New general manager Ryan Pace’s search for “the best man for the job” to lead the Chicago Bears takes him to Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who will interview Tuesday for the Bears' open head-coaching position.
Having already interviewed Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Bears were expected to push for Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak. But Kubiak opted to remain with the Ravens and released a statement Sunday via the team’s website informing of his intentions.
“It is flattering and humbling to be invited to interview for a number of NFL head-coaching positions, and I really appreciate these opportunities,” Kubiak said. “But I have decided to stay with the Ravens. This is a special organization and we, like [head] coach [John] Harbaugh says, are building something great. I want to be a part of that and contribute in whatever ways I can.”
So now Pace and the team’s brass turn their attention to Austin, engineer of a Lions defense that sacked Bears quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen a combined five times in two games this season, in addition to picking off the signal-callers three times. Detroit's defense finished the 2014 season ranked No. 2 overall in the NFL. Austin has already interviewed with the Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers.
Austin will sit down Tuesday with team chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips, consultant Ernie Accorsi and Pace, who ultimately will make the final decision on the new hire. Pace said he’s open to every possibility at the position and won’t limit the search based on a candidate’s area of expertise, philosophy or systems on either side of the ball.
Experience isn’t necessary either, Phillips said.
“It's finding the right guy that has all those attributes that Ryan and the head coach can feel like they have a good relationship,” Phillips said. “Sure, contractually, Ryan will have [control of] the 53-man [roster]. Every GM that's been here has had that. Every single time a GM is hired, we tell him the same thing; that when you have to go back to your contract and look at who has control, something's wrong. You've got to work out those issues. There's always going to be issues, right? There's no way that two guys, a head coach and GM, always see players the same way. But when they come out of that office, they have to be together.”
Throughout the 2014 season, Austin dialed up a more aggressive scheme in Detroit, mixing up looks often while managing multiple injury issues, in addition to replacing multiple starters.
The Lions hurried quarterbacks on 28.1 percent of their throws during the season, which ranked No. 4 in the NFL. Interestingly, Detroit did it while blitzing on just 25.7 percent of passing downs, which speaks to the level of talent along the Lions' front four.
“I do think he has all the qualities that you’re looking for,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell told ESPN NFL Nation Detroit Lions reporter Mike Rothstein.
Austin will get the chance to put those qualities on full display Tuesday for Pace, Phillips, McCaskey and Accorsi. Austin’s body of work in Detroit should carry weight with a team looking to regain the franchise’s identity for annually fielding one of the league’s more stingy defenses.
“Let’s face the facts,” Pace said Friday during his introductory press conference. “The weather here, I’m experiencing it right now, it can be brutal. To win in that environment, you’ve got to be able to run the ball. You’ve got to be able to play tough defense. When you think about the Chicago Bears’ identity over the years, it’s tough, physical defense. And we’re going to get back to that.”