New Bears GM Will Have His Hands Full From Day One................
Bears’ general manager will have hands full
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org January 26, 2012 10:38PM
http://www.suntimes.com/csp/cms/site...YPE=image/jpeg Of the Bears’ 14 free agents, running back Matt Forte is the only one in the “must-keep” category. | Matt Slocum~AP
Updated: January 27, 2012 2:22AM
Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery still is considered the favorite to succeed Jerry Angelo as the Bears’ general manager. But whether it’s Emery or Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht, the winner will have a heavy workload the minute he signs his contract.
Though coach Lovie Smith is an untouchable and the core of the Bears’ roster for 2012 is intact, hiring a general manager in the middle of the evaluation period for the draft and free agency puts the Bears in catch-up mode.
But there’s more to it than that. When player evaluation and poor draft performance is the reason for change, every aspect of the player personnel department needs to be reviewed. Angelo was a ‘‘consensus’’ guy. Everybody who was part of the consensus contributed to his demise. A single change at the top isn’t likely to slingshot the Bears past the Lions and Packers in the NFC North. (I think this re-enforces what many have said about too much of the blame for poor draft performance being laid at the feet of Angelo. Surely there's enough concern there to justify an evaluation at every step along the way, scouts included)
With that in mind, here are some key issues facing Emery, *Licht or whichever wild card might emerge (with the Bears, you never know) as the general manager:
1. The No. 2 man
Interim GM Tim Ruskell’s status needs to be addressed immediately. After being interviewed but not hired as Angelo’s replacement, his presence at Halas Hall has awkwardness written all over it. Emery’s background is almost exclusively in college scouting. If he gets the job, Ruskell could be the strong pro personnel authority Emery needs. Ruskell thrived in the right-hand man role under Rich McKay with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (I've thought all along that if Emery got the nod he would retain Ruskell at least through this year to help with the transition and free agency while Emery focuses on the draft. Some have focused on Ruskell's draft record but we did OK last year and his forte seems to be more on the pro side than the college side anyway. This may be the reason why Emery is considered the favorite. If he's hired and keeps Ruskell on it avoids an uncomfortable situation in the front office)
2. Evaluate the roster
Under Angelo and Smith, the Bears developed a strong core but seemed easily satisfied with good-but-not-great supporting players — Israel Idonije at defensive end, Nick Roach at linebacker, Johnny Knox at wide receiver. The Giants might not have more overall talent than the Bears, but their balance at those positions is why they’re in their second Super Bowl in five years. (I can understand where he's coming from on this but every player you have can't be an All-Pro. I'm not saying you don't try to upgrade but we could do a lot worse for core players than the three mentioned here)
3. Matt Forte
Angelo went by the book and refused to overspend to keep his best offensive player happy. Forte has made it clear the franchise tag won’t keep him from grumbling through the 2012 season, or playing at all. This might be the first big test of the new GM’s ability to manage personnel. (This is where the new guy needs to be proactive and get the negotiations rolling again. It's time for the Bears to unfold their arms from across their chest and make a better offer than the one Angelo insisted was generous. We all know better and so does Forte. Make it clear that the Bears aren't in a position to match the deal others like DWill received but meet him at least half-way and let him know that as far as you can go without jeopardizing the teams ability to add needed talent elsewhere. The guy either considers himself a part of the overall success of the team and compromises or he doesn't. If not then you franchise him for 2012 and start looking for his replacement for 2013. No player on a championship team should be non-expendable.
4. The other free agents
Forte is one of the Bears’ 14 free agents, and all of them are unrestricted except running back Kahlil Bell. Only Forte is in the ‘‘must-keep’’ category. Idonije, special-teams ace Corey Graham, cornerback Tim Jennings, tight end Kellen Davis, wide receiver Roy Williams and Bell are next in line. Free agency begins March 13. (This attitude is a bit cavalier. Maybe there should be a distinction between "must keep" and "keeping strongly advised". Forte is a given with or without a franchise tag but the rest require careful consideration. Let's make this simple. Bust RWill ASAP and put the other three UFA's and RFA Bell in the "keeping strongly advised category". There are a few others on the RFA list that require some consideration as well but some could also be upgraded in FA.)
5. Scouting department
Scouting is an inexact and finicky science. Every team seems to have its own way of finding ‘‘the right fit’’ for its system. Emery and Licht have been around scouting long enough to bring in their own guys. Emery knows first-hand. He was demoted from director of college scouting to an area scout with the Falcons by new GM Tom Dimitroff in 2008. But changes usually don’t occur until after the draft. (Every single Bears scout college or pro is out of contract immediately following free agency and the draft. Plenty of time to pick and choose or clean the slate after that. In the meantime we need them)
6. Lance Briggs
After making the Pro Bowl for the seventh consecutive season despite his public disgruntlement over the Bears’ refusal to renegotiate the six-year, $36 million contract he signed in 2008, Briggs is hoping the team will reward him with a new deal. He still has two years left — $3.75 million in 2012 and $6.25 million in 2013. (Wishes, hopes and dreams are nice but a deal is a deal. You got your big money already Lance and you have zero leverage except the decision to sit out in which case you get nothing and do a lot of damage to your rep with other teams. If they give you one nickel more you're a lucky man)
7. Backup quarterback
Above all else, the new GM would be wise to realize that this position is the reason he is here. Unless he can find a way to keep Jay Cutler healthy, he better get this spot right. (This really shouldn't be as hard as it's being made out to be. There are vet QB's out there looking for work. If we were able to get by with McCown on as little prep time as he had imagine what we can do with a guy we bring in long before camp and then actually let him have some reps. I guess Martz thought you just plugged them into that magical system of his, fed them play calls, and TD's blossomed. Call Orton first and see what he says. If it's yes (that would be a shock) then problem solved and if not keep calling prospects until you get some yeses.)