Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Bears want better drafts, not culture change
By Kevin Seifert
By nature, the Chicago Bears' decision to fire general manager Jerry Angelo leaves them a substantively different organization Tuesday evening. The general manager establishes a long-term football vision for every franchise, and the Bears' will change based on whom they hire to replace Angelo.
With that said, Bears officials took great pains during a news conference to insist that the nature and structure of the franchise will remain intact. Team president Ted Phillips said that the new general manager will have the same role and authority that Angelo did, including supervision of the head coach, and new chairman George McCaskey denied being the catalyst for Angelo's ouster.
Earlier Tuesday, we wondered if this episode signaled a new era of Bears ownership after more than a decade of hands-off rule. But unless McCaskey was telling a bald-face lie Tuesday, this was not the case of a trigger-happy new sheriff.
"I said when I became chairman that I didn't feel any particular need to place a personal stamp on the Bears," McCaskey said. "[M]y job was to work with and support the CEO and that's what happened in this case. Ted consulted with me. I supported his decision."
In the end, the Bears weren't looking to effect a culture change after missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five years. Instead, Phillips said, they are just looking for a way to get better players.
"We want to close that talent gap with our division rivals," Phillips said, "and that's why that decision was made."
Phillips wouldn't go into a point-by-point assessment of Angelo's shortcomings, but he did say that the Bears need better success at the top of the draft. Only two of Angelo's first-round draft picks remain part of the organization, and both -- tackle Gabe Carimi and guard Chris Williams -- finished the season on injured reserve.
Angelo deserves credit for some of his mid-draft selections, including receivers Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox. But in the past six drafts, the Bears have selected only three players who have made the Pro Bowl: Running back Matt Forte, returner Devin Hester and Knox, who was originally an alternate and made it as a returner in 2009.
Phillips will conduct the search for a new general manager, making clear to all candidates that coach Lovie Smith will remain in his job. Smith is not a candidate to be elevated, Phillips said, and Angelo assistant Tim Ruskell will operate the personnel department in the interim.
Who knows where this search will take the Bears. Phillips said he is still accumulating a list of candidates and is willing to spend a month or longer on the process. But if you were hoping the Bears would clean house or make a dramatic show of change after their disappointing finish, well, they've fallen short of your expectation. Their basic structure and many of the components remain in place. Only the identity of the general manager will change.