Bears Insider

Bears' offensive coordinator search provides answers, questions about path forward

The Bears' OC search is heating up, and the early candidates tell us a lot about where they want the offense to go

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General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus sat in the Halas Hall press conference room last Wednesday and outlined their vision for the Bears' next offensive coordinator. The person who will eventually succeed the fired Luke Getsy will be a "great teacher," "adaptable," able to "create explosives," and "innovative."

The Bears' power brokers have spent the week since Getsy's firing interviewing potential candidates for what they believe is a coveted offensive coordinator job. Poles and Eberflus believe that the Bears' uncertainty at quarterback going forward, with Justin Fields on the roster and the No. 1 pick in their back pocket, will only help them find the best candidate.

To this point, the Bears have cast a wide net in their search for the right offensive coordinator.

The search began with the Bears interviewing Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.

Waldron has worked with both Russell Wilson and Geno Smith during his time in Seattle. Waldron got a lot of praise for his work with Smith during the quarterback's resurgent 2022 season, which saw him win Comeback Player of the Year.

In three seasons in Seattle, Waldron's offense ranked 12th in EPA per play, 13th in success rate, eighth in EPA per rush, and ninth in EPA per dropback. The Seahawks' offense ranked fifth in yards per play, fifth in explosive run percentage, and ninth in explosive pass play rate.

Waldron's units have been good in converting first downs into a new series (2nd in the NFL) but struggled in the red zone (51.5 percent touchdown rate) and on third down (38.5 percent conversation rate).

The Bears followed up the Waldron interview by interviewing San Francisco 49ers passing game coordinator Klint Kubiak, Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen, and Seahawks quarterbacks coach Greg Olson.

Kubiak previously called plays as the offensive coordinator for the 2021 Minnesota Vikings. He also took over as the offensive play-caller midway through the 2022 season for the Denver Broncos.

Kubiak's 2021 Vikings offense ranked first in plays of 15 or more yards, sixth in plays of 25 or more, seventh in plays of 40-plus yards, ninth in red zone touchdown percentage, 11th in passing, 12th in yards, and 14th in scoring.

When Kubiak took over as play-caller for the Broncos, they went from averaging a league-worst 13.8 points per game to 24.2 (in Weeks 14-18), which ranked 11th.

Kubiak, 36, is seen as a rising star in the coaching ranks. He is given a lot of credit for Brock Purdy's Year 2 rise with the 49ers this season.

The first four candidates all have experience in the Shanahan/McVay tree.

Waldron worked under Sean McVay as the Rams' tight ends coach in 2017 before becoming LA's pass game coordinator in 2018. Coen was the Rams' offensive coordinator in 2022, while Olson was the quarterbacks coach under McVay in 2017.

Kubiak's father, Gary Kubiak, has deep ties to Mike Shanahan and the Shanahan offense. Kubiak worked under his father with the Vikings and now works under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco.

Eberflus hired Getsy because he viewed the Green Bay Packers offense -- an offshoot of the Shanahan tree -- as the most difficult offense to prepare for as a defensive coordinator. Poles constructed his offensive roster -- namely the offensive line -- to fit the needs of the wide-zone attack that is prevalent in the Shanahan system.

Getsy's offensive attack strayed from the Shanahan foundation and lacked identity, creativity, and a clear plan in two seasons in Chicago.

It's clear the Bears would like to get back to a scheme that fits their personnel and is part of the "it" scheme in the modern NFL.

The Bears want someone whose scheme fits the foundational tenets of the Shanahan scheme: An offensive that is designed to stretch the field horizontally with the run game to open up windows in the passing game, uses heavy pre-snap motion, focuses on getting the ball to playmakers in space to increase YAC, and can mirror everything to look the same to create advantages in the play-action game.

McVay and Shanahan have evolved their offenses from their time together in Washington. Matt LaFleur put his own spin on it in Green Bay, and Mike McDaniel has done the same in Miami, as has Zac Taylor in Cincinnati.

These coaches all started in the same system but have adapted to fit their personnel and to combat modern defenses' (Vic Fangio) counter to their attack.

Eberflus wanted his offense to be an offshoot from that tree, but Getsy didn't deliver on the goods. It appears the Bears want to go back to the well but find someone who can.

However, the Bears' latest interview is a wrench in that clean narrative.

FOX Sports' Peter Schrager reported Monday that the Bears have interviewed former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman for the position.

Roman is best known for his work maximizing the gifts of athletic quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Colin Kaepernick. Roman is one of the best run-game tacticians in the NFL, but he has never shown an ability to evolve the passing part of his scheme, which is why the Ravens moved on from him in favor of Todd Monken after the 2022 season.

The Bears' decision to interview Roman feels like it falls in the "information-gathering" bucket. Teams will often interview candidates far down their list to collect ideas to improve their attack.

Roman would have been a good fit with the Bears as either an offensive coordinator or senior offensive analyst during the first three years of Justin Fields' career. Roman could have evolved the Bears' quarterback run game in a way that Getsy could not.

But the time for that is over.

The Bears likely will move on from Fields this offseason, and Roman's one-dimensional scheme doesn't feel like a natural fit with either Caleb Williams or Drake Maye. Even if they stick with Fields, the Bears need to find an offensive coordinator who can help Fields continue to improve as an NFL passer and a scheme that puts him in the best place to succeed as a quarterback, not just a runner.

Perhaps the Bears could offer Roman a run-game coordinator position, but this feels like more of a fact-finding interview to find ways to add more tools to the arsenal for the eventual offensive coordinator.

Don't expect the Bears' hire to tip their hand about their plans at quarterback.

Poles plans to take his decision up to April, and it's clear the Bears are prioritizing a quarterback-friendly scheme that is adaptable based on the signal-caller's skill set if implemented correctly.

Waldron and Kubiak would appear to be the leaders in the clubhouse. Both would be seen as impressive hires and have the arrow trending up for the Bears' offense.

That Poles and Eberflus followed that by interviewing Coen and Olson is reason for pause. Coen doesn't have the NFL play-calling experience, and Olson's track record as an offensive coordinator is hit-and-miss. Both have experience in the seemingly preferred system, but both have warts that can't be overlooked.

There are plenty of offensive minds who are well-versed in the Shanahan system and have their own tweaks to it. It's a deadly system that can be a big aid to a young quarterback. The Bears are right to focus on the tree that has so many deadly branches shooting off it.

But the challenge will be finding the right Shanahan or McVay disciple, as the Houston Texans did with Bobby Slowik, and not repeating the mistake they made with Getsy.

Because if they whiff again, it could spoil their best chance to break out of the cycle of quarterback hell and franchise mediocrity they have found themselves in for the past 31 years.

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