Last year the offense had massive production from Bennett, Matt Forte, Jeffery and Brandon Marshall – none of whom have come close to their outputs a year ago. Marshall did, but as a New York Jet.

But Gase ascending to a top field job isn’t a given. Gase interviewed last offseason with Atlanta, Buffalo, San Francisco and the Bears. He’ll be just 38 next March and it will take just the right organization and management to want Gase and for Gase to want them, since the job is open because the previous coach was fired for poor team performance. And does Gase want to uproot his family again to go somewhere like Cleveland or Jacksonville

Head-coaching vacancies already have occurred with firings in Miami and Philadelphia, with others to follow.

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