Hanley: Bears’ Shakeup ‘A Refreshing Start’

By Brian Hanley

CHICAGO (CBS) — Actions may speak louder than words, yet without Bears chairman George McCaskey’s mantra that “winning world championships” is the team’s goal, Jerry Angelo would still be general manager.

McCaskey, a big Blackhawks fan, may still remember how difficult it was for former Hawks GM Bob Pulford to spit out any sentence with Stanley Cup in it.

Championships cost money. Pully was only all too happy with just getting in the postseason. It was a 27-year playoff streak Pully boasted, though missing the NHL postseason takes some horrible hockey through 82 games. That postseason run put money into the team checking account, albeit with no Lord Stanley hardware. Mediocrity meant profit for a long while, but eventually led to only a hardcore handful of Hawks fans willing to make their way to the United Center.

President Ted Phillips, the man who all insisted made the call on Angelo, obviously has heard McCaskey’s mantra about Super Bowls loud and clear, because Bears business as usual wasn’t what took place at Halas Hall Tuesday.

“This is my decision and I have the support of ownership.” Phillips said.

He also said the Indianapolis Colts’ firing of respected executive Bill Polian had no bearing on the decision. If that is the case, better still, because the fans saw reasons for Angelo’s exit years ago.

Still, most expected Mike Martz to be the only sacrificial lamb Tuesday until Mully broke the 9 a.m. bombshell that Angelo was fired.

And if Lovie Smith still wants to debate his team’s one playoff appearance in the past five years, as the condescending coach was eager to do with media Monday, he should have been all ears when Phillips said that fact was “unacceptable.”

That is also why Smith, who has two years left on his $5.5 million per season contract, might also have been surprised to hear Phillips only guarantee his job security through next season.

“But at the same time, we need more,” Phillips said. “The decision was made that we need to keep up the pace with our division rivals. I’m not sure we’re there yet, but our goal always has been to win championships.”

The Bears sure are not there yet and don’t waste time arguing whether former team chairman Michael McCaskey had the same Super Bowl-or-bust mentality George has seemingly has. He didn’t.

Do debate whether Phillips, an accountant by trade, has the football chops to take on the task of finding the GM who will fulfill McCaskey’s quest of winning a Lombardi Trophy more than once every 25 or so years. It is a fair question.

Phillips’ future with the Bears should ride on the success of this hire.

But take this as what it is: a refreshing start.

McCaskey said money would not be a factor in the search for a successor. “We are committed to getting the right people in the right jobs,” McCaskey said.

It would have been very Bears like to simply promote director of player personnel Tim Ruskell, an Angelo friend and confidant hired in 2010 whose five-year stint as Seahawks team president won’t wow many.

After 11 years of Angelo’s often head-scratching draft decisions, it appears the team is willing to do what it takes to land the right man.

“Obviously, we would like to do better in the early parts of the draft,” Phillips said.

It would be difficult to do worse.

Phillips and McCaskey mentioned more than once that closing the talent gap between the Bears and rivals Green Bay and Detroit is priority one.

That talent gap also existed in the front office.

Brian Hanley co-hosts The Mully and Hanley Show, weekday from 5am-9am on 670 The Score. 

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  • Rod

    I still don’t understand how retaining Lovie isn’t a problem attracting qualified GM candidates? Does that signal they’re targeting a certain,inexperiencee, but up and coming, candidate rather than a more established retread? And, was it a move out of loyalty for Smith or a financial move? Strange, I think. Why mandate Smith’s retention?

    • Kenyada Merrill-Cooke

      The main reason is money and profitability. Money has to be made and you can’t eat Lovies $11 mil along with Angelo’s salary as a smart financial decision. Ticket prices and licensing fees would need to increase in order to offset that amount of change. Also, don’t forget McCaskey said this was Phillips’ decision, so if the new GM doesn’t work out Phillips’ neck is on the line instead of the search firm that conducted the Angelo search. McCaskey, passively set up himself and Phillips to take the credit if this works and for Phillips to take the bullet if it doesn’t.

      The way that I took the retention of Lovie is that he has officially been placed on the “hot seat”. Lovie has two years left on his contract, but Phillips only guaranteed him one more. That means make the playoffs or lose his job. With the Lions and Packers looking real tough, that is somewhat of a death sentence.

      For a new GM, he comes into a somewhat nice situation. He will have a locker room motivated to win for the coach in a make or break season. Not only will this help the GM field a competitive team in his first season, but it was also give him a chance to evaluate players playing their hardest and make a fair evaluation of the talent. If the team sucks, he can blame Lovie and Angelo and then begin making his changes. Keeping Lovie as a scapegoat gives the new GM essentially one season to develop a plan based on what he has seen over the course of a season instead of the plan he comes with between now and when he interviews with Phillips.

      In a lot of GM and coaching changes, heads roll immediately and there are lots of quality players that get let go just for the sake of change and making a statement. While they aren’t part of the long term goal, they could be players that make the transition smoother.

  • dtrain623

    Phillips can say what he wants but all signs point to the Polians coming to Chicago! Understanding Lovie’s philosophy’s points straight to them seeing that they worked with Lovie’s mentor Tony Dungy! I do believe the Rooney rule also applies to GMs as well as coaches so all this talk is smoke and mirrors! Wouldn’t be mad at the Polians coming in though……

  • West Town Tom

    Every successful organization will rank the value of the roles within it, and structure the pay accordingly:

    1st: Player Talent Evaluation. The MYPs of the organization. Pay the most to get the best.

    2nd: Player Development. Green Bay excels at this, too.

    3rd: Injury Avoidance. It’s such an important part of the game–just look what happened when Cutler and Forte went down. That was more important than who coaches the Bears.

    4th: Coaching. You give me top-three people in the above three areas, and I’ll win with almost ANY coach.

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