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About a month ago, I wrote a draft for a column about Jerry Angelo called "The Audacity of Hopelessness."
It never ran. My editors never posted it. Smart people. They knew.
One of the great elements in the dynamics of sports journalism is when someone saves you from yourself. It happens often. More than I (or any other writer) would care to mention. Hindsight in this game can be frightening. Expose the painstakingly guarded hypocrite in all of us.
Look at them now. These Bears. The same team that this time in October was posting a 2-3 record, and had columnists and radio hosts calling for Angelo's head to be neatly placed on the NFL GM guillotine, had this writer taking pride in writing lines such as: "This Bears team -- this year's version, the one that once had our noses open like Rick Perry once had the country, and gave us the audacity to dream -- is who we thought they weren't."
|Jerry Angelo has been a target of frequent scorn among Chicago media members. Is it justified?|
Now that in a four-week span the Bears have gone from "horrible" to arguably "the most feared team" in the NFC -- if not the entire NFL -- why is the praise for Angelo so silent? I can't hear it. Can you?
Funny how accolades and accountability work. It's never a two-way street. Especially when one side is being told by an outside source that it needs to make headlines and meet deadlines for a living.
Angelo. Anyone? Anyone? I'm not saying he's a savior or a saint or that in January he'll beat the Saints, just saying that when the pundits of our world are justifiably raising the Why Not The Bears As Super Bowl Contenders? flags, why aren't any of us following that up with stories and columns in defense of the role Angelo has played in getting them to this point?
This is the same team that a month ago was 21st in the league in sacks; 28th and 29th in opponents' rushing yards and opponents' total yards, respectively; and tied for 17th in points per game. The same team that was allowing opposing offenses 5.3 yards per carry, the highest per-carry average the team had allowed in more than 40 years. Etc. Etc. Etc.
And Angelo is the same man who was being blamed for reportedly deciding not to pay an additional $500,000 on the team's offer to keep Olin Kreutz, blamed for losing Greg Olsen, blamed for putting blind faith in Roy Williams and Marion Barber instead of going aggressively after a Marshal Yanda or a Johnathan Joseph, blamed for allowing Matt Forte's contract dilemma spill over into the regular season. Etc., etc., etc.
You'll notice how irrelevant all that has become. You'll notice how -- once the Bears beat the Eagles in Week 9 and got payback against the Lions this past Sunday -- this new momentum has made the issues and flaws take a backseat to the belief that the return of Earl Bennett and the removal of Chris Harris (note: an Angelo move) changed everything.
Wish it was all that simple. It never is. Which is why some praise -- just for believing these Bears at some point in the season would become who he thought they were -- must go Angelo's way. Praise for staying the course he created, for not panicking when the heat got hellish, for not listening to any of us when we were about to label him the next Jerry Krause.
The problem with sports journalism is that the structure of what we do makes it easy to place direct blame on someone but hard to give indirect praise. And virtually inconceivable to self-criticize. Without saying many of us (journalists) were wrong about Jerry Angelo, the noiselessness of us giving him credit speaks for us. Only because we know if and when it all goes wrong, we have to be able to tell our readers: "We told y'all so."
On Oct. 15 I wrote: "At some point, we have to be real with ourselves. Jerry Angelo, although he cannot be absolved from all wrong doing, cannot be the sole focal point of complaint and criticism of why we feel the Bears are underachieving. It is his fault, but the Bears at this point just aren't on that ennoblement level, not on the level of the teams they've so far lost to this season. They aren't NFL hierarchy. Not yet. They are an above-average team with a solid roster that happens to be a tier below the best teams in the NFL. A team whose record is reflective of the truth."
Now those same Bears are something different, something better. And Angelo's name is nowhere to be heard or read.
It would be nice to admit that we were wrong. It would be nice to say or write that Jerry Angelo knew what he was doing all along and that we, the gatekeepers with opinions, were the ones who jumped to conclusions too soon, that we were pointing our fingers and focus in some wrong directions.
Too bad that will never happen. Too bad Jerry Angelo will never get to read something that directly associates his role with the team he built finally living up to our expectations.Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.