Source: Bears' GM search heats up

Updated: January 5, 2012, 9:41 PM ET
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com

Chicago Bears president Ted Phillips said the search for Jerry Angelo's successor as general manager began in earnest Tuesday, and by Thursday some names had emerged.

A league source told ESPNChicago.com Thursday that the club is "meticulously vetting" Atlanta Falcons director of player personnel Les Snead as a candidate to bring in to interview.

Also, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter Thursday that the Bears requested permission Thursday to interview Ravens executive Eric DeCosta. Earlier Thursday, a league source also told Schefter that the Bears had been granted permission by the Indianapolis Colts to interview director of player personnel Tom Telesco. However, the source later clarified that the Bears have discussed Telesco as an option, but haven't requested permission for an interview yet.

The source added that the St. Louis Rams have asked to interview Telesco.

DeCosta is believed to be the top contender for the Bears job, according to multiple sources, but he also will interview with the Rams, according to reports.

There's a question as to whether the botched trade between Baltimore and Chicago in the draft last April -- which resulted in disparaging remarks about the organization from Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti -- could result in the Ravens denying the Bears permission to interview DeCosta.

That won't be the case here.

According to the league's anti-tampering policy, "if a club elects to grant permission for one of its employees to interview for a high-level position, or to accept employment, it must grant permission to all inquiring clubs that seek to interview him. Permission cannot be granted selectively."

The Ravens have reportedly granted permission for the Rams and the Colts. The Falcons also granted Snead permission to interview with those same clubs.

The teams granting permission for the interviews, however, can set parameters for the meetings, such as time and location, with prospective candidates. It's highly unlikely, but the Ravens could make parameters difficult for the Bears to sit down with DeCosta.

Of the four teams expressing interest in Snead, the Bears represent one of the more intriguing destinations for the executive, who has been with the Falcons since 1997. A source familiar with Snead said he considers three of the four potential suitors "good to very good opportunities."

In explaining the team's search criteria, Phillips cited chemistry with coach Lovie Smith and the ability to evaluate talent as two key attributes the Bears covet in their next GM. In addition to working through multiple changes of regimes, Snead -- a former tight end at Auburn during its 11-0 season in 1993 -- has served under four head coaches in Atlanta.

Snead currently works closely with Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff, who went to Atlanta in 2008 from New England, where the Patriots were 77-17 during his tenure.

Snead, who has a strong reputation as a pro scout, was in charge of Atlanta's pro scouting operations when he was promoted to director of player personnel in 2009.

"Les continues to distinguish himself as an adept evaluator in our business," Dimitroff said then. "His work ethic, critical evaluation and detail-oriented approach to all aspects of personnel clearly set him apart."

Green Bay director of football operations Reggie McKenzie is also a strong candidates in the Bears' search. McKenzie interviewed in Oakland on Wednesday, according to Schefter.

At some point in the search, the Bears also must satisfy the "Rooney Rule," a league policy requiring teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach openings and positions in senior football operations. Chicago could do this by bringing in McKenzie.

The NFL's Diversity Committee, which includes commissioner Roger Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney, met two weeks ago with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which shared with the committee its short list of minority candidates.

John Wooten, chairman of the alliance, said his organization looks over the list with the diversity committee every year during the annual meeting.

"These guys are top talent evaluators. That is so key in that GM position," Wooten said. "One of the things that happened to the Bears when they lost [Jay] Cutler was they just didn't have a quarterback. Same thing happened at Indianapolis. They didn't have an adequate guy to go in and hold the line. That falls strongly on your GM."

Included on the alliance's current list: McKenzie; Jimmy Raye Jr., San Diego Chargers director of player personnel; Marc Ross, New York Giants director of college scouting; Ray Farmer, Kansas City Chiefs director of pro personnel; Lake Dawson, Tennessee Titans vice president of football operations; Will Lewis, Seattle Seahawks vice president of pro personnel; Louis Reddick, Philadelphia Eagles director of pro personnel; Sheldon White, Detroit Lions vice president of pro personnel; and Morocco Brown, Washington Redskins director of pro personnel.

Brown worked as Chicago's assistant director of player personnel from 2001 until May 2008, when the Redskins hired him.

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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