Commentary

No answers, more questions

The Bears' coaching woes call into question the competence level at Halas Hall

Updated: January 27, 2010, 8:39 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

As the Chicago Bears continue to stumble through their coaching selection process, many things become clear, while others just get fuzzier.

They're following a long tradition of ignoring the simplest solutions. Consider, for example, some of the men with Chicago roots with whom the Bears could have developed and solidified ties over the last several years.

Mike Shanahan and Mike Holmgren would have loved to have come to the Bears. Rex Ryan was a ball boy for the '85 champs, for crying out loud. Sean Payton and Brad Childress slipped through everyone's fingers. Leslie Frazier was going to be on Dave McGinnis' staff. So much for that. Ron Rivera was discarded.

While general manager Jerry Angelo would have us believe that selecting an offensive and defensive coordinator has taken three weeks because he and his head coach are giving it careful thought and extensive analysis, they may well end up with coaches from the college ranks.

Of course, they will sell this as a brilliant and innovative move, plucking a young and gifted mind who will flourish in the NFL game, regardless of his lack of experience on that level.

Someone really ought to tell them about the Gary Crowton years.

Lovie Smith likes hiring college coaches. Before Bob Babich's one season under Smith as the Rams' linebackers coach and Smith's assistant in Chicago, he spent 19 years in the college level. Bears' wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, running backs coach Tim Spencer and former assistants Rob Boras (tight ends) and Harry Hiestand (offensive line) were all college coaches with no NFL experience when Smith hired them.

Now, it is possible Smith will travel that avenue again with his new coordinator hires, despite the fact that both Drake and Spencer would likely be more qualified to call plays.

And how about new offensive line coach Mike Tice? Who's going to be his boss? An unproven college coach? A young quarterbacks coach? Apparently not Mike Martz, who wouldn't mix philosophically with Tice anyway.

In my conversation with Martz the other day, he sounded genuinely perplexed about the Bears' agenda, or lack thereof. But Martz did say he was moving on several times.

The longer this thing drags out, the more names cross our consciousness. Would Brian Billick consider the coordinator position? Has Angelo scheduled a Bill Callahan interview yet? If not, why?

Are the Bears waiting for the Super Bowl and a candidate to emerge from the Indianapolis Colts or New Orleans Saints staffs?

The Bears may end up discovering that the best candidate out there is Ron Turner. Remember him?

Most guys who come of nowhere end up going in that direction as well -- unless, of course, they have a last name like Shanahan or Schottenheimer. Maybe Lovie can hire his son.

The good news for the Bears is that in terms of public relations, there is virtually nothing they can do in the hiring realm that can provoke much worse than the ridicule they're enduring now.

Maybe they will stumble onto someone who won't be the worst decision any team has ever made. Maybe they will get lucky. Maybe they really are just biding their time for Bill Cowher to appear on the scene a year from now, and none of this matters.

Or maybe they will hire Jay Cutler's Pop Warner coach.

Either way, if you look at a GM like the Jets' Mike Tannenbaum, who knows what he wants and goes after it, it's hard to shake the feeling that the lights are off at Halas Hall and nobody's home.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.