By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) Right now, text messages are flying from GMs to coaches and coaches to coaches both within and outside the NFL. Staffs are being assembled under the table via agreements to agree and phony hypotheticals, wives are being consulted about moving, and disappointed owners are resigned to writing all kinds of new checks.
By right now, I mean right now. The back channels have been open for weeks, but today it’s on.
And what we don’t know is if the Bears are part of any conversation.
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Poll: Time To Fire Lovie Smith?
Hoge’s Grades: Average Performances All Around
Notebook: Cutler Spreads Ball Around In Win
As this is written, reports have the Eagles firing Andy Reid, Romeo Crennel out in Kansas City, Pat Shurmur out in Cleveland and Norv Turner dismissed by San Diego. There will be more added to that list, probably within hours. The Jets are reportedly ousting GM Mike Tannenbaum and keeping Rex Ryan, and Jacksonville owner Shahid Khan is launching GM Gene Smith, probably to remove any sensible objection to a sad Tim Tebow publicity stunt.
All we have from Halas Hall is the following official statement: “*** BEARS MEDIA ADVISORY *** Player availability for Monday, December 31 will begin at 11:00 AM CT.”
We don’t need player availability. The Bears need general manager availability, with Phil Emery standing at the lectern to announce the future direction of the franchise, today. ASAP.
Sources tell WSCR that high-level meetings will take place in Lake Forest today, which is to be expected after failing to reach the playoffs after yet another failure to reach the playoffs and another whipsaw season that saw inflated expectations turn sour and cold. Whatever Emery’s call – sweep the coaching offices clean or opt to repair and retain – it needs to happen soon enough to be part of the frenzied job fair that is underway, including the Rooney Rule charade game.
Emery has been secretive and cryptic, only telling WBBM Radio yesterday that Lovie Smith “…has done an outstanding job coaching the Bears,” and that “he’s a great, team-first person.” That indicates nothing, despite the ensuing breathlessness of Twitter tea-leaf reading.
In previous public comments Emery has intoned a personal mantra of “process.” It’s a word he clings to that aptly describes both his methodical nature and the working structures and practices he has created for college scouts and pro personnel evaluators since taking over for Jerry Angelo.
Methodical now needs to be quick. There is no time to drag anything out – not with a finite pool of legitimate coaching talent and competitors moving with flexibility, creativity and resources. There are private-jet flight plans being filed as we speak. Forward-thinking teams began their high-level meetings on the tarmac hours ago and made decisions before reaching 30,000 feet.
Sources also indicate that Emery has been keenly aware of his decision on Smith and key players since taking the job, and has indeed been assessing the overall body of work without being swayed one way or the other by recent outcomes. He is true to his word, only now reaching the conclusion of his process.
One way or another, Emery needs to act substantively by end of business today. It’s unlikely that the Bears will convene media on New Year’s Day, which puts the operation a full news cycle behind if he drags his feet until Wednesday. The only way that makes any sense is if either he’s decided to hold the status quo for at least another season, or he already has the new regime on board with handshakes and promises.
If neither is true, delays can be costly.
Emery’s power has vested to make big decisions, and he needs to get on with it.