The Chicago Bears fired head coach Matt Nagy on Monday after the team wrapped up a disappointing 6-11 season with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported news of Nagy's termination after he compiled a 34-31 record across four seasons in Chicago.
The most important factor in the Bears' coaching search will be finding someone who can get the most out of quarterback Justin Fields, who endured an up-and-down rookie season after being selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
With that in mind, some of the top offensive minds available include a quartet of offensive coordinators: Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs, Brian Daboll of the Buffalo Bills, Kellen Moore of the Dallas Cowboys and Byron Leftwich of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bears' defense did everything it could to keep the team afloat in 2021. It ranked sixth in total defense (316.7 yards allowed per game) despite superstar linebacker Khalil Mack being limited to only seven appearances because of a foot injury.
If Chicago can maintain that level of production defensively and get the Fields-led offense on track, it has the talent to put together a quick turnaround in 2022.
Fields completed 58.9 percent of his throws for 1,870 yards with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions across 12 games (10 starts). He added 420 rushing yards and two scores on the ground during his debut year.
While those numbers are far from what the Bears need from their new franchise signal-caller in order to seriously contend, he was far from alone.
Fellow rookie quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Zach Wilson (New York Jets) also struggled, while Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers) received limited playing time. Meanwhile, Mac Jones helped the New England Patriots earn a playoff berth to headline the first-year QB class.
Fields did put some promising signs on tape, including a 103-yard rushing performance against the Niners and his most complete game as a passer in his final start of the year in Week 15 against the Vikings, but there's plenty of work to do.
"That's been the story of the year. It's just shooting ourselves in the foot," Fields said in December. "Once we eliminate those penalties, sacks on my part where I should just throw the ball away, once we eliminate those then we'll start seeing more points come up on the board and more success from the whole team."
Finding a head coach that can install an offensive system that fits his dual-threat ability is crucial, which is why Bieniemy and Daboll stand out from the crowd.
They've successfully built offenses around Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen that have made Kansas City and Buffalo two of the top teams in the AFC over the past few years. They could bring those ready-made schemes to Chicago with hope the front office can add a little more playmaking talent around Fields.
It's always possible the Bears go in a different direction. Brian Flores, whom the Miami Dolphins fired on Monday, has a defensive background but will be a "prime candidate" for other vacancies around the league after going 24-25 in Miami, per Schefter.
Flores or another coach with experience in the head role could be preferred in Chicago after Nagy failed to deliver the results the organization wanted as a first-time head coach. Both Bieniemy and Daboll would be leading an NFL staff for the first time.
Whomever the Bears hire must get Fields trending in the right direction if they're going to hold the job for an extended period.