By Greg Gabriel-
(CBS) The day after the regular season ends in the NFL is referred to as “Black Monday.” That certainly was the case Monday at Halas Hall, as both general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman were fired.
As we all know, the moves were expected. Now, the search begins for new leaders. What is new to this search is that while both Bears chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips will be involved, so will former New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi.
Accorsi is a knowledgeable NFL veteran who has had great success as an NFL executive. I had the privilege of working with/for Accorsi for a number of years while I was a scout with the Giants.
Accorsi was the assistant general manager of the Giants from 1994 until 1997. He became the general manager when the great George Young retired following the 1997 season. I worked with Accorsi from 1994 until I was hired by the Bears in June 2001.
In recent years, the NFL has helped franchises that ask with head coach and general manager searches. The people who do this are usually former general managers like Accorsi. To my knowledge, Accorsi has been involved in three other searches. He was a consultant for Atlanta in the 2008 when general manager Thomas Dimitroff was hired, in Cleveland in 2009 when general manager George Kokinis was hired and again in Carolina in 2013 when Dave Gettleman was hired as general manager.
Accorsi isn’t the only former NFL executive who has been involved in these type of searches. Other include former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf and former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian. Those two have been involved in at least three searches.
While these men are astute and knowledgeable, they also don’t know as many young executives around the league as you may think. In all cases where they have been involved in a general manager hiring, the person that got hired had a connection to one of the consultants.
Two years ago, Polian was involved in the San Diego and Jacksonville general manager searches. Jacksonville hired David Caldwell and San Diego hired Tom Telesco. Both of these men grew up in Buffalo, N. Y., as close friends of Chris Polian, Bill’s son. They all went to high school and college together, and when they finished college they were hired by Polian to work in the personnel department of the Indianapolis Colts.
Wolf was a consultant for the Oakland Raiders in their general manager search. The person eventually hired was Reggie McKenzie, who had worked for Wolf in Green Bay.
In the searches that Accorsi was involved with, the general managers hired all had an earlier relationship with him. Kokinis got his first NFL job working for Cleveland when Accorsi was the general manager.
While Dimitroff never worked for Ernie, his father did. Thomas Sr. was a longtime Canadian Football League coach who Accorsi hired as a scout in Cleveland. Gettleman was the director of pro scouting under Accorsi at the New York Giants.
I’m by no means saying that these people weren’t qualified for their positions, but the searches weren’t as broad as many would think. In the searches where Accorsi was involved, the only one that hasn’t turned out well is in Cleveland, where Kokinis was clearly out of his element. Both Dimitroff and Gettleman have done solid jobs.
This much I know: Ernie Accorsi thinks highly of the McCaskey family, especially Virginia McCaskey. He once told me how proud he was to receive the George Halas Trophy, symbolic of winning the NFC Championship, from Virginia after the Giants won the NFC title following the 2000 season. He also told me how happy he was for Virginia when the Bears won the NFC title following the 2006 season.
Accorsi is a sports historian and is second to none when it comes to NFL history. He knows and appreciates the importance of the Halas/McCaskey family in the NFL. For that reason, he will do the best job he can in finding the right people for Chicago.
That being said, I know who many of the best candidates are for the general manager’s position here in Chicago. After spending 30 years of my life in the NFL, I have been around and studied many of these people. The advantage of either working with or being on the road with these candidates gives me an insight that not many have. I have seen how they work and how they react and interact with people.
My search would start with the following:
Eric DeCosta, Baltimore Ravens assistant GM
DeCosta has been an important part of the Ravens front office for years. He began his career with the Ravens in 1996 and rose through the ranks to his present position. He has been an area scout, director of college scouting and director of player personnel before becoming the Ravens assistant general manager in 2012.
Word around the league is that DeCosta is essentially the Ravens’ “general manager in waiting.” When current general manager Ozzie Newsome retires, DeCosta will become the Ravens GM. While DeCosta should be at the top of any list, it will be tough to get him away from Baltimore.
Nick Caserio, Patriots director of player personnel
Caserio has been with the Patriots since 2001 in various capacities. He began his career as a personnel assistant and has been an area scout, coach, pro scout and now director of player personnel.
With his NFL career having covered so many areas, he has a vast understanding of both the coaching and scouting sides of the business.
He recently signed a lucrative contract extension and should become the New England general manager when Bill Belichick retires. Like DeCosta, it will be tough to get him away from his current employer.
Chris Ballard, Chiefs director of player personnel
Ballard is a hot commodity and a fast riser in the NFL. His background includes both coaching and scouting. When I hired him in 2001, he was the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
It took me all of two years to figure out that he was going to be an outstanding general manager in the future.
In his NFL career, he has been a scout, a pro scouting director and a player personnel director. After leaving Chicago two years ago for Kansas City, it gave him the opportunity to work with John Dorsey and Andy Reid, two of the most respected people in the league.
Ballard is bright and personable and knows how to work with coaches, and his coaching and scouting background make him an ideal candidate.
Lionel Vitel, Falcons director of player personnel
Vitel has a long resume, with 24 years of experience in player personnel. He has been with the Falcons for the last seven years following stints in Baltimore, New England, Cleveland and with the New York Jets. Vitel started as an area scout and worked his way up the ladder. He also has had the opportunity to work with people like Belichick and Ozzie Newsome, two of the best in the football business.
Morocco Brown, Browns vice president of player personnel
Brown just completed his first season has VP of player personnel on Cleveland. Prior to that, he was the pro personnel director of the Washington Redskins.
Morocco began his career here in Chicago in 2001 as a pro scout prior to becoming pro director in Washington. Like Ballard, Brown has excellent people skills and is well organized.
He is highly thought of around the league, well disciplined and organized.
Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who has been an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.