Coming into the 2014-2015 NFL season, there were high expectations for the Chicago Bears. They had a dynamic offense with some of the biggest playmakers in the game, a head coach renowned for transforming quarterbacks, and a defense led by respected NFL veterans Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs, and Jared Allen. A (5-11) record was far from what anyone expected. A team of this caliber should have at least made the playoffs, but a five game losing streak to conclude the season crushed any of these hopes. So, as expected, the Chicago Bears were very busy this offseason.

The Bears did not waste any time. A mere day after the conclusion of the 2014-2015 NFL season, Bears General Manager Phil Emery, along with Head Coach Marc Trestman and his coaching staff, were shown the door. To fill the GM vacancy, the Bears hired Ryan Pace – making him the youngest GM in the NFL. Although Pace is only 37 years old, it is clear that he was ready to take on this position. Prior to his hiring, Pace was a defensive end and senior captain for the Eastern Illinois football team and following that, spent 14 years with the New Orleans Saints organization serving the last two years as the director of player personnel. His surprisingly extensive experience in the NFL and continued rise in rank gives great promise for the Bears’ future.

With a new General Manager guiding the Bears, it was now time to begin the search to replace the leading roles of the coaching staff, starting with the head coach. The search began with interviews with the early favorite to land the job, former Broncos and Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, and other interviews from Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase. Nevertheless, when the Denver Broncos and head coach John Fox surprisingly mutually agreed to part ways, it was clear who Pace saw as the best man for the job. On January 18th, the Chicago Bears formally introduced veteran NFL head coach Fox at Halas Hall as the 15th head coach in franchise history.

Fox (left) and Pace (right) welcome defensive tackle Pernell McPhee to the Bears.

An Offensive Approach

Adding on to the Bears’ good fortune, the Bears and Gase agreed to a 3-year-deal to once again serve under Fox as offensive coordinator. Together, Fox and Gase led the Broncos deep into the NFL playoffs in 2013-2014 and created one of the greatest functioning offenses in NFL history averaging 37.9 points per game in the 2013 season – over 10 points better than the next closest team. Nearly all of that success came in the passing game, as the Denver Broncos had nothing close to what Matt Forte can provide out of the backfield. But, the Bears also do not have Peyton Manning. If the proven systems Gase and Fox implemented in Denver aren’t able to get the best out of Jay Cutler, then I don’t know what will. The Bears have weapons out of the backfield and a great pair of receivers in Alshon Jeffery and first round pick Kevin White, but it will ultimately come down to Cutler to get the ball in their hands.

Gase is ready to work with Cutler and lead the Bears’ offense.

Highly Questionable

While gaining the best efforts from Cutler will be no easy task, the biggest job Fox faces as head coach is rebuilding a Bears defense that has struggled mightily over the last few years. To help in this process, the Bears have brought on former San Fransisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to fill the same role in Chicago. Fangio had great success with the 49ers, coaching the defense to three top 3 finishes in points allowed from 2011-2013. San Fransisco certainly had youth and talent on their side during this run, but it is nearly impossible for the Bears to do any worse than they did under Mel Tucker’s leadership. Over the past two seasons, the Bears defense has been simply atrocious, allowing the 2nd most points per game in the NFL. Fangio will have a tough time coaching this defense to the top, but a switch to a base 3-4 defense could work in the Bears’ favor. With the departures of both Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs, the defense is going to have to heavily rely on Jared Allen for leadership. The one bright spot in the Bears defense is the budding young talent they have in guys like Kyle Fuller and Ego Ferguson. If the Bears can be anything close to average this year on the defensive side they can certainly compete for another title in the NFC North.

Fangio will undoubtedly help the Bears’ defense improve.

Notable Coaching/Front Office Offseason Moves Summary

  • General Manager Phil Emery fired after three years. 37 year-old Ryan Pace moves on from director of player personnel for the New Orleans Saints to serve as the General Manager of the Chicago Bears.
  • Head Coach Marc Trestman replaced by 2-time Superbowl coach John Fox. Trestman now makes a move to Baltimore where he will work under John Harbaugh as the Offensive Coordinator to replace Gary Kubiak.
  • After 13 years working as the director of player personnel for the Chicago Bears, Kevin Turks was fired in favor of Josh Lucas, who previously worked under and coordinated with Ryan Pace in the New Orleans front office.
  • Jeff Rodgers introduced as the new special team coordinator. Rodgers has spent the past 5 seasons as the same role under John Fox in both Carolina and Denver. Former Bears special teams coordinator Joe Decamillis is now with the Denver Broncos as an assistant coach and special teams coordinator.
  • Vic Fangio, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, takes over the Chicago Bears defense after two horrific seasons under Mel Tucker. Fox and Fangio announced that the Bears will switch to a base 3-4 defense.
  • Adam Gase reunites with John Fox from Denver to replace the tumultuous Aaron Kromer as offensive coordinator. This will be the fifth different offensive coordinator Cutler works with since 2009.

Draft and Free Agency Summary

  • Bears trade WR Brandon Marshall and a 7th round pick to the New York Jets for a 5th round pick.
  • Former Bears DT Stephen Paea signs 4-year deal with Washington Redskins.
  • Bears sign former Baltimore Ravens LB Pernell McPhee to a 5-year contract.
  • Cutler will reunite with former Broncos teammate Eddie Royal after it was announced the Bears and Royal agreed to a 3-year contract. Royal spent the last couple of seasons as a San Diego Charger and is now expected to compete for the WR3 position with the Bears.
  • Bears sign 3 time pro-bowl safety and Superbowl champion Antrelle Rolle to a 3-year contract. Rolle and free safety Ryan Mundy played out of the back together with the Super Bowl winning New York Giants in 2012 and seem to have great chemistry.
  • Bears sign former Redskins DT Jarvis Jenkins to a 1-year deal where he is expected to join the defensive rotation.
  • Ray McDonald signed and released after getting in trouble off the field.
  • Former Atlanta Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers signed by the Bears to a 1-year contract. Rodgers is expected to compete for the RB2 position with the likes of Ka’Deem Carey, rookie Jeremy Langford, and Senorise Perry. He could also have a significant role on the special teams unit.
  • Long-time Bears Center Roberto Garza was released, and Will Montgomery has been signed to a 1-year deal as his replacement.
  • Charles Tillman walks away in free agency after a great career with the Chicago Bears to sign a lucrative 5-year deal with the Carolina Panthers and reunite with former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
  • Bears fail to sign OLB Lance Briggs to a new contract. Briggs remains an unrestricted free agent and is not expected to sign anywhere.

Keep an eye out for my next article where I will give my preseason ratings of the Bears 2015 draft class highlighted by the 7th pick in the 2015 NFL draft WR Kevin White.