Angelo’s Relationship with Ownership May Have Led to His Demise and Other Points of View

Bears

“An intriguing figure here is Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake.”

“[Drake] has a good relationship with [Mike] Tice, shares a smash-mouth philosophy that involves wideouts blocking (or sitting on the bench) and was part of the Bears managing to have nine different receivers with at least 18 receptions this season, the most since 10 in 1994.”

I hope the Bears look outside of the organization to fill this position.  Specifically I hope they use it to attract a top notch quarterback coach like former Bear coach Greg Olson.  Whether Olson would want to come back to the Bears after experiencing what he undoubtedly felt was a dysfunctional situation at the time is another question.

One of the many reasons why the Green Bay Packers are so successful offensively is that they have two quarterbacks coaches on their staff if you include the head coach.   The Bears don’t have any and arguably didn’t have any worth the name at all last year. Remember that Jay Cutler went outside the organization for coaching in the off season due to the lockout. I’m sure Mike Martz is OK with quarterbacks, especially as the X’s and O’s go.  But I would argue that Cutler probably got a lot more out of his offseason with a real QB coach than from either Martz and Shane Day during the season.

  • On a related note, Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune makes this valid point:

“Cutler might push for Jeremy Bates, who he worked with previously with the Broncos. Bates was out of the NFL this season after one year with the Seahawks. How would [Lovie] Smith perceive him after Bates declined overtures from the Bears for an interview two years ago? Maybe just fine. Sources said [Jerry] Angelo turned off Bates.”

I don’t know that Bates is the best choice.  But whatever else you think of him, at least he’s a quarterback coach who should have some idea of what he’s doing after serving under Mike Shanahan and as offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll.

“April 27, 2008:

“‘We’re in the business of winning football games. We’re not going to prostitute character. We don’t put winning in front of character.'”

“April 2011, on a botched trade with the Ravens:

“’Believe me, I am going into my 31st year in this league. There has been a hell of a lot worse that has been done, believe me, on the clock and there have been things out there documented so let’s not get into judging souls here. If there is something that needs to be done, I trust the league will do their due diligence and so be it.’”

 Angelo’s first quote is laudable and, in fact, I think he generally did his best to live up to it.  That makes it all the more disappointing that he badly failed in this respect by not making good on a botched trade with the Baltimore Ravens by giving them the fourth round pick they should have had in last year’s draft.

  • Dan Pompei  at the Chicago Tribune gives his thoughts on the way the organization is handling the search for a new general manager:

[Ted] Phillips says he is unconcerned [about the search]. ‘There are a lot of candidates out there that would be proud to work with a coach like Lovie Smith,’ he said.

“Certainly, the new GM could do a lot worse than Smith. That’s not the point.

“The point is the coach should be an extension of the man he reports to. And it’s the GM who should decide if Smith can be that extension.”

In principal I agree with Pompei.  But in reality, as I look around the league teams with head coaching openings aren’t waiting to hire new general managers to make offers.  So, right or wrong, the Bears aren’t alone in approaching the situation this way.

  • Having said that, there is reason to question why Smith managed to keep his job.  Again from Pompei:

“Angelo gave the coaches the players they wanted. If he had a failing, it may have been that he gave in to them too much and wasn’t more forceful with his opinions. Angelo was hired because he was a consensus builder; he may have been fired because of it as well.

“So there is culpability on the part of Smith and his assistants for whatever personnel problems the Bears have endured.”

I totally agree.  This is a pretty good summary of what is perhaps the Bears biggest problem.  Smith is a good head coach.  He has managed to compete in the NFC North despite the talent gap that we all accept is there.   The challenge is to hire a GM who takes complete charge of supplying Smith with the players he needs without letting him have undue influence over the process or the decisions which are made.  It will be very interesting to see how the new man manges the situation.

  • Matt Bowen at the Tribune makes the very valid point that almost all of the players at Halas Hall have been put on notice:

“However, with change and new direction at Halas Hall comes the loss of that sense of security for the players.

“Angelo won’t be there to protect “his guys,” and although coach Lovie Smith is coming back for at least one more season, a new decision-maker won’t owe these players anything.

“He didn’t draft them or sign them to an offseason contract. No handshakes or false promises here.

“His job is to replace them with upgrades.”

This sense of discomfort and the extra effort that comes with it might make the Bears better next year.  Sometimes change no matter what it entails can be good.

“What defined this unit was its ability to create pressure and its inability to finish plays. The Bears tied for 19th in the league in sacks despite entering the final week leading the league in hurries, according to STATS.”

  • ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert makes the claim that the trade of tight end Greg Olsen look bad for the Bears now.  I disagree.  Olsen had only 4 more receptions with the Panthers last year than he did during a mediocre 2010 season despite performing in an offense that supposedly fit his skills (though he did have more yards).

Olsen was nothing more than a big, slow wide receiver.  Opponents generally stopped him by simply treated him like one and going into a nickel defense.  He was a liability when run blocking.  If Mike Tice really wants to maximize the receiving potential of the tight end position, the Bears were going to have to find another one anyway.

Elsewhere

“Saturday night’s 45-28 loss to the New Orleans Saints should be the last time the Lions are graded on a curve, cheered for their effort or applauded for an accomplishment other than a victory. It’s true: No one expected them to beat the Saints, who now are 9-0 at home since the start of the regular season. And few if any will have harsh words after the Lions collapsed in the fourth quarter against the NFL’s hottest quarterback.

“But after returning to relevance this season, the Lions have earned themselves big-boy treatment moving forward, both inside the organization and outside.”

Seifert’s got a point.  The Lions have been cut a lot of slack this year as a young team fighting its way out of a losing tradition.

But that has also worked against them.  I think right about week 11, analysts started to seriously underestimate the Lions, giving them little shot to make the playoffs.  Those of us who watched them all year in the the NFC North division knew better.

They played mighty well Saturday night and if they play with discipline from here on out, they’re going to have no trouble living up to the “big-boy treatment”.

“A trend is emerging among NFL teams in that they are seeking young, flexible general managers with strong personnel backgrounds. They want men like Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and who understand the big picture, are unafraid to make bold moves and are willing and able to deal with media and sponsors as well as agents and coaches. That’s why Eric DeCosta, Les Snead, Marc Ross, Tom Telesco, Ryan Grigson, Jason Licht and their ilk have been popular candidates for openings.”

  • Also from Pompei:

“The problem is not having captains, Rex Ryan.  It’s having the wrong captains.”

and

“The Raiders needed a guy just like Reggie McKenzie. And now they need to let him do his job.”

“APRIL 19 Draft babble reaches fever pitch. Your cubicle neighbor, who spends autumn Saturdays watching VH1 music countdowns and thinks Stanford’s nickname is the Trees, wants you to know that he does not think Andrew Luck is that good.”

“As the 2012 NFL playoffs begin, coaches across the league find themselves in agreement on one fundamental aspect of the game: Punting the ball sucks, because the other team gains possession of the ball.”

“In his final season at Stanford, 28.7 percent of his passes fell uselessly to the ground and cost his team a down while conferring absolutely no benefit whatsoever.”

  • I know its not football related but this clip of Charles Barkley talking about the Weight Watcher’s program during a period where he thinks the camera’s off is still worth posting.  Via The Sports Pickle:

One Final Thought

A couple more interesting quotes from Angelo:

“Dec. 16, 2011, after receiver Sam Hurd‘s drug arrest: ‘When we do our homework on players, we have a very sound and tested mythology that we go about researching all players in college to veteran free agents and it starts in college.’

“Dec. 16, 2011, after being asked whether Hurd’s shocking arrest would impact his future:

‘Whistle Dixie.'”

George McCaskey did his best to separate the family from the decision to fire Angelo.  But if you take a careful look at his words, you will note that he never actually says that the idea to fire Angelo came from team president Ted Phillips.  Via Biggs:

“‘It was Ted’s decision,’ McCaskey said. ‘He asked for my input. I gave it to him. I gave him the input of the rest of ownership, and Ted made the decision, which we fully support.'”

It’s entirely possible that McCaskey “input” was to suggest that Angelo be fired.  I’ve no doubt that he then left the final decision in Phillips hands.  And I’m sure Phillips is smart enough to know what to do in that situation.

Phillips insisted that the decision was made strictly on performance.  But in this respect, Pompei makes the a valid point:

“It’s not like Angelo and Smith put together an inferior team. ‘It can’t be that he was fired for the performance of the team,’ said one AFC  front-office man, who is not a friend of Angelo’s. ‘It has to be something else.'”

Exactly.  And lending credence to the idea that Phillips didn’t plan to see Angelo go before meeting with McCaskey is the fact that he’s only just now doing his “due diligence”.  While the Rams and Colts are interviewing candidates like potential republican presidential nominees, Phillips appears to be just now getting familiar with the landscape.

It’s all speculative because ownership didn’t make it clear.  But the fact that it wasn’t clear seems to me to be suggestive.  And no one who has thought about it would blame the McCaskeys for wanting Angelo’s head.  Let’s be honest.  From the checkbox fiasco right down through the Baltimore trade where the McCaskeys had to personally try to settle down Baltimore owner Steve Bisciotti to the Hurd situation, Angelo’s management of the front office was a frequent source of embarrassment to ownership.  In retrospect, Angelo deserved his fate on that score if for no other reason.

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