Matt Millen’s Comments Provide Insight Into the Job Which Jerry Angelo Has Done with the Bears

Like a lot of young people, when I was a graduate student I thought I knew a lot more than I actual did.  Teaching people like me at that point can sometimes be a struggle.  I’ll never forget one a senior member of our laboratory turning to me after one particularly frustrating experience and saying, “There are a thousand things you can do wrong with this.  I’ve done them all.  Listen to what I’m saying.”

As an older adult I’m now doing my level best to try to evaluate the job that general manager Jerry Angelo has done in the face of the successful regular season which the Bears just completed.  It’s not easy.  You end up walking a tight rope between the positive view point expressed by Dan Pompei and the more negative view point of Dan McNeil, both writing for the Chicago Tribune.

I still haven’t made up my mind exactly how I feel but some perspective was gained from an interview by Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press with former Lions GM Matt Millen.  This article was recently brought to my attention in relation to Angelo by Mike Mulligan on WSCR’s Mully and Hanley Show.  Mulligan made an under-appreciated point that I’d like to highlight.

Millen was an utter failure as GM.  In his own words, he “stunk at it.”  Most would say that makes him somewhat less than an expert at how to manage a football team.  But there’s a lot to be gained by listening to someone who is an expert at how to fail at it, as well.  Here’s what Millen had to say:

“It’s less about the game of football.  It’s less about X’s and O’s. It’s less about personnel decisions. It’s a job about managing people. It’s about building a consensus when you pick the right head coach. You can’t go in and be this football czar and say, ‘This is how it’s going to work.’ If you pick somebody that a coach doesn’t like and doesn’t coach, that’s a bad situation.”

To his everlasting credit, this is something Angelo knows and has known for a long time.  He has, in fact, been talking about consensus building since he was hired.  For instance, he knows very well that Lovie Smith and the relevant position coaches have to be on board when you select a draft pick.  You can’t ask them to coach someone they don’t believe in.  And, of course, you have to balance that against what the scouts say and what you think personally.  If there’s a disagreement, you have to do some convincing and get all parties completely on board.  Indeed, occasionally Angelo undoubtedly has to select players he doesn’t think much of in the spirit of compromise.  Overall its an incredibly difficult task.

Many fans (like me) have wondered just how much influence Smith has over personnel issues, particularly as it pertains to the draft.  We wonder how much to “blame” him for Angelo’s failures there.  And in the end, we usually come to the conclusion that Angelo makes the final decision and, therefore, he has to bear ultimate responsibility.

This is technically true.   But what people don’t understand is that its not true because Angelo decided not to override Lovie Smith.  As is clear from Millen’s comments, he can’t override him.  Not if he wants a successful organization.  The reason the draft picks are ultimately Angelo’s responsibility is because he hired Smith in the first place.  That makes them inseparable partners in everything they do and, frankly, it means you can’t criticize Angelo without criticizing everyone in the organization from him on down for their role in the process.

So give Angelo credit for recognizing and doing at least a reasonable job of holding together an organization of diverse personalities and keeping them all headed more or less in the same direction.  A lot of people have failed to accomplish that much.  Just ask Matt Millen.

Is Wide Receiver a Bears Off-Season Priority?

Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Any chance the Bears make a run at Sidney Rice in free agency? Other than the outside chance A.J. Green or Julio Jones fall to the Bears, their draft picks will be tied up in the offensive line for the first two days. Acquiring Rice kills two birds with one stone: You get a top-flight receiver and the big target [Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler needs, and you take him away from the Vikings. And, you spend your picks to build a strong O-Line. What do you think? — Tyler Coppock

“Interesting thought Tyler, but I think it’s a real long shot. First off, I doubt Minnesota will let Rice go. I think they’ll do what they need to do to keep him. If the Bears are going to make a big splash in free agency again, and that’s a big if, I doubt they will do it with a receiver. They like their receivers. They have bigger needs–at offensive line and defensive line. In fact, Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards might be a better fit. Remember that name. And one more thing–I don’t think Rice would be an ideal fit in Mike Martz‘ offense.”

I find Pompei’s priorities to be interesting.

I’ve talked to a lot of fans and I can say that not many are going to want to hear that the Bears like their receivers after watching them get physically dominated by the Packers.  Personally I am not so sure after one game but it is obvious that they didn’t do well against the press coverage.  And I’ll say it out right:  Johnny Knox just plain gave up.  You could see it in his eyes.  He was a beaten man.

I’m all in favor of making the line of scrimmage a priority at any time.  I am firmly of the belief that is where games are won and lost.  Pompei may be thinking that Ray Edwards could dhave the same impact for the Bears that ke did for the Vikings opposite Jared Allen.  But with the addition of defensive end Julius Peppers I would have thought that the Bears would continue to try to get by on the defensive line with guys like the ones they have at the other positions.  True, if the right guy falls to them in the draft, they’ll grab him.  GM Jerry Angelo likes to leave himself flexible enough going in to where he’ll feel comfortable taking any position with the top pick.

But I’m not sure they’re going to spend a lot more money on the defensive line.  I would have put defensive back as a higher priority and I’ve a feeling that we’re going to find out just how high that priority should be in the playoffs.

Do the “Peyton Dance” and Other News


“If the Bears win the Super Bowl, would that help bring them a new stadium to Chicago? Not only is Soldier Field the smallest stadium in the league, it’s pretty bad when the home team’s players constantly gripe about how bad the playing surface is. We’re the third-largest market in the league. No way Soldier Field should be the smallest stadium in the league, especially with the rich tradition the Chicago Bears have. — Corey, Chicago”

“I have heard absolutely no talk about a new stadium in Chicago and would be shocked if I did. Mountains are moved more easily than stadiums are built in Chicago, especially on the public’s dime. By the way Corey, would you like to see your taxes go up to pay for a new stadium? I wouldn’t. And I fully expect that in my lifetime I’ll never see the Bears call another stadium home other than the one they are currently playing in.”

As a resident of the city of Chicago I can agree whole heartedly and without reservation with Pompei.  I think the outside of Soldier Field is a horrible abomination but the inside is as nice as you could ask and I have no desire whatsoever to watch a game in another stadium.  I certainly have no desire to pay for one.  Until it was lowered slightly last July Chicago had the highest total sales tax of all major U.S. cities.  I’m as big a football fan as you’ll find but as things are right now I could guarantee a tax payer revolt if anyone tried to build a new stadium here and I’d be right with them every step of the way.

‘‘[it always seems he’s on the fringe] because you guys put me on the fringe. Nobody else does.  I’ve never seen myself as a roster-bubble guy. Maybe a little bit last year. But no — you guys see that. In the locker room, they don’t think I am. My coaches don’t think I am. They haven’t told me that.’’

Its nice that Davis has confidence.  But if you’re not a starter,  there’s always the potential that you’re going to be considered a roster bubble guy in the NFL.  No one should have to tell Davis that.

  • Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times points out that the Bears will have 14 unrestricted free agents after the season.  The top two strong side linebackers are on the list and, interestingly, Hayes puts a higher priority on signing backup Nick Roach than starter Pisa Tinoisamoa.


  • Steve Hyde and Mark Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel talk about the Dolphins coaching situation and the embarrassing consequences resulting from the attempt of GM Jeff Ireland, owner Steven Ross, and Carl Peterson to hire Jim Harbaugh in this interesting video shot before Sparano’s contract was extended:

  • Hyde also writes about the apparently expanding, if unofficial, role of Carl Peterson in all of this:

The people on Steve Ross’ plane told the strange story. How Jeff Ireland was anointed a survivor over Tony Sparano is mystifing. But Carl Peterson is the really strange and disturbing figure, as I wrote in my column today. Peterson flew under the radar in this entire episode but was the loudest presence of all. He was Bill Parcells. He was the acting football czar. A guy who won nothing in running Kansas City for the final 15 years was setting the course for this franchise. Not only that but surely he was the one behind telling Bill Cowher that he had to inherit Ireland and Mike Nolan. Why would Cowher accept the job under those conditions? Peterson’s a scary presence, folks, not just for what happened this past week but for what it means for the future.

  • Snoop Dogg and John Legend do the Peyton dance (via

“How the Saints attack the middle: There’s a good chance the Seahawks take a conservative approach to covering New Orleans in the secondary in an attempt to eliminate big plays. But that shouldn’t slow down the Saints because they’ll just lean on intermediate routes, which are the bulk of the offense anyway.

“[Saints quarterback Drew] Brees will have to be patient and settle for underneath throws to the slot receivers, tight ends — such as Jeremy Shockey — and running backs with the Seahawks playing so conservatively. But will he?

“There’s a reason why the players don’t seem uptight after a turnover or other mistake and why they don’t turn on one another when they lose a close game, and it starts with the coach.

“McCarthy is not a screamer for the sake of theatrics. If practice turns sloppy, he breaks the monotone buzz of the fluorescent lights in the Don Hutson Center with angry, sharp instructions. He yells. Profanity is used just to emphasize the point. But once it’s made, McCarthy moves on, without the long, drawn-out drama.”

Contrast with the comments of 49ers tight end Vernon Davis about emotional former head coach Mike Singeltary (via Comcast Sports Net Bay Area):

“I think we did play tight,” Davis said. “Guys were a little scared. They were more worried about coach Singletary getting on them than playing football.”

“You have three choices in life when looking at any situation.  You can take a positive angle, a negative angle or no angle at all.

“I clearly believe in positive mind-sets. Positive needs to be the starting point. I believe in positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement is a useful teaching tool, but it is a short-term teaching tool.

“At the end of the day, when you’re building a program, it’s all about culture. Positive culture equates growth, and that is very important to me – that everyone in our program continue to grow.”

One Final Thought

Rutgers’ Eric LeGrand discusses his recovery progress after he was paralyzed in a football game with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi: