Playoff exits push coaching search along

Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery acknowledged Jan. 1 that in his search for a new head coach "the playoffs are a consideration," but that potential roadblock appears to have come down Sunday with the conclusion of the divisional round of the postseason.

Of the known candidates, four coached for teams that lost in the divisional round, a group consisting of four offensive coordinators: Seattle's Darrell Bevell, Houston's Rick Dennison, Green Bay's Tom Clements and Mike McCoy of the Denver Broncos. The losses by the Seahawks, Texans, Packers and Broncos open up availability for those coaches to talk more in the coming days, with Emery expected to move into the next phase of the process. He'll probably pick two to three finalists for second interviews that will also involve team president Ted Phillips and Bears chairman George McCaskey.

"There may be a candidate that's in the playoffs and may be unavailable to us (that) we may have to wait out," Emery said. "After we're at the point where we feel good (that) we have quality candidates to select two or three as finalists, we will either have them come to us or go to them so we can have an opportunity for them to talk to George or to talk to Ted and that George and Ted can interact with them and get a feel for them. At the end, the final decision will be mine."

The timeline for Emery making the choice seems now to be a little less difficult.

Emery spent the first week of his coaching search interviewing Atlanta Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong and Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, in addition to three offensive coordinators in Tampa Bay's Mike Sullivan, New Orleans' Pete Carmichael Jr. and McCoy.

The GM followed up those meetings the next week by sitting down with Bears special teams coach Dave Toub and Montreal Alouettes head coach Marc Trestman, along with Clements, Dennison, and Bevell. Emery also met with Minnesota's Mike Singletary and Mike Priefer on Saturday before concluding interviews Sunday with Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, considered a favorite for NFL coach of the year.

Only Armstrong remains in the playoffs with his Falcons set next week to host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. But based on the experience and credentials of the other candidates involved in the process, Armstrong appears to have been brought in to satisfy the NFL's Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority for head coaching and senior football operations positions.

So it's likely Emery is poised this week to start naming finalists.

"It's an ongoing process and we're working through a wide variety of people," Emery said. "No one has been excluded, it's an open process.

"I want to talk to these individuals, to listen to them; listen to their thoughts on how they can lead the Chicago Bears towards excellence."