LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Phil Emery had plenty of work to accomplish from the moment he got hired as Bears general manager on January 28. For the first time in his NFL career, Emery had to worry about more than formulating a plan for the annual draft held in April, which is a complicated and time consuming task in itself.
As general manager, Emery's job titles also required the life-long college scout to spearhead the club's plan in free agency, which has so far netted wide receiver Brandon Marshall (via a trade with Miami), backup quarterback Jason Campbell, special teams standouts Eric Weems and Blake Costanzo, plus the re-singing of four of the teams own free agents -- Tim Jennings, Josh McCown, Kellen Davis, Israel Idonije - with perhaps a few more to come.
Without the luxury of a full calender year as Bears' general manager to prepare for free agency, Emery got creative with the scouting staff he inherited from ex-boss Jerry Angelo.
"Because of the timing of hiring, which worked out very well, but it puts you back a little bit in terms of things you would normally do," Emery said Friday. "The schedule that I had been involved with in the past several of years, was that our main meeting for college scouting was held in December, the second week of December. Because of when I came in and the urgency of free agency, we set our priorities, and brought our college scouts in. Instead of meeting right away, we had them evaluate pro tape. If you have a background in college scouting, you have learned to identify talent and project forward. Actually, watching players as pros is an easier process because the level of the playing field is the same, where in college you have a wide variety of talent.'
"We used our college scouts' expertise to come in and help us work on undrafted free agents. We put our coaches through the same process, met with both groups and formulated our groups of players we would target and work through."
As for next month's draft, Emery said he visited approximately 72 schools last fall when he served as Kansas City's director of college scouting, and that immediately following this year's NFL Combine, the entire staff met for 10 days and evaluated 400 career players. So familiarity of the players should not be an issue, but the Bears grading scale, in place since Angelo arrived in the late spring of 2001, was a minor obstacle to overcome.
Emery spoke about changing the team's grading scale as it pertains to college players at his introductory press conference at the end of January, but that transition will have to wait until after this draft. Because of time constraints, the Bears stayed on the same grading scale, but with a slight tweak.
"We used our current grading system," Emery said. "I knew it because I had been here in the past and worked with people who also used a similar scale. So I know the scale, but what I did was take aspects of what I used the last several years in Atlanta and Kansas City, we didn't change grades but we changed the labels on players. So we attached those labels to them so that I could have a common understanding of where the grade is at and where we are at with the player."