Chicago Bears don’t have to make flashy move at GM, just the right one

Chicago Bears don’t have to make flashy move at GM, just the right one
Marc Ross, New York Giants’ Vice President of Player Evaluation

I suggested earlier in the week that, of the head coaching candidates currently on the market, the Chicago Bears could do worse than to hire former New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. That would indeed be a flashy move, and one most would consider unexpected from a hiring team that consists of George McCaskey and Ted Phillips.

Because while football guys know Rex Ryan is a good coach, guys like Ted and George may be frightened off by his larger-than-life personality and his unabashed history of interacting with the media. And so far as we know, the Bears have yet to request an interview with Ryan. That alone should tell Bears fans something.

Of course, the team of McCaskey and Phillips hope they have an ace up their sleeve in advisor Ernie Accorsi, career football executive and consultant, who last held the position of general manger with the New York Giants from 1998 to 2007. Accorsi’s most famous career move was the trade that sent Philip Rivers and multiple draft picks to the San Diego Chargers in exchange for Eli Manning. Two Super Bowl MVPs should make it pretty clear how well that deal paid off.

But Accorsi’s involvement and football history aside, Phillips seemed to make it very clear in Monday’s press conference that, while Accori will advise, he and George will make every final decision. I don’t have an issue with George making the final decision — it’s his club, why leave its future up to an advisor? — but Phillips’s strong involvement is puzzling to say the least.

It’s not that the Bears must hire the next flashy candidate for their vacant head coach or general manager position, but they absolutely mustn’t be afraid to go outside their comfort zone to hire the right candidate. The fact the Ryan is as of yet seemingly not a consideration for HC, and the fact that Ted Phillips is still wearing his “football guy” cap, makes me wary of just how sweeping the changes at Halas Hall will ultimately end up being.

But let’s put the misgivings aside for a bit and look at few of the better GM candidates on my list, and what might be a few keys things to look for — the right things.

The Bears have stated their intent to hire a new general manager before hiring a head coach unless a situation they simply can’t pass up dictates they do otherwise, and they already have HC interviews scheduled for this weekend with guys coaching on playoff-bound teams, so they need to work fast if they want their future GM on board for the HC hire.

The right things to look for

Let’s face it: the Chicago Bears are not an attractive place to land for any candidate currently employed by one of the better run organizations in the NFL. I’m talking about the Ravens, Seahawks, Patriots, Packers, and Giants, among others.

And yet, this is where the Bears should at least look. But in order to lure the best of the best from those draft-driven, playoff contending teams, they must be willing to swallow their pride and admit what they are and are not as an organization right now and offer the best candidates organizational power and stability, and the chance to get it right.

So who are the best candidates?

Eric DeCosta, Baltimore Ravens’ Assistant GM (off the market)

The flashy hire at GM for any club in the market today would be Eric DeCosta. DeCosta has been a part of the brain trust in Baltimore since the inaugural season of the franchise, and he’s the heir-apparent to Ozzie Newsome Jr. His legacy is the Baltimore Ravens, and as he made quite clear yet again this week, he’s not courting suitors now or in the foreseeable future. So Bears fans can forget this one.

George Paton, Minnesota Vikings’ Director of Player Personnel (off the market)

Paton is another guy who has been atop the NFL’s GM short list for two or three years now. He’s turned down offers from the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams in the past, and he has now turned down the New York Jets and Chicago Bears in their current searches. Many thought Chicago might have the potential to lure him away from the Vikings, as Paton worked in the Bears scouting department back in the 90s, but it appears that he’s more than content with his current situation in Minnesota.

Nick Caserio, New England Patriots’ Director of Player Personnel (off the market)

Bill Belichick’s right-hand man. Need I say more? Fine: Caserio has been with the Pats since 2001 and has risen among the ranks quite steadily, so much so that many consider him to be next in line to the throne. But alas, he recently signed a contract extension to keep him in New England through the 2020 — yes you read that right — season. He’s also off the market.

So what now?

With perhaps the three most highly sought after GM candidates off the market, the Bears must look elsewhere. What to look for should be simple enough: experienced candidates in relatively strong organizations who have a draft pedigree. And the guy my eye keeps coming back to is Marc Ross.

Marc Ross, New York Giants’ Vice President of Player Evaluation

You may remember Ross’s name from the Chicago Bears last GM search when the team hired Phil Emery. Ross has been on the radar for teams in search of a GM for a number of years now, withdrawing his name from consideration with the Jets a few years ago and becoming a finalist in Tampa Bay. His resume has only gotten stronger.

Ross is the Giants’ draft guru, and while they’ve had their share of both hits and misses, he was the guy behind the recent selection of Odell Beckham Jr., who could be named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year when all is said and done. The Giants are not up there with the Patriots and Seahawks when it comes to recent draft success, but they have certainly been better than the Bears, who have been hands-down one of the worst in the league.

Other names to consider

  • Brian Gutekunst, Green Bay Packers’ Director of College Scouting
  • Tom Gamble, Philadelphia Eagles’ Vice President of Player Personnel
  • Brian Gaine, Houston Texans Director of Pro Personnel
  • Ryan Pace, New Orleans Saints Director of Player Personnel
  • Lake Dawson, Tennessee Titans Vice President of Player Evaluation

The most likely candidate:

Chris Ballard, Kansas City Chiefs’ Director of Player Personnel

Ballard has strong ties to the Chicago Bears organization, and has been one of the top GM candidates among NFL circles for a number of years. Ballard is a former coach and has experience on both the college and pro levels. He is very much John Dorsey’s right-hand man. More than that, he’s probably the one guy out there who would really be attracted to the Chicago job. The Chiefs may not be among the upper echelon of organizations in the NFL, but they saw a quick turnaround in 2013, going from two wins to 11 and a playoff berth.

Ballard isn’t a name that gets me overly excited, and that’s probably because the organizations he’s spent the bulk of his time with (Chicago and Kansas City) haven’t done much to excite. They’ve also not drafted particularly well over time. But Ballard was here when the Bears scouted and drafted guys like Matt Forte, Charles Tillman and Tommie Harris. Having said that, if you can’t attach a few personnel creds to your resume after more than a decade in the NFL, you don’t continue to work in the NFL.

We’ll see where the Bears ultimately end up going at GM and coach, and I have my doubts as to whether or not either of the moves will be flashy. Let’s just hope they turn out to be right.

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