LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears announced Monday their decision to go a different direction at the head coaching position, thus ending Lovie Smith's tenure with the club after nine seasons.
Immediately, speculation begins regarding potential Smith successors. Offensive-minded coach? Defensive-minded coach? Nobody knows. Even when general manager Phil Emery speaks Tuesday morning, it's unlikely he'll shed any real light on the club's plans entering this coaching search.
The speedy decision to fire Smith indicates Emery might already know what he wants in a new coach.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler declined to divulge his preference in coaches Monday during "The Jay Cutler Show" on ESPN 1000.
"I've had both (offensive and defensive head coaches)," Cutler said. "There's pluses and minuses to argue each case. I'm not going to give a preference on what I want, what I don't want because I don't really know at this point. I trust Phil and management and George (McCaskey) and those guys to make the best call. They're going to get the best possible head coach and assistant coaches and coordinators they can. So you've got to trust in that."
Chances are the Bears won't look in the direction of former Broncos head coach and current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has been linked to the Chicago job and has a past with Cutler. When McDaniels took over as head coach at Denver, he played a role in facilitating Cutler's trade to the Bears.
"That would be awkward," Cutler said. "He's a good coach, and I think it was interesting how it unfolded in Denver. It's in the past. I'm sure he's going to get a shot at it with all the vacancies this year, and how well they've done in New England."
Here's a list of 16 potential candidates for Bears coach:
Bill Cowher: The former Steelers head coach makes the list because he's always linked to the big openings.
Jon Gruden: The former Raiders and Buccaneers head coach reportedly has told teams he's willing to talk if they're interested.
Andy Reid: The recently-fired Eagles head coach has already been trying to put together a staff, sources told ESPN. A change of scenery might be a good thing.
Mike McCoy, Broncos offensive coordinator: Sources tell ESPN's Adam Schefter the Bears have already asked permission to interview the man who made Tim Tebow resemble a real quarterback once upon a time.
Jay Gruden, Bengals offensive coordinator: The brother of Jon Gruden, Jay is already being linked to multiple jobs around the league.
Mel Tucker, Jaguars defensive coordinator: Has interviewed for head jobs in Cleveland and Jacksonville, and satisfies Rooney Rule requirement. Think Lovie Smith with way, way, way more edge.
Dave Toub, Bears special teams coordinator: Interviewed for a head coaching job in Miami last offseason, and definitely deserves another shot to interview elsewhere if not here.
Kyle Shanahan, Redskins offensive coordinator: Son of Mike Shanahan, Kyle deserves credit for the lightning-fast ascent of Robert Griffin III.
Pete Carmichael, Saints offensive coordinator: With Sean Payton suspended, Carmichael took on a larger role and the offense didn't really miss a beat.
Dirk Koetter, Falcons offensive coordinator: Former college head coach at Arizona State and Boise State brings creative schemes, and has also served as an offensive coordinator in Jacksonville.
Mike Zimmer, Bengals defensive coordinator: Lockport native played at Illinois State, and although he's considered a player's coach Zimmer is one of the more fiery candidates expected to interview for top jobs.
THE COLLEGE ROUTE
Chip Kelly, Oregon head coach: Everyone's intrigued by how his quick tempo spread attack will translate in the NFL and multiple teams are reportedly already pursuing him.
Bill O'Brien, Penn State head coach: Former Patriots offensive coordinator has a $9 million buyout, but teams are still reportedly interested in O'Brien, who is considered one of the hotter commodities.
Nick Saban, Alabama head coach: A longshot, but teams are reportedly interested. His last NFL go-round with the Dolphins didn't go so well, and it would seem unlikely he'll leave Alabama.