The Chicago Bears picked up the pace on their searches for a new general manager and head coach Tuesday, with the club expected to meet at Halas Hall with Tennessee Titans vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson.
Dawson will be the first of two candidates to interview for the vacant GM position, and the Bears could make a hire by the end of the week, after meeting Wednesday with Kansas City Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard, who is considered by many in league circles to be the favorite for the job.
“[Ballard] should be a lock unless they want to totally move on from the [former general manager Jerry] Angelo ties,” said one scouting director who has worked directly with Ballard. “If [the Bears] don’t hire Ballard, they would be making a big mistake. He knows players, but the underrated quality about Chris is the way he deals with people. He's second to none. One of the best evaluators around. Has deep knowledge because he has played college in the Big Ten (at Wisconsin), coached college (Texas A&M-Kingsville), and did both pro and college scouting. He’s more qualified than anybody I have ever been around in this business."
Ballard worked 12 years in Chicago as a scout (2001-11) and director of pro scouting (2012) under Angelo and later former general manager Phil Emery, and he played a role in the club’s acquisition of players such as Charles Tillman, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall and Martellus Bennett.
The source also thinks that if Ballard is hired, he could be looking to bring in former Bears special-teams coordinator Dave Toub as the new head coach, saying the duo “really does make sense" in Chicago.
Dawson falls into the Chicago Bears GM interview mix as a recommendation by The Fritz Pollard Alliance but could prove a difficult sell to ownership considering the Titans are coming off a 2-14 record with a roster that appears to lack serious talent.
Dawson has worked eight years for the Titans and interviewed last year for multiple GM openings.
Dawson oversees both the pro personnel and college scouting departments for the Titans and plays a role in managing day-to-day football operations. Dawson also leads Tennessee’s draft meetings and participates in contract negotiations.
The Bears also requested permission to interview New Orleans Saints player personnel director Ryan Pace last week, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. But multiple reports suggested Monday that Pace is likely to stay in New Orleans.
When the Bears announced the firings of Emery and former head coach Marc Trestman, team chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips mentioned the club, ideally, would like to hire the GM before bringing aboard the new head coach.
“We need, obviously, good decisions,” Phillips said. “We need good drafts, we need smart decisions in free agency. We need someone, a general manager, who can work with our head coach collaboratively and come up with the right mix of players and to analyze our needs the right way, and ultimately have a plan in place to get us back to winning championships.”