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Bears’ search far from finished

Published: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Before long, it might be easier to name the top offensive coordinators whom the Bears do not want to interview.

Add two more candidates to the Bears’ search for Lovie Smith’s replacement: Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. The Bears received permission to interview Dennison, according to a report by ESPN, while CBS Sports reported that the Bears received permission to interview Bevell.

Dennison and Bevell have proved to be capable play-callers, but neither has head coaching experience at the NFL level. Dennison is in his third season with the Texans, while Bevell is in his second season with the Seahawks.

Although Dennison might not be a household name to many football fans, he has spent nearly three decades in the league as a player and coach. He played linebacker for the Denver Broncos from 1982-90, and he coached in Denver from 1995-2009 before becoming the Texans’ offensive coordinator.

While in Denver, Dennison helped to design a top offense with Jay Cutler as his quarterback and Brandon Marshall as his No. 1 wide receiver. During Dennison’s tenure as offensive coordinator from 2006-08, the Broncos’ offense improved from No. 21 to No. 11 to No. 2.

Perhaps most importantly, Dennison designed an offensive scheme to protect Cutler from too many hits. Cutler was sacked 11 times in 16 starts in 2008 (.69 a start), compared with 148 sacks in 56 starts (2.6 a start) since joining the Bears in 2009.

Upon joining former teammate and colleague Gary Kubiak in Houston, Dennison has helped the Texans rank No. 3, No. 13 and No. 7 in total offense from 2010-12. The Texans will visit the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs next weekend.

Before becoming an offensive coordinator, Dennison worked as an offensive assistant (1995-96), a special-teams coach (1997-2000) and an offensive line coach (2001-05, 2009). A native of Montana, he grew up in Colorado and played college football at Colorado State.

Although Bevell has no regular-season experience with Cutler, he has shown that he can adapt to quarterbacks of all styles. He coached Brett Favre in Green Bay and again in Minnesota, and he has helped Russell Wilson achieve unexpected success this season as a rookie with the Seahawks.

Dennison and Bevell join eight other candidates who have been linked to the Bears:

• Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator

• Bruce Arians, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator

• Tom Clements, Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator

• Pete Carmichael, New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator

• Mike Sullivan, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator

• Keith Armstrong, Atlanta Falcons special-teams coach

• Joe DeCamillis, Dallas Cowboys special-teams coach

• Marc Trestman, Montreal Alouettes head coach (CFL)

Bears general manager Phil Emery has said he would prefer to hire a coach before college football’s all-star games, such as the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 19, but he might have to wait beyond that date depending on which candidate he prefers. A deep run in the playoffs by the Broncos, Texans or another candidate’s team could delay the introduction of the Bears’ next head coach.

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