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Colts’ Arians may be best man for job

Is Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians best candidate coach Bears 2013? | AP Photo

Is Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians the best candidate to coach the Bears in 2013? | AP Photo

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Former Bears coach Lovie Smith will interview with the Philadelphia Eagles for their vacancy Thursday, the team announced.

The Eagles were reportedly very interesting in landing Oregon coach Chip Kelly. But Kelly opted — for the second offseason in a row — to remain at Oregon after a flirtation with the NFL. Last year, he was close to becoming the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs, though, ended up hiring Greg Schiano from Rutgers.

The Eagles also were interested in Penn State coach Bill O’Brien and Syracuse coach Doug Marrone.

But O’Brien elected to remain at Penn State, and Marrone was introduced as the Buffalo Bills head coach Monday. Smith also interviewed with the Bills.

The Eagles search seems to focus more on pro assistants. They’ve already interviewed several, including Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who the Bears have interest in.

Updated: March 11, 2013 2:22AM

As he zigzags the country in search of a coach, Bears general manager Phil Emery has delivered on his promise from six days ago to “look at a wide variety of candidates.”

Of the ever-growing list, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians looks like the best fit.

True, the best candidate is in the eye of the beholder. There are so many variables, and only Emery — who has the final say — can determine the right person to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with for this new chapter in Bears history.

But the safest candidate is obvious: That would be Arians.

Of all the available coaches, Arians seems the best-equipped to take over the Bears.

A wishbone quarterback at Virginia Tech, Arians has coached for more than 35 years, six as a head coach (at Temple), 12 as an offensive coordinator and 20 in the NFL.

He has developed quarterbacks and receivers, most notably Peyton Manning, Plaxico Burress and Andrew Luck.

He has called plays, including Super Bowl XLIII, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-23.

And he has worked for some highly successful coaches, including Bear Bryant and Bill Cowher.

And while he didn’t have a standout record at Temple, Arians served as the interim coach of the Colts this season as Chuck Pagano battled leukemia. Taking over a 1-2 team that went 2-14 last season, Arians led the Colts to a 9-3 record and into the postseason.

The nine-game turnaround is the second-largest from one season to the next in NFL history.

“If I was a general manager or an owner, I would give him a chance because of all the things he’s done over his career and the young players he’s helped develop,” said former Steelers receiver Hines Ward, now an NBC Sports analyst. “For Jay Cutler, he’d love to have a guy who is so offensive-minded like a Bruce Arians.”

Arians, 60, was Ward’s receivers coach, then offensive coordinator from 2004 to 2011, and Ward marveled at Arians’ infectious personality and knack for getting the most from all his players.

“He never wanted to change anyone,” Ward said. “He never wanted to put restraints. He always thought everyone had their own personality and let them be and put them in a position to make plays.”

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