Bears will meet with Arians about coaching job
The Bears continue to give strong indications they lean toward hiring an offensive-minded head coach.
The latest candidate to emerge on general manager Phil Emery's interview trail was Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, whom the Bears were granted permission to interview next week.
Arians earned national recognition this season for guiding the Colts to a 9-3 record as interim head coach while Chuck Pagano battled leukemia. Arians, 60, also helped rookie quarterback Andrew Luck make a seamless transition to the pros while overseeing the league's 10th-ranked offense at 362.4 yards per game. With Arians' help, the Colts transformed last season's 2-14 mark into an 11-5 wild-card berth Sunday against the Ravens in Baltimore.
Arians previously was the offensive coordinator for the Browns and Steelers. He was instrumental in the development of two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers were 55-25 in the five seasons Arians served as offensive coordinator as he kept the offense up to speed with a feared defense.
"Bruce Arians has impressed with his selflessness. He has been a great personal example of what Chuck Pagano had laid down for the Colts — teamwork, worrying about the guy next to you more than yourself, creating that culture,'' Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said recently. "Bruce has not only been successful in filling in as a head coach and being a head coach in every sense of the word, but also in the way he has carried the torch for Chuck in an incredible way. What a human being he is.''
Arians also overcame his own health scare when he battled prostate cancer in 2007.
While Arians is probably the most familiar name on the Bears' current list, Emery has done due diligence in taking a widespread approach toward the search. He interviewed Buccaneers offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan on Wednesday in Atlanta and also reportedly was scheduled to interview Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. Emery has an interview scheduled with Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Sunday in Denver and is likely to interview Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements sometime next week.
Former Northern Illinois standout receiver P.J. Fleck was the Bucs' receivers coach this season under Sullivan.
"Monday before I left, I walked into Sully's office and said, 'Really, the Chicago Bears?' And his face was glowing,'' said Fleck, now the head coach at Western Michigan. "He looked at me and said, 'Can you believe it? We're talking about the Chicago Bears.'
"I would say one word that describes Mike Sullivan: Balance. When I think of Mike Sullivan, I take a deep breath. Mike Sullivan settles you down. When you look at his offense, it's balanced. You look at his coaching style and everything is balanced. Everything is centered.''
Sullivan didn't have the luxury of working with a Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, as McCoy and Carmichael did, respectively. Clements gets credit for helping Aaron Rodgers' game reach the next level as quarterbacks coach from 2006-2011.
Packers running back Ryan Grant talked about what makes Clements such a respected coach.
"His knowledge of the game, for one,'' Grant said Thursday. "He understands matchups. He's one of the smartest guys in this game.
"Then, his ability to get the most out of his players. He builds a strong connection that can help guys elevate their games.''
The Bears need to elevate their offense after another dismal showing in 2012. Coach Lovie Smith was fired Monday, in part, because of the offense's ineptitude during his tenure. Under first-time coordinator Mike Tice, the Bears finished the 28th in the league in total offense (310.6 yards per game) and 29th in passing offense (187.4 yards per game).
Although Emery seems to be on the offensive with this search, he did interview Falcons special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong and has a Saturday interview scheduled with Cowboys special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis in Dallas.