The Chicago Bears' Drive Toward Another World Championship
Introduction: How the Bears Got Where They Are Now
On January 26, 1986, Bears fans across the fruited plain and around the globe celebrated the franchise's ninth World Championship with a resounding 46-10 win over the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Bears had the look of being a team of dynastic proportions; in fact, according to Dick Enberg during the broadcast of Super Bowl XX, the average Chicago Bear player's age was 25.1 years old, the youngest in the league at the time. However, mismanagement on the part of the front office that began soon after the death of the franchise's founder, former head coach of forty years, and founding father of the NFL, George Halas, led to the denouement and ultimate malaise of the franchise that has had but few pleasant moments since that fateful season of 1985. Michael McCaskey won awards as the President of the Bears in 1985 for what other league executives and owners termed as exemplary leadership in a defining season, but he had merely stood on the shoulders of giants to achieve those means, and instead of perpetuating the greatness that the ignited fires from the 1983 draft, the turnaround season of 1984, and so on and so forth brought to the enjoyment and pleasure of football fans everywhere, he poured water over the flame, effectively extinguishing those fires over the course of approximately fifteen years until the death knell was struck. By 2001, the Chicago Bears were one of the very worst franchises in the NFL.
During the winter of 2001, Bears owner and mother to Michael McCaskey, Virginia Halas-McCaskey, fired her son as President and CEO of the franchise. Pops Ed McCaskey only had two more years left to live, and was never a real barn-burner in the decision making processes anyway. In place of Michael McCaskey, who had served in the three-headed snake role of Chairman/CEO, President, and de facto General Manager, came Ted Phillips, an accountant who would see to the team's financial security as President, and Jerry Angelo, a talent scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as General Manager. Between 2001 and 2011, the Bears experienced an increase in winning that was only upset by the number of mediocre seasons mixed in with them. During Jerry Angelo's tenure as Bears' GM, the team won four division titles, appeared in two conference championship games, and were NFC Champions on one occasion (2006). However, Angelo could never secure a consistency with the Bears befitting of the proud heritage that comes with being a charter franchise. In 2002, 03, 04, 07, and 09, the Bears lost more games than they won. In two other seasons, 2008 and 2011, the team finish with a .500 or better record, but fell short of expectations by failing to make the playoffs. After so many seasons of missed expectations and cries for his forced departure from his post from both Bears fans and the Chicago media, it was time to cut bait. In January of 2012, George McCaskey, brother of Michael McCaskey and new Chairman/CEO of the Bears, and Phillips decided to pull the plug on the Jerry Angelo experiment. Years of frustration pending from poor draft picks and even worse free agent signings that came to a head with the disastrous finish to the Bears' 2011 season proved to be too much for Angelo to keep his job, who was perceived by many in the media and in the fan base as being arrogant and pompous.
The Bears have been coached by Lovie Smith since 2004. Smith has been the franchise's most successful coach since the days of Mike Ditka, who stormed the sidelines in Chicago from 1982 through 1992. He often gets the notoriety of being a poor coach. If records bear anything out, Smith has posted a 71-57 record over the course of his career as the team's head coach, good for a .555 winning percentage, which signifies that he has enjoyed some success. He coached the Bears to three division titles (2005, 2006, 2011), two NFC Championship Games (2006, 2011), and a berth as the NFC Champions in Super Bowl XLI (2006). He has been a positive influence on this team if for no other reasons than the following: 1) He has always gotten the most out of the talent he has had since he has coached the team, and 2) He has the respect of his players; none other than Brian Urlacher has said that he would retire if Lovie Smith were to be fired. In the regular season, Smith has an even .500 record against the Green Bay Packers, who had dominated the Bears for years while Brett Favre quarterbacked the franchise to two Super Bowls and several divsion championships from the early 1990s through the early 2000s.
In approximately a week, the world will know who George McCaskey and Ted Phillips will hire as the new general manager. The media speculates that Phil Emery, the director of college scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs, will be favored for the position due to his wealth of experience with several different franchises. While this may or may not be the wisest decision on the part of the Bears' brass, he will no doubt be an upgrade from Jerry Angelo. He has had a hand in some good draft picks, ranging from Pro Bowlers Eric Berry, Jamaal Charles, Roddy White, Justin Blalock, and even the Bears' very own Lance Briggs. While he worked for Michael McCaskey and Jerry Angelo in the past, he was part of some of McCaskey's and Angelo's better drafts, and had a positive effect on the Atlanta Falcons' picks as well. Time will tell about Emery or his competition for the job, Jason Licht of the New England Patriots, as to how they would fare as GM of the Bears. We will know more after the Super Bowl when free agency begins and on April 26, when the NFL Draft commences.
What The Bears Need to Do to Upgrade their Roster
All of the above has to do with one simple question: what do the Chicago Bears have to do to return to the summit of the NFL? The road to a championship is steep and will have many hurdles, but the cupboard is not bare. There is still plenty of talent on this team from last year that, had injuries to QB Jay Cutler and RB Matt Forte not ended their seasons, the Bears would have easily made the playoffs, and quite possibly could have advanced past the first round. The 2011 edition of the Bears was a better team than the 2010 version when all the pieces were in order. The first thing this team needs is depth, and lots of it, particularly at QB, RB, and WR. Josh McCown played admirably for Cutler, but because offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who was ceremoniously forced into resigning at season's end, insisted on using Caleb Hanie to run his complex offense, the team lost two games that a competent quarterback would have otherwise won. At least two of those losses in the final six games of the season were avoidable (Kansas City and Denver). To top that, Johnny Knox sustained a serious back injury, and it is not known whether he will ever be back to playing again.
Most definitely, the Bears need to upgrade the following positions in precisely this order: LT, WR, DE, CB, and FS/SS. There are a number of scenarios that one could conjure up to use to acquire these missing pieces to the puzzle. Most likely, LT will be addressed in the first round unless new offensive coordinator Mike Tice remains adamant about sticking with the inconsistent J'Marcus Webb. One school of thought has the Bears trading up to somewhere between picks 10-13 and aiming for Stanford LT Jonathan Martin, who would bring smarts to the position; another has the Bears sticking at their present slot at number nineteen and drafting Ohio State's Mike Adams, a 6'8", 320 pound monster of a man who is turning heads at the Senior Bowl practices. DE and CB are also areas that the Bears will look to the draft for answers, as likely the first round will probably be one where the Bears draft based on best player available. That player could be Adams, or a player like Whitney Mercilus or Melvin Ingram at DE, or even a Dre' Kirkpatrick should the Bears feel brave enough to deal with his being busted for illegal marijuana possession. The Bears might look for a S in the draft; depending on where he is projected to be drafted, FS Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame might fit into the Bears plans.
The consensus for many Bears fans on how to address the problems at WR and S is to look toward free agency, but some also would like the team to look for a DE through this method as well, though that is less likely to happen than it being addressed in the draft. The field of WR's is vast and rich with talent on the free agent market, with such notable Pro Bowlers as Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, and Marques Colston; one source reported from the Senior Bowl practices stated that the Bears might be interested in acquiring the services of Stevie Jackson, who posted back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons in 2010 and 2011 for the Buffalo Bills. As for a DE, Cliff Avril of the Detroit Lions comes to mind, but the Lions might be reticent to just let an end go to a division rival who put up eleven sacks in 2011 in spearheading the defense's charge toward the team's first playoff appearance in eleven years. There are sure to be safeties out on the market, and the Bears may decide to sign one via free agency so that they have a veteran as part of that group rather than having a cast of strictly young players.
In the 1964 Presidential Election pitting incumbent Democratic President Lyndon Johnson against the founder of the new Conservative movement in Republican challenger and former Senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, failed actor and former Democratic Party member Ronald Reagan stumped for his friend Goldwater. Out of this came a watershed moment in the life of Reagan, who was in need of self-reinvention. His chosen field was politics, and he delivered a speech that was broadcasted nationwide beginning on October 27 called, "A Time for Choosing." In it, he spoke with warmth and dedication for his friend Goldwater, and his most famous statement in the speech was this line: "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny." Though Goldwater went on to be defeated by Johnson in a landslide, Reagan successfully reinvented his image to the public from one of blithe and jocund actor to his being approached to run as the Republican nominee for Governor of the State of California, thus beginning a political career that would span two decades and a two-term presidency.
In a weird, roundabout way, this, too, is a time for choosing for the Chicago Bears. The franchise has the opportunity to reach out and touch its destiny. Regardless of who is picked to take the job as general manager, he will inherit a tall set of tasks in order to secure the future fortunes of the team. If the team fails to choose wisely, it could be met with devastating consequences. This piece is merely a warning, not an endorsement. The new general manager must be more proactive about securing the needs of the team than was Jerry Angelo, and he must relate to the public in a more humbling fashion, as if he were a statesman addressing his constituents in a state of the union address. He must embrace the proud traditions that come with being associated with the Chicago Bears, and he must realize that above all else, winning championships and defeating the Packers are paramount to both the welfare of the franchise as well as his job security. Ted Phillips is not immune from this topic of conversation, for word has it that he is on a short leash with George McCaskey. The Bears are closer than most might realize to returning back to the playoffs and contending for a championship, but the franchise leadership must choose this course of action.
The Bears, indeed, have a rendezvous with destiny. The only question that now remains is if they are willing to choose wisely and accept greatness, or fall further into the black hole created by men who failed to represent the golden standard "Papa Bear" envisioned some ninety-two years ago.
Last edited by Dagan81; 01-28-2012 at 06:24 PM.
High Fives / Like - 2 BEAR DOWN!, 0 Dislikes
GREAT READ !
Originally Posted by Dagan81
High Fives / Like - 1 BEAR DOWN!, 0 Dislikes
High Fives / Like - 1 BEAR DOWN!, 0 Dislikes
Call me a disciple of the Reagan Revolution! lol. I always try to look at things with a positive spin because without that aspect to me, my life would be a complete and utter mess. Just now, I finished watching "The Chicago Bears' Defense: Tradition by Position." I watched it for the gazillionth time since I got it from my dad for Christmas, and I did so because those great players inspire me. Just as the great players who played for the New York Yankees inspire me and the legend that goes with the Yankees being the greatest franchise in the history of all sports worldwide, so, too, do the Bears, who have as great a tradition as any franchise in the long history of the NFL.
Originally Posted by soulman
I really don't believe in being negative all the time, although some of the people on The Yankees Board.com would disagree with that statement because of my rants on how I think the Yankees are wasting money and time on keeping LF Brett Gardner at his position strictly because he covers a lot of ground in the outfield AND he led the American League in stolen bases last year. (The problem with Gardner I have is that he's about a .255-.275 hitter with about 5 home runs per year, when, in fact, the times have changed and his model of playing has becoming greatly outmoded. One year, two of his home runs out of the five he hit were inside-the-parkers.) That being said, I'm really a guy who believes in looking on the bright side of things. That doesn't make me a passive fan like Benji, who is a stereotypical Cubs fan and thus is satisfied with losing since that's all they ever do, but I believe that by being positive, you can always see a silver lining in every cloud. I truly believe that the Bears are close to turning the corner and returning to the Super Bowl. We nearly did so in 2010 with the worst WR's and offensive line in the league, and would have challenged for the crown again this year had we had some depth at QB and RB. There is no reason to believe that Phil Emery will not right the wrongs that have been associated with this franchise for nearly 30 years since he has an outstanding reputation for meticulous detail and excellent scouting. After all, there is a good chance that he was responsible for scouting the likes of Kruetz, Urlacher, M. Brown, A. Thomas, Tillman, Vasher, Harris, Ogunleye, A. Brown, and some of the offensive linemen in the mid 2000s that made that great line that propelled the Super Bowl team's offense.
I know you were just kidding, but I also thought that explanation would benefit those who choose to look at the Bears as a broken franchise when, in fact, it's far from that and can be fixed with a few extra parts and a change in attitude.
Thanks for the post, omc. I tried to take a positive spin on the latest events at Halas Hall. The Bears, as a franchise, is on the cusp of something big. What that is has yet to be determined, but the front office has a very important choice to make: either choose to do the things it will take to improve this team and thus take the next step toward competing for a championship, or continue down the road to oblivion in the fashion that Michael McCaskey and Jerry Angelo had the franchise going. I think that Emery is going to be a step up from the daily insults we as fans absorbed during the Jerry Angelo regime. All talk seems to suggest that he is a more humble individual who is rarely flashy in the way he accepts credit for what he does. If that is the case, that is a big improvement over the Angelo years.
Originally Posted by omc1969