Reporting Sam Zuba
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By Sam Zuba-
(CBS) Through his first three months as Bears general manager, Phil Emery has been anything but Bears-like.
Typically, the brass at Halas Hall operates in strange, non-sequitur ways, addressing needs that needn’t be addressed and ignoring ones that do.
When the Bears first announced the hiring of Emery, most groaned as the organization had seemingly hired a stand-in general manager who would act as a puppet for Lovie Smith – an underwhelming feeling, to say the least.
Though his sample size is small, Emery is proving to be no puppet.
The Bears GM has accurately assessed the needs of his franchise and did what it took to fill those needs. He’s moved quickly and efficiently, plugging holes and making deals that should translate into success both this season and seasons to comes.
The minute free agency opened, Emery made arguably the biggest – and most surprising – splash in the NFL when he traded for three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall, Jay Cutler’s longtime buddy from Denver.
One of the most gaping holes in the Bears roster over the past two decades has been the wide out position. For years, management has trotted out bottom-feeder receivers, masquerading as No. 1s.
I’m looking at you Bernard Berrian, Muhsin Muhammad, Mark Bradley and Devin Hester.
Finally, Emery decided it was time to stop playing games and get Cutler a legitimate wide out before it was too late.
Marshall couldn’t be a better fit for the Bears. The duos rapport is obvious, and Cutler’s campaigning for Marshall was public and prominent.
Sure, there are risks involved with a player like Marshall, but Emery rolled the dice and got Cutler the target he has lacked since joining the Bears in 2009.
Imagine what Cutler can do with a 6-4, 230-pound wide receiver. No longer must he place the ball in the perfect place. He’ll be able to throw the ball up and let Marshall go get it.
That’s what Cutler did when he earned his first and only Pro Bowl nomination in 2008, while setting the Broncos single-season passing record.
One of Emery’s next moves was to address the need that cost the Bears a playoff spot in 2011.
When Cutler went down with a thumb injury, the Bears needed backup quarterback Caleb Hanie to step in and play at a serviceable level. A Pro Bowl performance from the young quarterback wasn’t necessary. Hanie simply needed to act as a placeholder under Cutler could return.
What happened next is well-documented and obnoxious – a five game skid and a lost opportunity.
So, Emery went out and signed veteran quarterback Jason Campbell to ensure the Bears wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. The six-year veteran has a starting record of 71-70 with a career passer rating of 82.8. He’s someone the Bears can count on should Cutler missed time.
Emery’s latest move was to lock up the backup running position. Matt Forte’s contract is an uncertain situation, and Michael Bush provides a nice backup plan should the Bears and Forte part ways in the near future.
Admittedly, Emery’s time in Chicago has been brief. He’s yet to conduct a draft and the Bears haven’t played a single game under their new GM, but in his first three months, he’s earned his paycheck.
Here’s to hoping Emery continues down these uncharted paths at Halas Hall.
Sam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com. Before earning a degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, he spent two summers covering the Kansas City Royals and the Chicago Cubs for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamZuba and read more of his columns here.