Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Report: Jerry Angelo will not return as Bears GM

From: Chicago Tribune

The Chicago Bears won four division titles and reached a Super Bowl in 11 seasons under Jerry Angelo, but ultimately a track record for poor drafts will mark his legacy.

The Bears sent out an internal email Tuesday morning announcing that Angelo, who had a contract through 2013, is no longer with the organization. The decision came two days after the Bears finished 8-8, the fourth time in five seasons the franchise has not reached the playoffs.

The Bears announced a 4 p.m. news conference and in it they said team president Ted Phillips fired Angelo, eliminating speculation whether or not he retired.

The status of Lovie Smith already has been addressed. According to the team's website, Smith will remain as head coach and that he will continue to evaluate his staff.

Whether that involves embattled offensive coordinator Mike Martz remains to be seen. Presumably, Phillips and chairman of the board George McCaskey will be heard from. When business ended Monday, it appeared only the fate of Martz was in serious doubt. Now, plenty more is on the table.

While Angelo pulled off a bold trade to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler in 2009, his drafts have failed to strengthen the organization. First-round draft picks have delivered little and even on defense most of the core players were brought in through free agency or were drafted for a different coaching staff. Running back Matt Forte was selected to the Pro Bowl this season, the first offensive player drafted by Angelo to make the NFC all-star team.

Rumors circulated early last month that Angelo would retire at the end of the season. In a long conversation with Angelo before Sunday's season-ending 17-13 victory at Minnesota, he made it clear he was already mapping out the offseason ahead. But it turns out the decision on when he would depart wasn't his to make.

Angelo performed a shakeup in his front office two years ago that some viewed as an effort to cast blame on others while also creating a landing spot for his longtime friend Tim Ruskell. Pro personnel director Bobby DePaul and college scouting director Greg Gabriel, who Angelo hired when he took over in 2001, were ousted. Ruskell, who had been let go as general manager of the Seattle Seahawks, was hired and given a larger title as director of player personnel. It's difficult to say what the future holds for him now. Is Ruskell attempting a power play?

The Bears were usually thrifty in free agency with one major exception, the record-setting contract they gave defensive end Julius Peppers in 2010 to re-energize Smith's defense. Peppers, even at a solid level, couldn't do it alone on defense this season when the Bears began to show age. It will be interesting to learn how McCaskey feels about the roster and the schemes on both sides of the ball.

When McCaskey took over for his older brother last year, he said he wanted to let football people make football decisions, but was also clear that he wanted to learn about the processes and be involved when appropriate. The public has been crying for change for sometime but never louder than the last few weeks as a once-promising season disintegrated with an unprepared backup quarterback playing in place of Cutler. This could be the first in a series of moves where McCaskey breaks from family tradition in the football business with an aggressive approach at rebuilding.

The Bears headed off speculation about Smith, though, by posting on the Web site that he will remain as coach. That means there could be another arranged marriage atop the organization unless they are planning to hand full personnel control to Smith, something that seems unlikely. The Bears paired a new general manager in Angelo with an existing coach in Dick Jauron in 2001. It produced one playoff season and two poor ones, and the feeling from the start was Angelo wanted to start over with his own coach.

Will the Bears be headed down that path again? Answers should come this afternoon.

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