Wow. What can I say? I’m surprised. Not quite as surprised as I was this morning, when I first heard the news, but surprised nonetheless.
Under the microscope of new Chicago Bears' Chairman and owner, George McCaskey, Ted Phillips fired general manager Jerry Angelo after a near-unprecedented 11-year run.
During Phillips’ Tuesday afternoon press conference, he made it clear where he felt the issues were, and where it is that the Bears need to improve.
“Obviously talent evaluation is one of the top attributes that we need in a general manager,” Phillips said. “And obviously, we need to do better in the early parts of the draft.”
Those are two statements Bears fans know very well. Not because we’ve recently heard them from this organization, but because we are the ones who have been saying them for the last five years. It appears the deficiencies became all too clear to ignore this offseason.
And all it took was one little fractured thumb.
Throughout Phillips’ and McCaskey’s press conference today, the resounding points, touted over and over again, were better drafting and keeping up with the talent in the NFC North. And, according to Phillips, the search for the general manager who can make that happen begins now, and it spares no expense.
“Money will not be a factor [in determining the general manager],” Phillips said.
That process may take as long as into early February, Phillips admitted, due to a number of factors, but he did express a desire to get the position filled sooner rather than later.
Along with the firing of their GM, the Bears will not retain offensive coordinator Mike Martz or quarterbacks coach Shane Day—a known Martz conspirator (always wanted to say that).
The moves at Halas raise so many questions; it’s hard to address them all in one post. But I’ll do my best to address the most important ones right now…
What does all of this mean for Matt Forte?
With Jerry Angelo in place, talks between the Bears and Matt Forte’s agent had reached a stand-still, and the team was in no hurry to spark up the conversation again. Seeing as Forte is an exclusive rights free agent this offseason, it appeared the Bears had meant to franchise tag the running back for one year and evaluate their options again in 2013—when, theoretically, they could tag him a second time.
There’s no reason to assume a new GM would not take the same road as Angelo likely would have with Forte. But if Angelo's hard-ass approach was the issue in why the talks broke up in the first place (I don't think that's the case, mind you), there’s at least a chance a new general manager may be able to reach some sort of a long-term deal with Matt moving forward. Ted Phillips alluded to that Tuesday:
“We would like Matt Forte to be here long term,” he said.
What is Lovie Smith’s future with the Bears?
There was a lot of high praised heaped upon the Bears’ long-time head coach from, both, Phillips and McCaskey on Tuesday. And they made it clear that he was going to stay in Chicago in 2012, saying that would absolutely be a caveat for any GM coming on board THIS SEASON.
“I think there are a lot of candidates who would love to work with Lovie Smith,” Phillips said. “And I have a lot of confidence in Lovie.”
But, despite all that high praise, Phillips made it clear that come 2013, the general manager would have full power to make personnel decisions with regard to the head coach. In addition to that, both team representatives made it clear that the expectation is to compete in 2012—there will be no grace period; no rebuilding phase.
Given that, and Smith’s current contract situation, one would assume that Lovie is back in the hotseat in 2012. Praise or not, McCaskey made it clear that the goal is 2012, and should Lovie not get the job done next season, it’s likely he may face the end of his run in Chicago.
Team chairman McCaskey probably said it best:
“Well, because we didn’t win the Super Bowl, I would consider the season disappointing. Bears fans deserve a champion, and we’re committed to bringing championships to Chicago.”
Damn, I like the sound of that. Now do it pleeaaassse.
Who are the candidates for the general manager position?
This is certainly not an easy question to answer. The team said they would not rule out any candidates at this point, but that they did already have some candidates in mind. Phillips even alluded to the fact that they may be looking at individuals on current playoff teams. By the way, “not eliminating anyone right now” includes Tim Ruskell, Phillips said. But a source for the Tribune said the Bears would conduct their search "outside" of the organization.
Some of the candidates mentioned today have been Packers' director of football operation Reggie McKenzie—who has ties to head coach Lovie Smith; Packers director of college scouting, and a big part of the reason for Green Bay’s success via the draft, John Dorsey; former Colts' GM and six-time NFL executive of the year Bill Polian; New York Giants’ director of college scouting Marc Ross; Baltimore Ravens' director of player personnel Eric DeCosta; Seahawks' director of pro personnel Will Lewis; Falcons' director of player personnel Les Snead; and Louis Reddick, Philadelphia Eagles' Director of Pro Personnel.
The obvious choice in that group would be Bill Polian, and it’s sure the Bears will give him a look. But my personal favorite of those eight would be John Dorsey up in Green Bay. For my money, bring me some of that draft magic! Ted Phillips was clear that the person they would hire would have to have a proven track record of solid talent evaluation, and Dorsey certainly has that.
Who are the candidates to replace Mike Martz?
The first name that comes to mind is obviously Mike Tice, and Phillips did say the decision would be Lovie Smith’s. However, I’m not sold on another project when the motto for 2012 is win or go home, and I’m not sure Lovie Smith will be either.
One guy to keep an eye on is Jeremy Bates. Bates, who was the offensive coordinator up in Seattle in 2010, served as Jay Cutler’s quarterbacks coach while he was in Denver. Another possibility is Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dirk Koetter, whose contract is up this offseason. This picture remains slightly less clear at the moment.
The only question left is what the heck is firejerryangelo.org gonna do now?
P.S. ~ Here are the Bears' press releases from all of today's events: