By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) You can’t simultaneously hire a real general manager and reaffirm the alpha-dog status of your head coach. Not possible.
Pick one move or the other and follow through completely, so the proper messages are sent both within your organization and around the league.
The Bears faced a defining point for their franchise under new chairman George McCaskey, and responded all too typically – with half-step decisions and mealy-mouthed explanations that perpetuate the nebulous power-structure, political games and personal agendas that have become the Halas Hallmark.
It’s plain stupid to have Lovie Smith helping to hire a supposed GM. If it’s a GM you want, get one. And let him do whatever he wants with the coaches, scouts and players, even if that means launching Smith.
But if you want Clowny McPuppet instead, his power and vision limited by the sitting coach, don’t kid everyone with the fancy title. Make him the Director of Player Personnel that he’d be.
Then, just name Smith GM/Coach, and extend his contract.
To be clear: I am not expressly endorsing this particular option as the best move for the Bears, but it would at least be honest. He’s the most powerful man in the building, so why not have the guts to make it official and wear it?
With Smith already involved in the new hiring decision, just let him take ownership of it. He can bring in a personnel guy he trusts, to handle the nuts and bolts of scouting and drafting. The roster then belongs to Smith – no questions as to whom in the organization any one player is connected, no self-serving leaks about dissenting opinions, no overlapping loyalties from front-office to the field in either direction.
Nobody would be anyone’s “guy,” anymore.
The secondary effect of this move is the improved environment for hiring the best possible offensive coordinator and filling any other open football position. A newly-streamlined, solidified structure makes any job more attractive, with potential candidates less concerned about being purged if the new “GM” has other ideas after next season.
(That’s the dynamic that was in play two years ago, when they had no choice but to hire Mike Martz – the equivalent of the fat chick at the bar after last call.)
For once, come clean. Break from the cloistered, mysterious ways of old family business and provide some valuable, uncharacteristic transparency. Nobody believes that Ted Phillips is acting on his own, not with the new chairman taking power and the long-rumored connection between Smith and elderly matriarch Virginia McCaskey, whom we imagine in a dimly-lit room, issuing whispered, portentous football edicts as she dusts porcelain figurines and pours small cups of hot tea.
Here was a great chance for them to stop being so damn weird about everything, but they can’t help themselves.
It became obvious to anybody listening yesterday that the Chicago Bears belong to Lovie Smith.
Embrace that kind of clarity. Don’t continue to fear it.
Dan Bernstein joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995, and has been the co-host of ‚ÄúBoers and Bernstein‚Äù since 1999. Read more of Bernstein’s columns, or follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein.