Commentary

Do Bears have room for another boss?

Polian might have 'interest' in Bears GM job, but it might not be that easy for Chicago

Updated: January 12, 2012, 3:20 PM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The firing of Bill Polian Monday as vice chairman of the Indianapolis Colts was not met with quite the same reaction as Jerry Angelo's dismissal as Chicago Bears general manager Tuesday.

That is to say Angelo did not have anyone say they were "shocked and disappointed" at the move, as Peyton Manning did regarding Polian.

[+] EnlargeBill Polian
AP Photo/Michael ConroyVice chairman Bill Polian, left, and GM Chris Polian will not return to the Indianapolis Colts next season.

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 McCaskeys, "had interest" in speaking to the Bears about coming to Chicago.

"We're going to find the right guy and do what it takes," said Bears president Ted Phillips, who will lead the search but would not comment specifically on any candidates.

The issue is whether anyone, particularly two Polians, will fit into a Bears hierarchy that still appears top-heavy. Colts owner Jim Irsay didn't expound on his reasons for letting Polian go after 14 years, other than to say "It was time," which he repeated three times during his news conference.

The question now is whether it is time for the Bears to hire Polian, a Hall of Famer who oversaw the Buffalo Bills' four Super Bowl appearances, was largely responsible for the rapid growth of Carolina as an expansion franchise, and led Indianapolis out of the NFL basement and to a Super Bowl title.

As usual, it is not always that easy.

Polian, 69, is a six-time NFL Executive of the Year. In the 14 years under his command as GM and then vice chairman, the Colts won 10 games or more 11 times and two AFC championships.

Ironically, Polian's undoing sprung from not having an adequate backup at starting quarterback after Manning missed the entire season with a neck injury and the Colts went 2-14.

The Polians are a package deal. Chris, assumed in Indianapolis to be heir apparent to his father, was named the team's GM four years ago but did not make the day-to-day decisions until this season, his ill-fated signing of Kerry Collins to a $4 million contract a well-publicized mistake.

Irsay and Bill Polian have been friends for 30 years, so it was clearly not an easy move but it wasn't a hard one either.

Polian can be old-school. And he likes control, even, at times, when it comes to on-field decisions, which would not play with Bears coach Lovie Smith. Phillips also said the Bears want to bring in a GM who "understands Lovie's philosophy," which would seem to undermine the new football boss before he even gets here. After increasing tension and general discord between Angelo and Smith led to Angelo's firing, one would assume the Bears would try to avoid that with the next hire, though talent evaluation should take precedence, shouldn't it?

Polian had his own Monday night radio show in Indianapolis during the season but had a well-known distaste for local media covering the team. Considering the small market size he was dealing with in Indianapolis and Buffalo, you also wonder how that would play out in Chicago.

Phillips said Angelo "did a lot right," though he hardly belongs in the same sentence with Polian in that regard. Aside from picking Manning with the No. 1 pick of the 1998 draft ahead of Ryan Leaf, Polian presided over the selection of future Colts all-time leading rusher Edgerrin James with the fourth overall pick in 1999.

Polian also outvoted then-Colts coach Tony Dungy in taking defensive end Dwight Freeney over Dungy's preference, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in 2002. And Polian struck gold as well with tight end Dallas Clark, whom he chose in the first round in 2003 and who went on to set team records for career receptions and touchdowns at the position.

One of Polian's best diamonds in the rough was defensive end Robert Mathis, whom he snagged in the fifth round of the 2003 draft and who became a Pro Bowler and led the Colts in sacks the last two seasons.

Polian has a history in Chicago, having coached the Blitz of the USFL, and a friend says he would "love to return." The source also said that Smith, who is well-acquainted with Polian through his friendship with Dungy, should pull for Polian's hire because Polian is "honest and fair."

If the Bears are looking for a football man to take over the operation, Polian may well be their man. The question is whether the Bears have room for another boss.

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.

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