A week or two ago, I was discussing the future of the Chicago Bears with a friend. We started with the obvious -- whether offensive coordinator Mike Martz would return -- then moved up the ladder a bit. Was there any chance of a bigger shake-up after the Bears missed the playoffs in four of the five seasons since appearing in Super Bowl XLI?
Under the McCaskey family, we agreed, the Bears have been a methodical and slow-moving organization that wasn't prone to emotional reactions. But in a development that didn't register with enough people this past year, a new McCaskey assumed leadership in the summer. George McCaskey, the younger and more involved brother of former chairman Michael McCaskey, is now ultimately responsible for the team.
We'll find out soon whether it was George McCaskey who fired Jerry Angelo on Tuesday or whether the parting was mutual. But make no mistake: One of the NFL's most stable franchises has jumped into uncertain waters for the first time in a decade. The move is a surprise mostly because it came from the Bears. Angelo's 11 seasons are more than most NFL franchises give their general managers.
Angelo has run the Bears' football operations since 2001. He hired coach Lovie Smith in 2004, and together they have one of the longest tenures of any football leadership structure in the NFL. Angelo's departure leaves every aspect of the Bears' program under review, including Smith, and there is no telling where that might lead. Smith signed a contract extension last winter through the 2013 season, but after today he won't be working for the person who hired him. That situation rarely bodes well for a head coach, at least in the long term.
We'll get more into Angelo's time with the Bears as the day progresses. Suffice it to say, it will go down as a mix of on-the-field success and front-office missteps, including a series over the past calendar year that suggested Angelo's regime was lively but disorganized. A botched draft-day trade with the Baltimore Ravens, the failure of free-agent signings Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna, (which cost the McCaskey family about $12 million for nearly no production) and the arrest of receiver Sam Hurd on federal drug distribution suspicion were the latest examples. Eventually, those things pile up.
More to come.