Chicago Bears: GM search

The next step for Bears, Emery

January, 30, 2012
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Phil Emery certainly looks the part.

Of a scout, I mean. A football lifer. A well-tanned man’s man who also knows the isolation of a video room.

"Football is all in the tape," said Emery, the new general manager of the Chicago Bears, at his introductory press conference at Halas Hall on Monday.

Like I said, he looks like a scout, and he sounds like one too.

I’d grade his tan a solid 6.7, for instance. He hangs his glasses around his neck, like a wise old soul, all the better for easy access at a pro day. I bet his thumb is stuck in the stopwatch position. He spoke mostly in football generalities, teamwork, being a teammate, all the cliches one could expect.

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A quick look at Phil Emery's philosophies

January, 30, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- With the Chicago Bears missing the playoffs four of the last five years under former general manager Jerry Angelo and current head coach Lovie Smith, their fans were eager to hear new boss Phil Emery lay out his new vision for the organization moving forward.

"I know we found the right guy," Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips said to kick off the festivities.

Only time will tell if Phillips is right.

Here is a brief overview of Emery's philosophies, or at least the ones he was willing to share to an auditorium full of reporters Monday at Halas Hall.

[+] EnlargeLovie Smith
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesLovie Smith will play a role in determining the Bears roster, according to new GM Phil Emery.
Lovie Smith: Emery said he was “excited" about being involved with the Bears’ head coach, which was actually a pre-requisite for the job. But he dodged multiple questions about Smith's future, saying on numerous occassions that his “head isn't there right now.” Emery went as far as to say he and Smith will work together to form the final vision of the roster and the draft.

Draft: Emery said he has “a very good feel for the composition of this draft,” which is what you would expect to hear from a veteran college scouting director. The plan, according to Emery, is to "raise your own", building the team through the draft and augmenting the roster via free agency. Perhaps the most interesting part of the media session came when Emery described the differences between the way he approaches the draft compared to Angelo. According to Emery, "how we grade players is different, how we structure the staff, the grading scale is different, how we apply the grading scale, our balance between the pro and college sides [are different].”

Staff: Emery praised the current group of Bears scouts, but plans to hire more talent evaluators following the draft. According to Emery, "we'll have the resources we need to build our staff." Expect the Bears to hire a seperate director of pro personnel and a director of college scouting in the wake of Tim Ruskell leaving the organization on Monday.

Forte's contract: Emery labeled the specifics about Matt Forte "an internal matter", but did call the franchise tag a tool that was collectively bargained and is fair to the players and the teams. "I do know Matt the player and we have evaluated Matt extensively," Emery said. "But that's an internal matter. We don't discuss those things -- contracts, contract statuses. We are not going to show our cards."

Wide receiver: Another "internal matter". Emery said he will not discuss potential players or specific areas of need.

No. 2 quarterback: That also falls under the category of an internal matter.

Current Bears roster: Emery called Jay Cutler "a fine quarterback." He called Brian Urlacher "a player who is still making plays." The age of the defense is not a problem for Emery, as long as the players continue to be "playmakers".

Personal: Emery models himself most after Kansas City Chiefs executive Scott Pioli, who enjoyed tremendous success with Bill Belichick in New England. Emery says he is quite familiar with “the Patriot way,” but that new situations sometimes call for the plan to be altered to a certain degree.

Bears introduce Emery as GM

January, 30, 2012

The Chicago Bears introduced Phil Emery Monday as the franchise's fifth general manager.

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Five key issues awaiting new GM Emery

January, 28, 2012
The Chicago Bears' search for a new general manager concluded on Saturday when the club named Phil Emery as the fifth GM in franchise history. Here are five issues facing Emery, who meets the Chicago media for the first time Monday afternoon at Halas Hall:

1. The upcoming NFL Draft: The Bears’ failure to draft enough impact players, especially in the years following the 2006 Super Bowl berth, ultimately proved to be Jerry Angelo's undoing. Currently holding four picks in the first three rounds, it's critical for the Bears to hit on at least two impact players who can step in, stay healthy and potentially start. There are to be no more redshirt seasons. The Bears can no longer afford to draft the likes of Jarron Gilbert, Juaquin Iglesias, Dan Bazuin, Marcus Harrison and Michael Okwo in the earlier rounds. Emery was hired, partly, because of his extensive college scouting background. The quickest way to get a franchise back on the track is to draft well. The quickest way to destroy a franchise is to draft poorly. More than anything, Emery's tenure as Bears general manager will be defined by his draft record in the month of April.

2. Forte's deal: For whatever reason, the Bears and Angelo were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension with Matt Forte last summer. Now that Forte is an unrestricted free agent, Emery has three choices; (1) sign Forte to a new contract, (2) apply the franchise tag or (3) trade the star running back. The best-case scenario would be for the two sides to resume talks and begin to try and find some common ground in regards to guaranteed money. If Emery can step in and close a fair deal that benefits both parties, it would earn him instant credibility with the fan base. Where Angelo failed, Emery could succeed.

[+] EnlargeMuhsin Muhammad
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireThe Bears haven't paid big money for a free agent wide receiver since signing Muhsin Muhammad in 2005.
3. Repairing the offense: The Bears have the quarterback (Jay Cutler) and the running back (Forte), but are in bad need of playmakers in the passing game at both wide receiver and tight end. Under Angelo, the Bears drafted a receiver in either the first or second round just once (Mark Bradley, 2005) and haven't paid a large sum of money to a wideout in free agency since Muhsin Muhammad that very same year. That needs to change. Mike Martz ruined the tight end position in Chicago. That needs to be fixed. If the Bears and Emery are smart, both can be accomplished this offseason.

4. Making it work with Lovie Smith: Smith has many strengths as a head coach. He treats star players like royalty, which in turn makes it easier for him to keep the locker room. He is a sharp defensive mind, even if people take issue with the actual system the Bears run. He's won his share of games, which in the end is all that really matters. And he is beloved by the McCaskey family. That last fact alone is some of the best job security a man can ask for. But Smith has issues when it comes to evaluating talent. This is where Emery needs to take control of the roster. There is nothing wrong with a coach giving his recommendations on players, but at the end of the day, Emery must be the decision maker, not Smith. Smith is a fine coach. Leave it at that.

5. Briggs situation: Don't forget about Lance Briggs. He either wants a new deal or wants to be traded. Briggs is still an elite player who was just voted to his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl. But he is under contract through 2013, and the Bears already paid him the bulk of the money in the first few years of the six-year extension he signed in March 2008. Briggs going public last year with his demands on the eve of the regular season really upset Angelo. Let's see how Emery responds.

Bears tab Phil Emery as GM

January, 28, 2012

The Chicago Bears announced they reached an agreement Saturday with Phil Emery to become the club's franchise's fifth general manager.

The team plans to introduce Emery during a Monday 2 p.m. press conference at Mugs Halas Auditorium.

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Emery has second interview with Bears

January, 27, 2012
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears conducted the final interview in their search for a new general manager when they hosted Kansas City Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery for a second time on Friday.

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Bears need to see the Licht

January, 27, 2012
CHICAGO -- Jason Licht was in The Room on Thursday -- the Chicago Bears' interview room in Lake Forest, that is.

Of course, he's also been in the Patriots' draft room too, despite what you've heard. Sources hint he was allowed to put his drink on the Draft Table without a coaster.

That's some serious swag. (Also, a joke.)

As most football fans know by now, New England does things the Bill Belichick Way, which has resulted in five Super Bowl appearances, one "Spygate," a handful of books, and a two-part NFL Network documentary.

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Source: Bears, Licht to talk Thursday

January, 26, 2012
New England Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht, one of two finalists for the vacant Chicago Bears general manager position, will have his second interview with the club on Thursday, a league source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

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Former Bear Shaffer coaching prospects

January, 25, 2012
MOBILE, Ala. -- Former Chicago Bears offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer wrapped an arm around the neck of University of Alabama-Birmingham's Matt McCants to congratulate him for a job well done in one-on-one drills against defensive linemen.

Just as quickly, Shaffer crouched into a stance to point out some of the technical kinks in McCants' game.

[+] EnlargeKevin Shaffer
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesFormer Bears offensive lineman Kevin Shaffer has been coaching NFL prospects.
“Hey, let’s watch some film tonight so I can show you some of the things I’m talking about,” Shaffer told a nodding McCants just after the South team’s Senior Bowl workout on Wednesday.

Released by the Bears last February after a nine-year career in the NFL, Shaffer says he’s retired with no plans to return and sees coaching as his potential niche. Shortly after leaving the NFL, Shaffer volunteered to coach at local high schools but quickly realized the techniques he was teaching “were too advanced for high school kids,” he said.

But later, Shaffer received a call from his agent Alan Herman, who runs Sportstars, to come and work with the agent’s draft-eligible clients in New York as they prepare for the NFL combine, and other pre-draft workouts.

“I’ve been doing this ever since, and having a lot of fun doing it,” he said.

In working with McCants and other Sportstars clients, Shaffer said he’s called upon teachings from his former coaches such as Alex Gibbs (Atlanta Falcons), and current Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice, whom he described as a “technician”.

Here are a few more interesting morsels from the Senior Bowl:

Bears attendance: Chicago’s coaching staff isn’t well-represented at the Senior Bowl with just running backs coach Tim Spencer and offensive line assistant Dan Price in attendance. And with the entire coaching staff on vacation, it seemed a tad odd the coaches would be at the Senior Bowl.

Many times out-of-work coaches, scouts and other workers frequent the Senior Bowl to network and search for employment. But that’s not what Spencer and Price are doing. Even with all the changes being made, there’s no need to question whether those coaches will remain on Lovie Smith’s staff.

Spencer has been eyeing potential backup running backs. With his wife, Gilda, out of town, Spencer said he was “tired of sitting at home looking at the dog” and wanted to get a jump on preparations for 2012. Price, meanwhile, has been spotted all week following offensive linemen at drills.

Uncertainty not stopping work: Despite the future of the Bears’ scouting department appearing to be on shaky ground with the team searching for a new general manager, that’s not preventing the group from putting in plenty of hard work at the Senior Bowl.

None of the members of the department were willing to go on the record with, but most of them expressed the sentiment that they can’t and refuse to worry about circumstances beyond their control.

One member of the department said that he knows quite a bit about the team’s finalists for the GM position -- Phil Emery and Jason Licht -- and would be excited to work with either candidate.

Emery has been spotted walking around at Ladd-Peebles Stadium during workouts, and surely it must feel awkward for Chicago’s scouts to be trying to get their work done knowing that their potential next boss is likely watching closely.

Speaking of awkward: New York Giants college scouting director Marc Ross interviewed with the Bears last week, according to a source who described the process as “a little weird.”

Ross met with Bears president Ted Phillips, senior director of football administration Cliff Stein and senior director of corporate communications Scott Hagel in one sitting, according the source, and later spoke with Smith.

Perhaps what the source found “a little weird” was that Ross interviewed with only one “football guy” (Smith) throughout the process.

Etc: Sportstars has an astounding eight clients playing in the Senior Bowl. ... Shaffer pupil McCants (6-5 1/2, 309 pounds) played the tuba in his high school’s marching band and wasn’t even allowed to play football until his senior year. McCants made a deal with his mother, Birtha, to let him play if he made good grades. McCants delivered on the academics, and Birtha allowed him to play. McCants has already finished a degree in criminal justice.

Licht's resume worthy of real consideration

January, 23, 2012
That Kansas City Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery secured a second interview for the Bears general manager job should hardly come as shock, given Emery's past employment with the Bears as an area scout from 1998-2004, not to mention his excellent reputation in the NFL scouting community.

As we've written before, Emery is considered an extremely hard worker who has been well received by his peers during his various stints with Chicago, Atlanta and Kansas City.

But fellow finalist Jason Licht, the New England Patriots’ director of pro personnel, also possesses certain traits that no doubt stood out during his first interview last Monday with Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips.

When Licht was in Philadelphia from 2003-07, first as the assistant director of player personnel then later vice president of player personnel, Eagles employees who were privy to Licht's personnel reports called them "concise" and "convicted". Licht was heavily involved with Tom Hecket (now the current general manager of the Cleveland Browns) and Ryan Grigson (now the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts) in the Eagles’ draft preparations, and was considered one of several rising stars in the organization.

However, for reasons not completely clear, Licht was let go by Philadelphia in 2008, in a move that eventually paved the way for Howie Roseman (the current Eagles general manager) to rise through the ranks. Eagles scouts were said to have been baffled by the decision to fire Licht, but understood Roseman, the vice president of football administration with a salary cap background before Licht was pushed out, had considerable pull with Eagles president Joe Banner.

But Licht landed on his feet and joined the Arizona Cardinals in 2008, the year Arizona went to the Super Bowl. He left Arizona after one season, a move that raises eyebrows for some, but for whatever reason the Cardinals did not make Licht sign a contract, so he was able to jump to New England the following year after interviewing with Bill Belichick at the 2009 NFL Combine.

Licht previously worked for the Patriots as a college scout, national scout and assistant director of player personnel from 1999-2002 before heading to Philadelphia.

Those who understand the power structure in New England are adamant that Licht is a valued member of the front office who is involved in New England's personnel decisions, to an extent. That's because it's widely known Belichick has final say in all matters, and on draft day, only wants a select few bodies in the war room to limit distractions. Besides, according to sources, Licht's input on the draft is given before the event actually begins, so his actual presence in the Patriots’ war room during the draft isn't required by Belichick, who again, makes all the calls in New England.

Emery is no doubt qualified and would be a comfortable choice for the Bears to make because of his past history and understanding of how the McCaskey family operates the franchise. Licht, however, has spent the majority of his NFL career working alongside some of the most talented personnel evaluators in the game.

Licht wouldn't be an easy choice. But he wouldn't be a bad one, either.

Bears to bring back 2 GM candidates

January, 23, 2012
The Chicago Bears will conduct a second round of interviews this week with two candidates for general manager, the team announced.

Kansas City Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery and New England Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht will return for second interviews.

The Bears denied multiple reports on Monday that a decision has been made to hire Emery as GM.

"A decision has not been made," a team source said Monday afternoon.

Emery, however, is believed to be a strong candidate for the job, given his previous role as an area scout for the Bears from 1998-2004, plus a solid overall college scouting background.

In addition to Emery and Licht, the Bears last week interviewed New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross, San Diego Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye and current Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell.

The Bears generally move at their own pace when making an important organizational decision. Phillips even hinted on January 3, the day former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo got fired after 11 seasons, that the search process could possibly extend into February, if necessary.

GM search: More interviews or a decision?

January, 23, 2012
After bringing in five candidates last week to interview for the Chicago Bears' general manager position, team president and CEO Ted Phillips is expected to decide early this week how the club plans to proceed. The search is now officially 20 days old following the dismissal of former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo on Jan. 3.

Kansas City Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery, San Diego Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye, New England Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht, New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross and current Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell were all given a chance to state their case for the job last week at Halas Hall.

As of late Friday, the Bears did not expect to interview any additional candidates for the vacant general manager spot.

Given the Bears' methodical approach to the search process, Phillips could decide this week to whittle down the list of five candidates, and potentially conduct a second round of interviews if he deems it necessary.

However, Ross and Licht both saw their teams advance to the Super Bowl over the weekend, which could potentially complicate matters if the Bears are targeting either of the two.

Under league rules, the Bears would need written permission from either New England or New York to officially hire Ross or Licht before the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis. The decision to grant permission or veto the move would be entirely up to the Giants or Patriots, and completely out of the Bears' control.

Once the season ends following the Super Bowl, the candidates would be free to accept the Bears job if offered to them.

Bears interview K.C.'s Emery for GM

January, 20, 2012
CHICAGO -- The final candidate of the week to interview for the Chicago Bears general manager position was Kansas City Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery, who spent Friday meeting with the teams' brass at Halas Hall.

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Source: Bears talk to Ross about GM job

January, 18, 2012
New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross met with the Chicago Bears at Halas Hall on Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the situation, marking the third interview the team has conducted in its search to replace Jerry Angelo, who was terminated on Jan. 3 as general manager.

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Bears' GM search list continues to shrink

January, 6, 2012
Les Snead and Eric DeCostaGetty Images, AP PhotoLes Snead remains a top candidate for the Bears, but Eric DeCosta is off the list.
The pool continues to shrink for the successor to recently fired Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, with the Baltimore Ravens announcing that director of player personnel Eric DeCosta has decided to remain with the team.

The Bears had sought permission to interview DeCosta for their GM vacancy. On Thursday, the Bears lost another potential target when the Oakland Raiders hired Green Bay Packers director of football operations Reggie McKenzie as their new GM.

That doesn't totally diminish Chicago's chances of bringing in the top-notch talent evaluator it covets.

A source told on Thursday that the Bears were "meticulously vetting" Atlanta Falcons director of player personnel Les Snead to bring in for an interview. Besides that, sources have also said that Bears coach Lovie Smith -- who will have a hand in this process -- isn't necessarily searching for one of the big-name prospects as much as he's looking for someone he's comfortable with and can trust.

Those criteria could lead the Bears into taking a look at Washington Redskins director of pro personnel Morrocco Brown, who worked in Chicago as the assistant director of player personnel from 2001 to May of 2008.

Brown is familiar with Smith and his philosophy as well as the inner workings of the Bears.

Multiple sources said the team had targeted DeCosta initially, but it appears now that Snead is the most attractive of the remaining candidates. But Snead is set to interview in St. Louis and Indianapolis. Chicago would appear to be the most attractive of the teams to Snead. But it's worth noting that the Colts own the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft, which could prove enticing.

In explaining the club's search criteria in the aftermath of Angelo's departure, Bears team president Ted Phillips cited chemistry with Smith and the ability to evaluate talent as two key attributes the Bears covet in their next GM. Snead has shown the ability to mesh with coaches, considering he's worked through multiple changes of regimes. A former tight end at Auburn, Snead has served under four head coaches in Atlanta.

Snead works closely with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who came to Atlanta in 2008 from New England, where the Patriots held a .819 winning percentage during his tenure. The Falcons promoted Snead to director of player personnel in 2009.

It's also believed that Arizona Cardinals director of player personnel Steve Keim could emerge as one of Chicago's top targets. Keim has held his position since May of 2008.

As the search for a GM heats up, however, the Bears at some point will need to satisfy the "Rooney Rule," a league mandate in which teams must interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching jobs and positions in senior football operations.

John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance shared his organization's list of the league's top minority candidates.

Included on the organization's current list are: Jimmy Raye Jr., San Diego Chargers director of player personnel; Marc Ross, New York Giants director of college scouting; Ray Farmer, Kansas City Chiefs director of pro personnel; Lake Dawson, Tennessee Titans vice president of football operations; Will Lewis, Seattle Seahawks vice president of pro personnel; Louis Reddick, Philadelphia Eagles director of pro personnel; and Sheldon White, Detroit Lions vice president of pro personnel.

Farmer and Dawson have been linked to the Bears' current opening.