Lovie Smith's defense was a perennial strength during nine seasons with the Chicago Bears. His offense, almost always a weakness and a 28th-ranked unit in 2012, never came around and that is what led to his dismissal after a 10-win season.
"We haven't had the balance between our defensive excellence (and offense)," GM Phil Emery said. "We've had special teams excellence. We have not had consistency on the offensive side of the ball. We have gone through a number of coordinators. We have searched for answers."
Smith's strengths are perceived ample enough that he has reportedly been contacted by four teams with openings. It is believed Arizona and Buffalo are two of the franchises chasing Smith.
The Bears aren't necessarily in the market for a coach with an offensive background. At least, that wasn't on the extensive list of qualities Emery said the team seeks in Smith's replacement, beginning this week with candidates he has already lined up.
"I want somebody to have some warmth that pulls everybody together in that we have synergy not only with our players but everybody in the building to work towards our common goal," he said. "Upbeat and positive. Everybody has a different personality. Everybody represents themselves in a different way, but those qualities are paramount. We all want to work together in a position environment towards winning championships."
ESPN analyst Jon Gruden might make as much sense as anyone if the money is right. Emery said finances wouldn't be a hurdle. Gruden has an offensive background, Super Bowl credentials and is known to strongly prefer veterans. Chicago's roster is on the old side, particularly on defense. Gruden won with a cover-2 defense in Tampa Bay and his roots are in the type of West Coast offense quarterback Jay Cutler operated with the Denver Broncos. He's also comfortable to charismatic at the microphone.
"I want somebody that's good on their feet. I think working with the media, not only in Chicago but in a national sense is very important. I want this person to stand up and represent us well," Emery said, without identifying any of the candidates the Bears have or will target. "It's a very tough job. It's very demanding. Wins and losses weigh heavily week to week. There needs to be a level of consistency in this individual in how he presents himself, not only when we're up but when we're down and how we're going to rebound from being down."
Most of the Bears' coaching staff remains under contract for 2013 and the incoming coach would likely retain some of them. Gruden, for example, worked with defensive line coach Rod Marinelli in Tampa Bay. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub, a potential candidate for head-coaching jobs himself, is one of the most widely respected in the NFL and the kind of coach Emery could push to keep.
"It's an ongoing process and like I said we are working through a wide variety of people," said Emery, who celebrates a year on the job this month. "No one has been excluded. It's an open process. I want to talk to these individuals, listen to them, listen to their thoughts about how they can lead the Chicago Bears towards excellence."
Emery's background as a college talent evaluator might push a college coach to the forefront. It wouldn't likely be Chip Kelly, whose spread offense doesn't suit Cutler or Chicago's pro-style offense personnel.
Former general manager Jerry Angelo interviewed Nick Saban before hiring Smith.