The Chicago Bears moved forward in their search for a new general manager on Thursday by conducting an interview at Halas Hall with current director of player personnel Tim Ruskell.
The meeting marked the fourth interview the Bears carried out in their attempt to find a replacement for Jerry Angelo, who was fired on Jan. 3. The club brought in New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross for an interview on Wednesday, and met Monday with New England Patriots director of player personnel Jason Licht. The Bears have also interviewed San Diego Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye.
The Bears plan to finish interviews with previously announced candidates on Friday, when they speak with Kansas City Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery. But the club hasn't ruled out conducting meetings with unannounced candidates.
Ruskell, meanwhile, presents somewhat of an interesting dilemma for the Bears to ponder considering his ties to Angelo, who hired Ruskell in April, 2010. Ruskell and Angelo worked together in Tampa Bay for 14 seasons before reuniting in Chicago.
Any perceived loyalty between Ruskell and Angelo by ownership could be viewed as a potential pitfall to the team accomplishing its goals long term.
Prior to coming aboard with Angelo in Chicago, Ruskell worked five seasons (2005-09) as the president of football operations and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks.
Ruskell started his tenure there with the best run of postseason success in franchise history, which included four playoff wins from 2005-07. But upon Ruskell's ousting in 2009, the Seahawks had stumbled to an 8-19 record dating back to 2008.
In addition, the Seahawks yielded only one Pro Bowler (linebacker Lofa Tatupu, who is no longer with the team) in five drafts run by Ruskell that included 37 draft picks. Of those acquisitions, just nine of them remain on Seattle's roster.
Ruskell's track record outside of the draft seems shoddy, too. In his second season, the Seahawks allowed All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson to leave for no compensation, then re-signed aging running back Shaun Alexander to a lucrative deal, before cutting ties with him just two years later.
In 2006, Ruskell traded away a first-round pick in the 2007 draft to New England to sign Deion Branch, before inking him to a six-year contract worth $39 million. Branch never started all 16 games in five mediocre seasons, during which he never caught more than 53 passes. Branch is now with the Patriots.
Still, Ruskell's familiarity with Bears coach Lovie Smith and the organization could help his chances to become the team's new GM. Team president Ted Phillips said that Smith would meet with some of the candidates, but ultimately, "the decision will be mine."
Ruskell is currently running all the team's scouting operations, and will do so until the Bears name the new GM.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.