In the nearly two weeks since the firing of Lovie Smith, the Chicago Bears have interviewed or scheduled to interview 13 known candidates, but few have the track record with quarterback Jay Cutler that Rick Dennison has.
General manager Phil Emery made it known that he ultimately would like a new head coach who has an ability to develop Cutler, saying (h/t Chicago Sun-Times)
Jay being our quarterback, and that being a franchise position in terms of importance, it’s very important that that person either himself or staff-wise has the right person to help Jay develop.
Dennison, the current Houston Texans offensive coordinator, was the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator in Denver in 2008, when Cutler enjoyed his most productive season in the NFL. In that season, Cutler threw for over 4,500 yards and 25 touchdowns en route to his first career Pro Bowl.
Dennison comes from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree that implements a zone-blocking scheme that effectively opens up holes in the running game and makes the play-action pass extremely effective. He joined Gary Kubiak in Houston in 2010 since then, Texan offenses have been no worse than 13th in yards per game, including seventh this season and third in 2010.
The Bears greatly underutilized running back Matt Forte this season and implementing a zone-blocking scheme would improve his productivity, opening up the passing game for Cutler.
Cutler was not shy in his praise for Dennison earlier in the week on his radio show, saying (h/t Chicago Sun-Times):
One of the best coaches I’ve been around. Very dedicated, extremely hard worker. Takes it very personally. I think he’s gifted in his game-planning.
During his time in Chicago, Cutler has gone through stints with Ron Turner, Mike Martz and most recently Mike Tice. Nothing has been announced regarding Tice's return to the team as a coordinator, but given the way the offense performed this season, his retention would be a hard sell.
Current quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who held the same position in Denver with Cutler and Dennison, would be a logical choice to replace Tice as offensive coordinator—at least from a continuity standpoint.
Dennison's strength is as an offensive line coach—he is regarded by many observers as one of the best in the league—and Cutler echoed that sentiment (ht/ Chicago Sun-Times):
Rico (Dennison) is one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL. Great guy off the field. Very, very smart. Intellectual guy.
Tice was supposed to be the offensive line guru who was going to help fix their problems, but injuries and a lack of talent have made it difficult to transform this line into even an average group. If Tice were to be retained as the offensive line coach—with the addition of Dennison and an emphasis of improving the line through the draft and free agency—Cutler would then be able to flourish like he did in Denver.
Dennison knows and understands what it takes for Cutler to be successful in this league, and if he was hired, his emphasis would be on emphasizing power-running, using play-action and moving the pocket to best utilize Cutler's skill set.
While most of the candidates up for the Bears' head coaching position have tremendous track records and many are regarded as offensive gurus, none have the hands on experience and success with Cutler that Dennison has.