Let's quickly summarize Phil Emery's first 11 1/2 months as the Chicago Bears' general manager:
For the modest sum of two third-round draft picks, Emery acquired one of the NFL's best and most enigmatic wide receivers. Brandon Marshall rewarded the decision with a career year and last weekend was named a first-team All-Pro.
He fired coach Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season, unconcerned about the level of difficulty in finding a coach better than the one who built an 81-63 regular-season record in nine seasons.
As Smith's replacement, Emery hired a one-time NFL wunderkind who has been out of the league for eight years and coaching in the CFL for five. As we discussed earlier, Marc Trestman is a courageous choice who will either be a monstrous home run or a fall-on-your-face strikeout.
The English language offers us plenty of words to describe Emery's tenure. I'll choose "bold." Emery was a longtime scout and spent time as a conditioning coach at the Naval Academy, but he has shed all stereotypes that go along with that background. Anyone who thought he would take a cautious, by-the-book approach, has been proved wrong.
Emery has certainly displayed the work ethic of a career grinder, interviewing at least 13 candidates in two weeks and stunning them with his preparation and thorough approach. Asked in a news conference earlier this month about the Bears' offensive line, he spoke for about 10 minutes and used nearly 2,500 words to explain why he didn't sign or draft additional depth.
His thought process, however, can clearly take alternative paths. I've talked to some NFL people who have been predicting a Trestman-like hire for Emery. They have suggested he is much more aggressive than people realize, completely secure in his informed judgments and totally unconcerned about initial public reaction. Based on what we know about Emery and Trestman, it's quite possible that the Bears' new power duo connected on a professorial level that matched their unique personalities.
What it also speaks to, I think, is an approach I first heard voiced by former Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress. (And no, there are no further comparisons to be made here.) Shortly after he was hired in 2006, Childress said he would make all important decisions with the idea that he was unlikely to get a second chance if he failed. If he was going to go down, Childress wanted to go down knowing he had done what he thought was right.
Emery is following a similar approach. Chances are that this is the one an only general manager job he'll ever have. Recycled general managers in the NFL are rare. His decisions and moves haven't always been predictable, but they are ones he has clear conviction on. Emery isn't looking to extend his time on the job with safe decisions. He's trying to do his job and is willing to reach out of the box to do so.