Bears must assess Tim Ruskell's candidacy

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
11:43
AM ET
Now that we know the Chicago Bears will move on without general manager Jerry Angelo but will retain coach Lovie Smith, the next question is natural: Who will take the top front-office leadership position?

We should be careful about assuming that person will be a traditional general manager, not with the Bears operating under a new chairman (George McCaskey) for the first time in nearly 30 years. At the very least, however, someone will have to run the personnel department and head up draft preparations. The first option would seem to be Tim Ruskell, a close friend of Angelo who joined the team in 2010 as director of player personnel.

Ruskell's arrival after five years as the Seattle Seahawks' president of football operations seemed like a succession plan for Angelo's eventual retirement. But Angelo didn't retire Tuesday. He was fired, and that wouldn't bode well for anyone in the front office with close associations to him.

Ruskell's candidacy depends on the extent to which the Bears want to change their front-office culture. He would be a different leader than Angelo, but his ascension wouldn't qualify as a game-changer. His ties to Angelo and their similar philosophies date back to their time together decades ago with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On the other hand, there is NFC North precedent for the right-hand man of a fired general manager to be promoted. That's exactly what the Detroit Lions did after firing Matt Millen in 2008. Current general manager Martin Mayhew had been Millen's assistant for seven years.

Bears president Ted Phillips will address the situation at a 5 p.m. ET news conference.

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