To say that today has been interesting would be a vast understatement. The Chicago Bears made some extremely significant changes this afternoon, firing 11-year general manger Jerry Angelo and offensive coordinator Mike Martz.
"[Angelo has] put his life's blood into the Bears. He's a tireless worker. And I'm going to miss him," president and CEO Ted Phillips said at this afternoon's press conference at Halas Hall. "But at the same time, we need more. The decision was made that we need to keep up the pace with our division rivals. I'm not sure we're there yet, but our goal has always been to win championships."
Quarterbacks coach Shane Day was also let go, but for 2012 at least, coach Lovie Smith's job is safe.
"The one restriction that will be placed on any candidate will be Lovie Smith's our head coach for 2012," said Phillips. "We're keeping Lovie as head coach. I'm proud to keep him as head coach.
"Ultimately we felt that Lovie is the right head coach for this team. We like his staff that's in place."
Phillips will handle the search for the new general manager, which he said starts immediately. When he hired Angelo in 2001, he solicited the help of a search firm. Yet this time around the front office will handle the hunt internally.
Numerous names have been thrown around, including Bill Polian, who was fired yesterday from his post as GM of the Indianapolis Colts. One thing Phillips reiterated numerous times is that no one is off limits and all available execs around the league will be considered.
"At this point in time, I'm not eliminating anybody," Phillips said. "I want to take a good close look at the possibilities out there and then we'll narrow it down from there once the process gets underway."
He said there is no fixed timetable for finding a replacement.
"I dn't have a fixed number on the number of candidates. We'll start that process now. Tim [Ruskell] will capably handle our scouting operations until the decisions made. But with free agency beginning in mid-March it's going to depend on whether there are any candidates on playoff teams as to how long it'll drag out."
With Lovie keeping his job, it won't allow the new GM to completely clean house and bring in all new faces, which may make some candidates hesitant to aggressively pursue the position.
"I think ultimately I want to bring in a general manager who understands Lovie's philosophy, but in terms of not making any changes or suggesting any changes, that's probably not realistic," Phillips said. "But we'll let that process play out and see how it goes."
Phillips said talent evaluation will one of the key factors in selecting Angelo's replacement.
"Let me just comment on a couple of the key attributes that I looked for the last time I hired a general manager and we're going to do again: talent evaluation is going to be key; chemistry with Lovie; understanding of the coaches; solid character and work ethic and a clear strategy to get us to win a championship."
Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell will serve as GM in the interim and is being considered for the position full time.
Many believe that George McCaskey, who took over as chairman before this season, had a big hand in the firing of Angelo. It's assumed he wants to start fresh with his handpicked guy. McCaskey said that is completely false and that Phillips was in charge of the decision.
"Let me correct the misconception: This was Ted's decision," said McCaskey. "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."
As for the offensive coordinator position, Phillips said that is entirely Smith's decision. And Smith does not have to wait until a new GM is hired before he can bring in a new OC.
"That'll be Lovie's decision and we'll move forward with that on his timetable when he wants to do it," said Phillips.
Smith has had the power to hire and fire his coaching staff since coming on board in 2004. Yet the new coordinator will be his fourth during his tenure with Chicago. Does Phillips have faith that Smith will get it right this time?
"I have a lot of confidence in Lovie. We've talked about it already today and I think he's going to – none of us are perfect, we all have made mistakes – he's going to correct it and I have complete confidence in his ability to do that."
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of Bear Report magazine and BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.