Chicago Bears: Jerry Angelo
As we get closer to May, we'll start getting into Chicago's potential plans. But for right now, let's take a look at the club's past five drafts, starting with 2009 under former general manager Jerry Angelo. The Bears selected five players that started games, but interestingly not one of those players remain on the team.
Remember, this 2009 draft came after the Bears traded for quarterback Jay Cutler, a transaction that required the team giving up three picks (two first-round selections and a third-round choice).
First-round pick: None
Number of picks: 9
Pivotal pick: Gilbert certainly fits the description here because he was the team's first pick, meaning the Bears needed to acquire an impact prospect after trading away a first and a third in the Cutler deal, in addition to the second-round pick to Seattle. Gilbert gained some fame going into the draft for a YouTube video in which he was seen jumping out of a pool, but on the field with the Bears he never accomplished anything quite as impressive. Angelo definitely whiffed on this pick, as well as the next one: receiver Juaquin Iglesias.
Best pick: Knox could have easily earned this designation, but his career was cut short prematurely by a horrific back injury. So Melton gets the call here. Melton was taken in the fourth round as a defensive end and ended up sitting out his entire rookie season because of a hamstring injury. Melton contributed at defensive end and defensive tackle in 2010 in a reserve role. When Melton switched over to defensive tackle full time in 2011, he started in all 15 games he played, led all NFC players at his position sacks (7) and tied for third in sacks among all defensive tackles in the NFL. Then in 2012, Melton made the Pro Bowl after generating six sacks and 33 tackles, which landed him an $8.45 million contract as the team's franchise player. Melton then missed the majority of the 2013 season due to a torn ACL, and signed with the Dallas Cowboys in free agency.
Worst pick: Gilbert is in the running, but Iglesias (No. 99 overall) was perhaps the worst of the class. As a rookie, Iglesias was active for only one game, and in 2010 the Minnesota Vikings signed him off the Bears' practice squad. Iglesias was one of three receivers drafted by the Bears in 2009, and served as a reminder for the club's struggles at that time at that position. Chicago traded for one of the league's top quarterbacks that offseason, but never gave him any real weapons in the draft until Emery selected Alshon Jeffery in 2012. Iglesias, meanwhile, spent 2013 in the Canadian Football League and signed to play with the Helsinki Wolverines of the American Football Association of Finland.
Former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, who initiated the move, told The Game 87.7 FM on Wednesday that he’d "absolutely" do the deal all over again because, “You’ll never see a situation like that ever come about again. It never did before, and it certainly won’t (in the future)."
Most likely, Angelo is correct.
“You don’t let a quarterback in his prime who went to a Pro Bowl, where the arrow is going up, out of the building,” Angelo said. “There were some circumstances mostly due to egos that created that. So you seize the moment. There were a lot of teams in line trying to trade for Jay, and if the Bears didn’t sign Jay, I said this: 'There would be four or five teams standing at his doorstep waiting to sign him.'”
The Bears surrendered two first-round picks, a third-round selection, and their starting quarterback in Kyle Orton at the time in a trade on Apr. 2, 2009 that many thought could reverse Chicago’s fortunes, given its need for a bona fide signal caller. But several circumstances have conspired to prevent Cutler from leading the Bears to a Super Bowl. We’ll get into those later, but let’s first look a little more deeply into the trade.
With the first-round picks the Broncos acquired, they traded one in the 2010 draft to San Francisco, which selected offensive tackle Anthony Davis No. 11 overall. Denver used the other in 2009 to acquire defensive end Robert Ayers. Denver traded the third-round pick acquired from the Bears to Pittsburgh, which snatched up receiver Mike Wallace.
Ultimately, Denver traded away two of the three picks received from the Bears and eventually parlayed those into the acquisitions of receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, who recently joined the New York Jets via free agency.
The Bears, meanwhile, used the Denver’s fifth-round pick in 2009 to select receiver Johnny Knox, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie return specialist.
Since the trade, Cutler has led the Bears to the playoffs just once over five seasons, and the Broncos have advanced to the postseason three times, and appeared in Super Bowl XLVIII. ESPNChicago.com colleague Jeff Dickerson made a salient point during a Jan. 31 Four Downs feature when mentioning that “when a team surrenders two first-round picks, a third-rounder and its starting quarterback to acquire a supposed franchise quarterback, and then reaches the postseason just one time in the five years after the deal from a team that ends up reaching the playoffs three times and playing in the Super Bowl over the exact same time period, the winner is obvious: the second team. Spin it any way you want, the Broncos crushed the Bears on that trade five years ago.”
Maybe they did, but it’s still worth mentioning some of the challenges Cutler has faced throughout his tenure in Chicago. The man who made the trade, Angelo, was fired by the club, and former coach Lovie Smith suffered the same fate last offseason. Further chipping away at any sense of stability for Cutler is the fact he’s played for four different offensive coordinators -- and four different offenses -- in five years with the Bears.
And after four years of horrid protection (Cutler has played only one full 16-game season since joining Chicago), a lack of offensive weaponry, and outdated schemes, it appears new general manager Phil Emery has finally fixed those issues. Cutler almost immediately responded with his best year as a pro, which in turn led the Bears to signing him to a seven-year extension.
Here’s what ESPNChicago.com colleague Jon Greenberg wrote about the trade back on Jan. 31: “The Bears traded picks for a franchise quarterback, and that is what they have in Cutler. It hasn't been easy, but after a few stops and starts, it looks like Cutler is finally poised to live up to the expectations brought about with that trade. If he had been traded to a team with big receivers and an offensive-minded coaching staff, this wouldn't even be a question. It's a testament to the Broncos that they wisely used the picks to get Super Bowl contributors in Ayers and (through trades) Thomas and Decker. When you trade a star to get draft picks, that's how it should work, a win-win for both sides. But the real key, of course, is Peyton Manning being available. Otherwise, this isn't even a debate.”
Both Dickerson and Greenberg make strong points, and on the surface, it certainly appears Denver came out the winner in the trade. But my thought is that even after five years, it’s absolutely fair to reserve complete judgment until after the 2014 season, with Cutler in the second year of a real offensive system, surrounded by competent weapons and strong protection.
If Cutler falters, then Denver won big in the trade. If he shines, depending on how bright, perhaps we might be able to one day call it a draw.
“The position speaks for itself. It’s the value of what (Cutler) does,” Angelo explained. “He’s very, very talented. We all know that. The Bears have won a lot of games with Jay. If Jay stays healthy, particularly in this kind of an offense with the weapons he has, I think the sky’s the limit.”
Did Angelo -- as he once so eloquently and hilariously told a reporter -- "Whistle Dixie" here?
Sure seems like it, considering what Angelo gave up to get Cutler, the contract extension he gave the quarterback just five games into 2009, in addition to all the rhetoric wasted on defending him over four seasons. Grading Cutler and the rest of the league's quarterbacks for sidelineview.com, Angelo wrote: "Has all the physical tools, but inconsistent in the clutch. Mostly due to a lack of poise. He's not comfortable reading defense and consequently locks onto a favorite or pre-determined target that may or may not be the right choice. The less he's asked to see the better he is. A better half-field general than a full field one."
Perhaps all of this is true. But it's not like any of this hasn't been brought up in the past to Angelo.
Back in 2011 prior to a matchup against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, many of those critiques were mentioned in a conversation with Angelo, who defended the quarterback, saying he was "seeing ghosts" and "shellshocked" from all the punishment he had taken due to horrid protection up front. At the time, Angelo's defense of Cutler made sense. Going into that matchup, Cutler had been sacked 15 times over his previous four outings. Then, in that 24-14 loss to the Lions, Cutler suffered three sacks while completing 73.7 percent of his passes.
In the four years Cutler and Angelo spent together in Chicago, the quarterback finished with passer ratings of 76.8, 86.3, 85.7 and 81.3, throwing for 82 touchdowns and 63 interceptions while completing 59.6 of his passes. In 2013, Cutler produced a career-best passer rating of 89.2 and completed 63.1 percent of his throws in Year 1 of a new offense with a new head coach in Marc Trestman.
Angelo also broke down Cutler's game back in September on his Facebook page:
He has all the physical tools. His arm strength, release and precise passes make him dangerous from anywhere on the field. He moves well and throws well on the run, an area that can be cultivated like his days in Denver.Obviously, Cutler did that. Yet Cutler remains a target of criticism from the man who spent so much in 2009 to acquire him and so much breath defending him. Angelo's critique isn't without merit, just a little perplexing given their history.
But his numbers and most QB rankings are pedestrian, given his talent. The question is why?
Part of the problem, he's going on his fourth coordinator since arriving in Chicago. Continuity is important to every player, particularly those at his position.
From his standpoint, two issues stand out to me.
First he needs to distribute the ball consistently to his secondary receivers. His penchant to have a favorite receiver is understandable but not at the expense of ignoring the others. To put up big numbers, you have to keep defenses on their heels and off balance. Make them guess or cheat and when they do, you make them pay.
The way to do it is force them to defend the whole field, not half of it. Make them defend every level and every zone. You do this by spreading the ball to all your weapons.
You force defenses to respect those weapons by going to them.
All the elite quarterbacks create receivers.
The second concern ties into the first; his lack of consistency and production in the red zone. It's not all on Cutler, but it's where the top quarterbacks distinguish themselves. The Bears were tied for 22nd in offense when they got down there. He's better than that, and they have enough established weapons to exploit opponents when they are down there.
The optimum word for Cutler is 'trust': in himself, those around him and what he's asked to do. He's taken a lot of 'hits' and at age 30 they can take their toll. I've never questioned his toughness and knowing him, I know he's in top shape and anxious to get going.
Usually at this point, you either get it or you don't. He has an offensive specialist as his head coach, and it's going to take the help of a specialist for him to reach his ceiling.
I think it's a good bet he'll have a top year.
Remember, Angelo once said "it's crap" in response to criticism regarding Cutler's toughness after the quarterback left the NFC Championship Game following the 2011 season due to a knee injury.
"We wouldn't have been where we were without [Cutler]," Angelo said at the time.
Now, Cutler lacks poise and isn't comfortable reading defenses.
Again, maybe that's all true. But as we so often like to say on Monday Night Countdown: "C'mon, man."
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.
Read the entire story.
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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