Chicago Bears: Jerry Angelo
Selected 14th overall in 2008 by former general manager Jerry Angelo as the club’s left tackle of the future, Williams never lived up to his draft pedigree, resulting in the Bears releasing him last October after he’d lost starting jobs at two spots along the offensive line. Williams received a fresh start in St. Louis shortly after his departure from Chicago, and has started all 10 games at left guard for the Rams this season. Williams faces his former team Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Williams received that just prior to Week 8 of last season, and played in three games that year prior to winning a starting heading into 2013.
“He came in and played guard and tackle for us last year, and played well,” Fisher said. “He’s familiar with the system now. He’s communicating real well with Scott [Wells] and Jake [Long]. He’s having fun. He’s a great guy in the locker room, and he’s become a great teammate here.”
Williams started 38 games for the Bears, with just seven of those starts coming at left tackle, the original position he was brought in to play.
Williams moved from left tackle to guard after suffering a hamstring injury in 2010 against the Dallas Cowboys. Then, going into the 2012 season, the Bears pitted Williams against J’Marcus Webb for a competition for the starting job at left tackle; a battle Williams ultimately lost.
Just before Williams’ release, he had been inactive for two consecutive weeks.
“Chris is a great guy and we had a great talk after we released him," former Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice said at the time. "He's had some bad breaks; he's had some bad injury breaks. We tried to move him inside [to guard] a little bit, and just as things were going last year he got dinged-up a little bit and lost some time. Right now, I just think the organization felt it would be good for him to maybe get a fresh start.”
The name to watch is former Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, who is high on the Jets' radar. Angelo had an impressive interview, sources said.
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After interviewing four candidates, the Jets have decided to expand their search for a new general manager. New York will interview three new candidates Thursday, including former Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo, according to league sources.
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Sunday's 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings was the Bears' fourth in five games, a slump that has dropped them from NFC North leaders into a fight for wild-card playoff position. (The Bears are now clinging to the sixth seed in the NFC playoff race after the Seattle Seahawks' 58-0 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.) They are now 0-6 in their past two Decembers, and watching them Sunday made you wonder if they are nearing the end of an era.
Linebacker Brian Urlacher was walking through the locker room in street clothes, sidelined by a hamstring injury that ESPN's Adam Schefter has reported could end his season and perhaps his career in Chicago. Quarterback Jay Cutler was nursing an injured neck that was so stiff he could not turn it during a postgame news conference, instead swiveling his upper body or just moving his eyes to face questioners. Even coach Lovie Smith, who always looks ready for battle, was notable for the gray stubble sprouting from his chin.
"The window of opportunity for us is a lot smaller," Smith said, "but we still control what happens to us."
Smith was referring to this season's playoffs, and yes, the Bears have a good chance of advancing if they win their final three regular-season games. They might well get in with a 2-1 finish. That schedule includes one home game, next Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, and then road games at Arizona and the Detroit Lions to finish the season.
Do you see three wins in those games? Maybe. Do you see two? It's quite possible. But here's a more specific question: Do you see either scenario from the team the Bears trotted onto the Metrodome carpet Sunday? I'm not sure about that.
Cutler didn't mince words afterward, saying: "We have just a handful of games left, and we have to win them all." But what if they don't? What would a second consecutive December collapse mean for this franchise?
Smith has a 79-62 record in nine seasons with the Bears. He had them in the NFC Championship Game two years ago and seemed destined for a deep playoff run last season before Cutler's season-ending thumb injury. This year, Smith had the Bears at 7-1 before they hit this slump.
Instincts tell you that Smith's job isn't riding on the next three games. But the Bears haven't been predictable since George McCaskey ascended to the chairman's role two years ago. After Week 14 last year, I wouldn't have guessed general manager Jerry Angelo would be fired the day after the season. That event means that Smith's boss, new general manager Phil Emery, isn't the man who hired him.
Even if Smith keeps his job, you would think the Bears' 2012 finish will jump-start the rebuilding of a defense that has been slowed by age and injuries in the second half of the season. Sunday, the entire team seemed literally to be falling apart in front of our eyes.
Place-kicker Robbie Gould strained a calf muscle in pregame warm-ups. Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson ripped off a 51-yard run on the first play of the first game Urlacher has missed in three seasons. Receiver Alshon Jeffery slipped on a cut, resulting in an interception that set up a touchdown that gave the Vikings a 14-0 lead less than halfway through the first quarter.
Receiver Devin Hester dropped a certain touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and teammate Brandon Marshall allowed a potential fourth-down conversion to skip off his hands. Even Cutler interrupted one of his better NFL seasons with some sloppy throws, including one in the third quarter that sailed over Marshall and was returned 56 yards by Vikings safety Harrison Smith for a touchdown. That score proved to be the deciding points in the game.
"We have to come out with a higher sense of urgency," said defensive lineman Israel Idonije. Said linebacker Nick Roach: "We kind of came out a little flat, maybe."
How the Bears came out flat in a December game with playoff implications is a story with no acceptable explanation. This performance should be a wake-up call to anyone who believes in the Bears' status quo.
Cutler was one of the few players who appeared to be scrapping from the start, most notably on an 11-yard run on third-and-10 to extend the Bears' second possession. But Cutler paid a price for his hard-driving play. He said his neck was "stiffening up more and more" as the game progressed, and Smith pulled him late in the fourth quarter after he absorbed one final head shot from Vikings defensive lineman Everson Griffen.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Marshall said "we just have to win out" three times in a span of four questions. And if they don't? Well, anything -- and everything -- seems possible.
Of the eight first-round picks made by Angelo from 2011-12, just four (Rex Grossman, Cedric Benson, Greg Olsen and Carimi) are currently on NFL rosters with former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris representing the group’s only three Pro Bowl appearances.
The 14th overall pick of the ’08 draft, Williams was tabbed the club’s left tackle of the future but never really made a mark at the position the Bears intended for him to play. Williams’ most productive seasons came in 2010 and 2011, when he made the majority of his starts at left guard. In fact, of the 38 starts Williams made as a Bear, 20 came at left guard, 11 at right tackle and just seven at the left tackle spot.
Before this season the Bears thrust Williams into a training camp competition with 2010 seventh-round pick J'Marcus Webb, but Williams lost out on that derby and the club relegated the veteran to a backup role. The acquisition of Chilo Rachal lessened Williams’ chances to contribute at guard, where the Bears already possessed plenty of depth with Edwin Williams and Chris Spencer.
The team’s decision to finally cut ties with Williams came about primarily because other players on the roster -- namely recent acquisition Jonathan Scott -- had impressed the staff enough to earn a shot at playing while assuming the role as the swing tackle. Williams doesn’t leave the team on bad terms, though.
Within the organization, Williams was regarded as “a good guy” that deserves at least an opportunity to play elsewhere, if not for the Bears.
Still, on some level the organization is likely wondering how much Angelo’s first-round selections set the club back, considering only one remains a Bear while eight more are either out of the league or on the rosters of other teams because they weren’t deemed valuable enough to keep.
Kansas City Chiefs executive Phil Emery emerged as a favorite early in the process because of his unique qualifications under those criteria, and for that reason it was far from surprising to hear that the Bears hired him Saturday.
Emery spent seven years as a Bears scout from 1998-2004, making him relatively familiar with the inner workings of Halas Hall and unlikely to pursue a massive overhaul. He was part of a Bears scouting department that drafted eight future Pro Bowlers, from receiver Marty Booker to linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs to safety Mike Brown and cornerback Charles Tillman. Later, he drafted receiver Roddy White and quarterback Matt Ryan, among others, as the Atlanta Falcons' director of college scouting.
Emery surely will bring his own tone and vision to the Bears' front office. But initially, at least, he'll do so by assimilating the existing infrastructure and minimizing the side effects of transition.
The Bears have missed the playoffs in four of the five seasons since their appearance in Super Bowl XLI. But whether you agree or not, Phillips said he thinks the team has suffered from inconsistent talent evaluation rather than larger-scale issues. So in essence, he has swapped one longtime scout-turned-general manager for another in hopes of getting better results.
Phillips said Jan. 3 that the Bears needed to close the "talent gap" that exists between the Bears and their two most competitive NFC North rivals, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. In many ways, the decision to bring back Emery reflects the Packers' hiring of general manager Ted Thompson in 2005.
Thompson spent eight years with the Packers in various personnel roles between 1992 and ‘99 before returning as general manager in 2005. Emery brings a similar reputation as a blue-collar scout and workaholic who figures to spend a good portion of his years on the road personally scouting college players.
Thompson, of course, had the authority to remake the Packers franchise as he saw fit. Much of the front office remained intact, but he fired coach Mike Sherman after one season and hired Mike McCarthy in 2006. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV with a 53-man roster that included 49 players acquired after Thompson's arrival.
That's a tough ideal for Emery and the Bears to pursue, but I wouldn't be surprised if it comes up at some point during Monday's news conference to introduce him formally. The Bears wanted a low-key leader who would focus on talent evaluation and, like Thompson, stay below the radar. By all accounts, Emery fits that bill.
The Chicago Bears' search for a general manager to replace Jerry Angelo turned up a few names the club has scheduled to interview in the coming days, the team announced Wednesday on its website.
The team received permission to interview Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery, Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht, Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye and Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross.Read the full story.
That is to say Angelo did not have anyone say they were "shocked and disappointed" at the move as Peyton Manning did regarding Polian.
On Tuesday, a source close to Bill and his son Chris, who was also relieved of his duties as Colts' GM, said the Polians, longtime friends of the McCaskey's, "had interest" in speaking to the Bears about coming to Chicago.
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That couldn't be further from the truth, according to McCaskey, who on Tuesday singled out Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips as the driving force behind the ouster of the club's long-time general manager.
"Let me correct the misconception; it was Ted's decision," McCaskey said. "He asked for my input. I gave it to him. I gave him the input of the rest of the ownership, and Ted made the decision which we fully support.
"Under our organizational structure, ownership selects the president and CEO. The president and CEO, in consultation with ownership, selects the general manager. The general manager, in consultation with the president and ownership, selects the head coach."
The prevailing feeling at Halas Hall following the 31-minute press conference in response to the firing of Angelo, was that Phillips and coach Lovie Smith wield the bulk of the power in the building. While McCaskey is certainly involved to a certain extent in the organization's decision-making process, he claims not to be interested in using his authority to personally usher in sweeping changes.
"I said when I became chairman that I didn't feel any particular need to place a personal stamp on the Bears, that my job was to work with and in support of the president and CEO, and that's what happened in this case," McCaskey said. "Ted consulted me, I supported his decision as does our entire family."
The nerve of those reporters. As if J'Marcus Webb wasn't enough! And how about Gabe Carimi?!
"Everybody has an opinion: 'They need this, they need that,' " Angelo said. "Well, tell me who you want. Who should we look at? Give me names. Don't tell me about our problems. Give me solutions. I'm in the solution business, not identifying the problems. You guys do a great job of identifying our problems. How about a few solutions."
Apparently, George McCaskey and Ted Phillips are in the solution business, too. And as Angelo said recently, they didn't "whistle Dixie" about making a change after a 7-3 season devolved into an 8-8 ending.
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1. Lance Briggs -- third round (2003) -- This season marked the seventh straight Pro Bowl selection for Briggs, the perfect fit at weakside linebacker in the Bears Cover 2 defensive scheme. Briggs and veteran Brian Urlacher are widely considered one the best, or the best, linebacker tandem in the entire NFL.
2. Matt Forte -- second round (2008) -- Selected to his first Pro Bowl in 2011, Forte has established himself as one of the top all-around tailbacks in the league. However, his unresolved contract situation, plus the negative attention it received in the press, might have been one of the factors in Angelo losing his job.
3. Charles Tillman -- second round (2003) -- A model of consistency at the cornerback position. Tillman finally earned a Pro Bowl nod after years of solid play. Tillman's uncanny ability to strip the football and force turnovers has made him one of the core members of three division winning defenses.
4. Devin Hester -- second round (2006) -- Hester never developed into a upper echelon receiver, but he is the best return man in the history of the NFL. Enough said.
5. Johnny Knox -- fifth round (2009) -- Once again, Knox has flaws as a wideout, but in the fifth round, he is considered a steal. Knox made the Pro Bowl his rookie year as a return man, and has made enough big plays in the passing game the last three years to be considered a viable weapon.
Honorable mention: Alex Brown (fourth round, 2002), Tommie Harris (first round, 2004), Bernard Berrian (third round, 2004), Nate Vasher (fourth round, 2004), Chris Harris (sixth round, 2005), Kyle Orton (fourth round, 2005), Greg Olsen (first round, 2007), Corey Graham (fifth round, 2007), Earl Bennett (third round, 2008) and Henry Melton (fourth round, 2009).
2. Dan Bazuin -- second round (2007) -- Bazuin suffered a pair of injuries right out of the gate, went on injured reserve as a rookie, then was cut the following summer. He doesn't even appear on the Bears official all-time roster.
3. Michael Okwo -- third round (2007) -- Lovie Smith deserves much of the blame for the Bears selection of Okwo, who they touted as the heir-apparent to Briggs. The only problem: Okwo couldn't play and some wondered if he even liked football.
4. Mark Bradley - second round (2005) -- Bradley showed promise early his first year before tearing his knee up at Ford Field. He never recovered. To make matters worse, Bradley acted like he was entitled. That lasted until 2008 when the wide receiver was finally released.
5. Cedric Benson -- first round (2005) -- Benson went on to have a nice career with Cincinnati, but he was a disaster in Chicago. Another member of the entitlement club, Benson was handed the starting job in 2007 and flopped. A few legal issues later and he was gone. And to think; the Bears traded Thomas Jones to make room for this guy.
Honorable mention: Roosevelt Williams (third round, 2002), Dusty Dvoracek (third round, 2006), Marcus Harrison (third round, 2008), Jarron Gilbert (third round, 2009) and Juaquin Iglesias (third round, 2009).
But it's worth pondering potential replacements.
As NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert pointed out, the Bears are operating under a new chairman in George McCaskey for the first time in nearly 30 years. So it would be unwise to assume Angelo's successor will be a traditional general manager such as Ruskell, a close friend of the departed GM who came to Chicago in 2010 after five years as the Seattle Seahawks' president of football operations.
Ruskell's perceived loyalty to Angelo might be viewed by the organization as a potential hindrance to its long-term goals because the two share similar philosophies, despite the need to find someone quickly to lead the team's draft preparations. Besides that, it's believed the organization will open up the hiring process nationally for what should be one of the most highly coveted jobs around the league.
Expect former Indianapolis Colts vice chairman Bill Polian, who was fired Monday, to emerge as a candidate.
But Packers director of football operations Reggie McKenzie will draw the most speculation as Angelo's potential successor because of his relationship with Bears coach Lovie Smith.
It's unknown whether Smith will play a role in the organization's selection.
According to sources, Smith and McKenzie are close, and the executive's track record is undeniable since he took over as director of football operations in 2008, after working 10 years as Green Bay's director of pro personnel. Since joining the Packers in 1994 as a pro personnel assistant, the organization has won eight division titles, three conference crowns and two Super Bowls. Interestingly, McKenzie's daughter, Jasmin, attends Wheaton College outside of Chicago.
Other personnel executives around the league could be in consideration, according to sources, such as Detroit's Sheldon White, Les Snead of the Atlanta Falcons, Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore's Eric DeCosta.