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EMERY starts to narrow his list

Chicago Bears General Manager Phil Emery speaks about firing head coach Lovie Smith during press conference Halas Hall Lake Forest

Chicago Bears General Manager Phil Emery speaks about the firing of head coach Lovie Smith during a press conference at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill., on Tuesday, January 1, 2013. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 16, 2013 6:27AM

More than a dozen head-coaching candidates were interviewed during the last two weeks, and Bears general manager Phil Emery will conduct second interviews with at least three of them in the coming days.

Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Seattle
Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman will head to Halas Hall for a second interview, according to multiple league sources.

What’s unclear, however, is what step the Bears are at in their search for a 14th head coach.

Two days after the season ended,
Emery said he would like to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with his head coach during the All-Star games, mentioning the East-West Shrine game, which takes place Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

But are Arians, Bevell and Trestman the finalists? Is there a mystery coach who hasn’t been publicly linked to the Bears waiting in the wings? Or are the Bears waiting to speak with an assistant from one of the NFL’s final four playoff teams?

Per league rules, an initial interview cannot be conducted until the assistant’s team is eliminated or during a window after the title games Sunday and by Jan. 27, if his club reaches the Super Bowl.

With four other clubs also looking for a new coach, the Bears are electing not to divulge too much information about their search. Last year, when they were replacing general manager Jerry Angelo, the Bears provided updates on candidates and interview dates.

What is known, however, is that Emery has invited Arians, Bevell and Trestman to spend some time with the powers that be at Halas Hall, most notably chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips.

And each has strong credentials.

Arians is an NFL Coach of the Year candidate after leading the Colts to a 9-3 record in place of Chuck Pagano, who was out with leukemia, and spurring one of the great turnarounds in recent NFL history. The Colts were just 2-14 in 2011. He’s also developed a reputation for player development, most notably with Peyton Manning, Plaxico Burress and, this season, Andrew Luck.

Bevell is one of the hottest assistants in the NFL, given the remarkable rookie season of Russell Wilson, a third-round pick who performed brilliantly and finished with the fourth-best passer rating (100.0). Bevell also was the offensive coordinator in Minnesota when Brett Favre had an MVP-caliber 2009 season.

Trestman has distinguished himself with his work with a number of NFL quarterbacks and for leading the Alouettes to consecutive Grey Cup titles. During the NFL offseason, Trestman often works with talented incoming rookie quarterbacks, including current Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

Several league sources think that Trestman is the front-runner.

“I never saw him scream or yell, but everyone buys in because he’s the smartest guy in the room,” said Darryl Conrad, a CFL offensive lineman who was on the Alouettes roster the first few months of Trestman’s tenure. “In the CFL world, players want to go to Montreal and play for him.”

The timetable for the Bears search is unclear, but Emery said during his news conference that he’s looking for “synergy” with his head coach.

“We have to make decisions in lockstep,” Emery said. “We don’t always have to agree. But in the end, we have to have the right synergy together to make the most positive move going forward.”

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