So the last post made shortly after the announcement of Jerry Angelo’s firing was posted before the Ted Phillips presser at 4 p.m. Tuesday. As we all know now but didn’t then, we were in for several surprises.
I had to DVR the press conference due to work and still haven’t watched it, but got the overview from today’s papers. While we were all clamoring to hear that this was the first bold move by new Bears chairman George McCaskey, we learned actually that Ted Phillips is clearly in charge of the ship, and the board was merely consulted.
And again as we all know, the grand new General Manager of the Chicago Bears that we are promised will be hired with the condition that he “understand Lovie Smith’s philosophy.” Oh, and one more thing, the GM will be interviewed and vetted by Smith himself.
So before I consider the potential for good and bad from this move, let me just throw out a scenario. Say you’re a sales guy for your company. You’ve been employed for eight years. One year you finished as the second-best salesperson in the entire company of 32 salespeople. And in fairness let’s say the top two finishers were head and shoulders above the other 30. So you did pretty well in, oh, just hypothetically speaking, 2006. Two other years you finished in the top 12. But for five of the eight years of your employment you didn’t make your quota, including four of the last five. (You did pretty well in 2010).
The President of the company decides to fire your boss. Follow this logic-this President then allows you to help hire your boss’ replacement and tells candidates that they are obligated to continue to employ you for at least a year. Are you going to help hire the new sales manager that might clean house and make it clear that if you don’t at least make your quota next year you’re gone for the betterment of the organization? Or are you going to recommend the candidate for sales manager that you think has the highest likelihood of meshing with your sales style and retain you for longer than a year?
What kind of dysfunctional corporation would operate in this manner? Answer, not many successful companies as far as I know. But according to Ted Phillips and George McCaskey, this is a logical way for the Chicago Bears to operate.
I am not advocating that Lovie Smith should have been fired. I actually think it would be more logical for the organization to have made a judgement on Angelo and Smith together after the 2012 season when they both had one year left on their contracts. But I can only imagine, knowing the little (nothing) that I know about the inner workings of the decision, that the organization decided it wasn’t worth potentially wasting another blown Jerry Angelo draft to put them one year further behind the Packers and Lions in the talent department. And I commend them for making a shockingly good decision not to waste another year.
Whether they will hire the right person to replace Angelo is another story. I am troubled by something as others that have actually gotten paid to cover the Bears for years are. I’m afraid hamstringing GM candidates by forcing Lovie Smith and his system on them with no choice in the matter will take the best candidates out of the equation. What is it about the Chicago Bears that has always sent top candidates fleeing from the opportunity? (See the 2004 search for a head coach and the 2010 process in finding an offensive coordinator-many top candidates refused to even interview).
I say get me someone, anyone, and as many people as possible from the Green Bay Packer organization. Currently Packers personnel boss Reggie McKenzie has his interview setup for the GM job in Oakland and wants to bring Ron Wolf’s son with him. If the Bears are truly honest about doing what it takes to hire the best possible GM, we’re going to find out. But is the best possible candidate going to accept Smith’s philosophy that running the ball and playing defense still wins championships in a passing league? Personally I don’t think so, and I expect more organizational blathering when that happens, but I hope I’m wrong. I was wrong thinking that the organization would stick with the status quo at this time, and I was wrong that the Bears would have boldly acquired Jay Cutler and Julius Peppers. So I hope I’m wrong here.
So down to the question: how empty or full is your glass?
Best case scenario, as I see it, is that a top GM candidate will interview and accept the position, making it clear that he will accept Phillips’ constraint that Smith and his system stay for one year. And if Smith balks at bringing in such a candidate as he is vetting him, Smith will be overruled by the executive side for the long-term benefit of the organization. Hopefully this puts pressure on Smith to execute in 2012 and the Bears have success in what is most likely the final crack of the Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Peppers era in Chicago.
Several worst case scenarios. (Aren’t there always?) The potential certainly exists that despite Phillips stating that any candidate would love to have this job (didn’t he say this before the offensive coordinator search in 2010 that saw many top candidates refuse to interview), the best talent evaluators such as McKenzie and Bill Polian will want no part of the Bears’ convoluted edicts and organizational structure. This will leave Phillips selling chicken sh*t to the fans and calling it chicken salad. We’ve been there before.
Worse, if this happens, what if the team announces that “to identify and hire the right candidate will take until after free agency and the draft, so Tim Ruskell and his staff will be ably handling those duties in 2012.” Gulp.
Or in the end, what if no competent GM will stand to be interviewed by the head coach he is told he must keep, and the Bears announce that Ruskell and staff own the job until after the 2012 season? That, my friends is one more year of widening the talent gap between us and the other teams in the division.
What if, what if, what if. We shall see.
I’ll close with a shout out to my buddy Beth Gorr, an excellent Bears historian and long-time writer for the Bear Report. I hadn’t talked to Beth in quite a while but she checked in with me about a month ago. After briefly discussing the team, she said she had a feeling that some big stuff was happening in Lake Forest. I didn’t really believe this meant anything was going to change. Nice work, Beth.