One of the big college football storylines of last week while we await the title game was that Michigan's Jim Harbaugh reportedly would consider a return to the NFL now that he finally beat Ohio State. Harbaugh wasn't leaving Ann Arbor without doing that. He, Buffalo's Leslie Frazier, New England's Josh McDaniels and another Big Ten coach, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, are the early favorites to replace Matt Nagy in Chicago with Nagy fired Monday.
Harbaugh was a first-round pick of the Bears in 1987 and played his first seven seasons there. The McCaskey family, which owns the Bears, reportedly loves the guy. The Bears probably will want an offensive/quarterback-minded coach with the immediate fate of the franchise resting on young Justin Fields' shoulders. The Patriots' McDaniels would fit in this category as well as he worked wonders with another rookie QB in Mac Jones.
The Raiders and Dolphins also could chase Harbaugh, who is very well liked by Raiders owner Mark Davis and began his coaching career as a quarterback coach for the Raiders in 2002. One of the biggest University of Michigan boosters in the world is Fins owner Stephen Ross and he's said to covet Harbaugh. Miami did fire Coach Brian Flores in a minor surprise Monday. Minnesota also fired Mike Zimmer in not a surprise.
There is some talk that the Bears could be sold soon and minority owner Pat Ryan, along with partner Andy McKenna, has automatic rights to buy the team if so. The billionaire Ryan's name adorns both the football field (Ryan Field) and half of the basketball arena (Welsh-Ryan) at his alma mater Northwestern. Thus, the link to Fitzgerald.
How about Ohio State's Ryan Day? He's got one of the best jobs in college football but did coach Fields for two seasons in Columbus.
Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer recently reported that the Bears will target coaches who "project as leaders." I'm frankly not sure what that means, but Breer mentioned Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. Although, Eberflus' stock may have taken a major hit Sunday with Indy's shocking loss in Jacksonville.
He also mentioned Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, who was a star cornerback on that epic 1985 Bears defense. Frazier has "experience" in the NFC North as he was the Vikings' head coach from 2011-13. Frazier would have to bring a terrific OC with him and current Bills quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey is a possible candidate. Frazier also was a former mentor to ex-Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who led Chicago to its last Super Bowl after the 2006 season.
Saints coach Sean Payton is from the Chicago area and also has been mentioned, but New Orleans would want some sort of compensation to let him leave. With the Saints missing the playoffs, it might be time for Payton to move on.
The Bears might take a while to hire a new coach because they also fired GM Ryan Pace and presumably would have to fill that job first.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who will be the next Bears head coach?
- Leslie Frazier +400
- Pat Fitzgerald +500
- Jim Harbaugh +700
- Josh McDaniels +700
- Byron Leftwich +1000
- Brian Daboll +1100
- Kellen Moore +1200
- Matt Eberflus +1300
- Jerod Mayo +1500
- Greg Roman +1500
- Sean Payton +1800
- Doug Pederson +2000
- Ryan Day +2000
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