New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is reportedly scheduled to interview with the Chicago Bears next week about their head coaching vacancy.
WWL-TV's Nick Underhill reported the news about Allen, who previously served as the Oakland Raiders head coach from 2012 through early in the 2014 season.
Allen didn't find much success with the Raiders, going 8-28 across two-plus years, but he's guided the Saints defense to steady improvement throughout his seven-year tenure.
New Orleans finished top-seven in total defense each of the past two years after ranking 31st in 2015, his first season in charge. In 2020, the team ranked fourth in yards allowed, fifth in points allowed and third in takeaways.
In December, Allen filled in as the Saints' interim head coach while Sean Payton was in the NFL's COVID-19 protocols for a Week 15 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fittingly, it was the team's defense that stepped up in a 9-0 shutout win over Tom Brady and the high-powered Bucs.
Afterward, the 49-year-old former Texas A&M safety told reporters he enjoyed the chance to lead a coaching staff again, even on a short-term basis:
"Look, I relish that opportunity. Certainly, I really appreciate everything that Sean Payton has meant to me and my coaching career. So, for him to ask me to step in for him in this circumstance I appreciate the fact that he had the faith and the trust in me to lead this team. I really appreciate all the players and the assistant coaches and the way that they just hung together and fought and scratched and clawed for each other so that we could come away with this win. I think any time you win in this league I think it's a great feeling, and certainly in these circumstances, it feels good to win."
The Bears have cast a wide net in their search to replace Matt Nagy, who was fired after the team posted a 6-11 record in 2021.
Chicago has more potential than that lackluster mark would suggest, though. It ranked sixth in total defense this past season, and rookie quarterback Justin Fields, the 11th overall pick in the 2021 draft, provided hope of a brighter future on offense.
Fields' baseline numbers don't jump off the page—nine total touchdowns (seven passing and two rushing) and 15 turnovers (10 interceptions and five lost fumbles—but he showcased impressive dual-threat playmaking ability throughout the year.
The Ohio State product posted a 103-yard rushing performance against the San Francisco 49ers, who remain active in the playoffs, in Week 8. His best outing as a passer came in his final start of the campaign against the Minnesota Vikings when he completed 26 of his 39 throws (66.7 percent) for 285 yards with one touchdown and no picks.
If the Bears front office, which is also looking for a new leader after the firing of general manager Ryan Pace, can add some more talent around Fields during the offseason, the 22-year-old could make a significant leap in 2022.
Allen has no shortage of competition for the head coaching job with at least 10 other interviews already completed or scheduled in the coming days, per Alex Shapiro of NBC Chicago.
All told, the Bears' leadership faces a lot of pressure to get the GM and coaching hires right as frustration mounts within the fanbase amid an 11-year stretch without a playoff win.