Bears should find their own Epstein
Bears should find their own Epstein
Team badly in need of a philosophical overhaul because of Angelo's moves
David Haugh's In the Wake of the News
2:32 p.m. CDT, October 15, 2011
George McCaskey, start looking for your football Theo.
Mr. Bears chairman, sooner rather than later, begin gathering information from NFL brass to compile a list of the league's best and brightest young football minds. By George, there's nothing wrong with scouting intellectual property for potential future investments.
News of Tom Ricketts luring dream candidate Theo Epstein to the Cubs shook Major League Baseball, captivated Chicago and surely resonated at Halas Hall. McCaskey is a big Cubs fan, after all.
McCaskey also possesses a sharp, open mind and appreciates independent thinking. Ricketts prying Epstein out of Boston displayed intrepidness reminiscent of the Blackhawks hiring team President John McDonough away from the Cubs in 2007 to begin building a Stanley Cup champion — only bigger. It was the type of bold initiative required nowadays from contemporary pro sports organizations, especially ones worth $1.09 billion in a Bears town. It should be enough for McCaskey, in his first year in charge, to re-examine the merits of clinging to the status quo as the Bears tend to do.
Epstein's pending arrival coincides with Jerry Angelo's slow descent toward retirement that would provide a a graceful exit for a good man this offseason. The Bears badly need a philosophical overhaul and an organizational game-changer, the NFL equivalent of Epstein. If one exists. Worry about how team President Ted Phillips fits into a new hierarchy later; the Bears need the kind of fresh approach from an expert in their sport the Cubs are about to get.
Barring a stunning reversal, the Bears are an aging team trending downward. Ideally a team's core consists of a healthy mix of young and old players — unlike the Bears, who have too many thirtysomethings. Angelo's spotty recent draft record indicates youth isn't on the way and defies his strong college scouting background. He has yet to draft a Pro Bowl offensive player. The last positional Pro Bowl player he selected was defensive tackle Tommie Harris in 2004.
The offensive line has been a patchwork mess in recent years partly because, in five drafts from 2003 to 2007, Angelo selected only one lineman before the sixth round — guard Josh Beekman. The current roster includes five undrafted free agents largely because so many mid-round misses the ilk of Michael Okwo and Marcus Harrison were cut. Corey Graham is the only Bear still around from the 2007 draft. That year's first-rounder, tight end Greg Olsen? Angelo traded him to make room for the overvalued Kellen Davis.
Assistant GM Tim Ruskell, the presumed heir apparent to Angelo, inspires even less confidence. When the Seahawks traded former Ruskell first-round bust Aaron Curry to the Raiders on Thursday, the Seattle Times assessed Ruskell's drafts. Of the 37 players drafted while Ruskell was Seahawks president from 2005-09, only nine remained, with six on the active roster. None are first-round picks.
It's early, but the Bears' 2010 season looks like an aberration in a head-scratching post-Super Bowl XLI era. Trading for Jay Cutler and signing Julius Peppers represented two of Angelo's shrewdest moves, but the roster contains too many glaring holes.
Nothing has exposed Angelo more than the past month. Frustrating, familiar issues at offensive line, wide receiver and safety have re-emerged. All three areas required more creative solutions than those Angelo offered.
It's impossible not to think a bad Bears line forced to start Frank Omiyale for injured rookie Gabe Carimi could have benefited from veteran stopgap tackles such as Bryant McKinnie or Max Starks. Was Lance Louis' development really worth not making former Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters an irresistible offer? When a Bears player privately wondered last week why Angelo didn't do more to address the offensive line, it validated such skepticism.
At wide receiver, Roy Williams has made more noise ranting at reporters than beating cornerbacks. Six receptions so far suggests Angelo's low-risk experiment will bring little reward. The Broncos reportedly will seek trade offers for 1,000-yard receiver Brandon Lloyd, but Lloyd is best remembered in Chicago for being a remarkably slow healer. A better idea: Think big. Offer the rebuilding Colts a third-round draft pick for 32-year-old Reggie Wayne, the source of speculation because of an expiring contract. Or ask the Dolphins about Brandon Marshall, Cutler's No. 1 option in Denver.
Cutler's current favorite target is Dane Sanzenbacher, which indicts Angelo more than it excites the Sanzenbacher family.
As for safety, Angelo shares responsibility with Smith for producing 28 different starting combinations since 2004. Major Wright and Chris Conte, fellow third-round picks, will start Sunday at the team's most fluid position. Expect the Bears to select another potential starting safety in April.
Draftniks already wonder who that player might be. If I'm McCaskey, I would start wondering whether there's an NFL genius to draft him.