Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Era of Accountability Begins?

Wasn't Christmas a week ago? Well Bears fans are getting either a late or very early Christmas present, as Jerry Angelo was fired today, a huge and startling move from the Bears. I feel like Ralphie from A Christmas Story, thinking that I'd gotten everything I wanted until finding that last one gift tucked away, waiting to come out and dwarf the rest of them. Now, if George McCaskey and Ted Phillips can go out and nail the new GM hire, could this possibly mean that a new era of accountability has begun at Halas Hall? It's possible, and the ramifications for this fire could be big starting immediately.

To be sure, the Bears have had a sustained period of success under Angelo that is much more reminiscent of Bears traditional success than his predecessors in the 1990s. The Bears won the division several times, made the NFC Championship game last year, and went to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season. He picked out the likes of Devin Hester, Lance Briggs, and Matt Forte. But in all reality, the writing was on the wall this year after he left the Bears woefully unprepared to survive a season with a few injuries, as I've talked about numerous times. For the Bears, it's also important that Angelo didn't simply retire. By announcing that he's been fired, it illustrates to Bears fans that from the top, Angelo's performance isn't acceptable. It's tantamount to announcing a culture change under the new McCaskey.

Perfect Move to Make
Besides those random few gems in the draft mentioned above, Angelo's draft history is utterly embarrassing. There are only two Bears' first round picks on the roster, and one of them is from the most recent draft. For someone who has had bad drafts for years now, those results alone are justification for his departure right now. And that's only the tip of the iceberg. I've made it a habit to talk about the reasons he should go, but first and foremost is dropping the ball on improving and solidifying a Bears team this year after an NFC Championship game performance last year. So while it sucked that Jay Cutler got hurt and the Bears season went into a tailspin it is actually kind of bittersweet, for it exposed the deep flaws inherent in the Bears team that Angelo simply did not address. The Bears were just unprepared for injuries, going through the season with a terrible backup quarterback (until Josh McCown was signed), a bad backup running back (until Kahlil Bell actually got playing time), a bad offensive line, weak receiving corps, no depth at linebacker, and an awful secondary.

And really, how much of the Bears credit the last ten years does Angelo deserve? The Bears defense, above all, was the reason for success. Angelo certainly didn't do anything to help develop a consistent offense. Lovie Smith deserves some credit too, so I'm glad to hear that he'll be sticking around. He's a good coach, one who has the respect of all his players, and one who of course gets attacked by all the Bears fans who have no idea what they're talking about. Rumors that Mike Martz won't be back either would just be the icing on top. Sure, learning a new offensive system might be tough for Cutler, but the tradeoff to having a competent offensive coordinator who recognizes the personnel he has before the season starts. But most importantly, this will mean that a new person will be in charge of the Matt Forte contract negotiations, something that is desperately needed.

Going forward, does this mean that the Bears have finally found the right McCaskey to run the team? Goerge, the new chairman, has already made in his first year on the job a move that neither Michael or Ed McCaskey would have made. Angelo was a yes-man, a company man of the first order who was the personnel mouthpiece for the Bears organizational strategy. With George McCaskey, this looks like it could be changing. If he and Bears President Ted Phillips can bring on a GM that is given free reign to use the salary cap, sign and trade players, and above all draft FOR NEED, the Bears could have a quick turnaround season next year. The core is in place. With a new GM in place, and hopefully the start of a new Bears culture, a few key additions could put the Bears right back in contention.