After 11 years with the organization, the Chicago Bears last Tuesday handed GM Jerry Angelo his walking papers.
Thanks boss. It was real.
One playoff appearance the past four years just wasn't good enough – president Ted Phillips said as much during that evening's press conference. He also said the search for Angelo's replacement was to begin immediately and could drag into February. Chicago's front office has typically made quick, albeit sometimes rash, decisions regarding team personnel, whether it be the front office, coaches or players. Yet this time, Phillips is going to take his time, presumably to make sure he gets it right.
If Angelo lasted 11 seasons, his replacement will likely do the same, especially considering ownership's hands-off approach with its GMs. As far as Phillips is concerned, it's worth it to spend an extra week or two to find the guy who will ostensibly run the franchise for the next decade.
Chicago spent the last week gathering information about potential candidates and will start the interview process this week, as early as tomorrow.
Tim Ruskell, the team's director of player personnel, is serving as the interim GM. Phillips said Ruskell is one of many being considered for the position. There have been reports this week that the delay in bringing in candidates may be because of Ruskell. The team feels he's done a good job the past two seasons. Many are speculating that Ruskell will just be handed the position.
For a number of reasons, it's doubtful that will happen. First, Ruskell is fairly similar to Angelo in both philosophy and approach – it wouldn't be enough of a change. Second, Ruskell's track record as GM of the Seattle Seahawks from 2005-2009 is spotty at best. Third, the word out of Halas Hall is that the Ruskell rumors have been overblown.
Basically, Ruskell is Plan D. If Plan A, B and C all fail, then the Bears will fall back on a guy that's been with the team for a couple of seasons – who could lead the team through a transitional phase. Ruskell is a candidate but he's not at the top of the team's list.
A lot of names are being reported as candidates for the job, including Marc Ross, college scouting director for the N.Y. Giants – a position he's held for five seasons. Before that he spent seven seasons with Philadelphia Eagles, where in 2000, at age 27, he became the NFL's youngest college scouting director.
The Giants are well respected for their ability to build through the draft, for which Ross must take most of the credit. His eye for talent is something that was sorely lacking with Angelo. The Colts have interviewed Ross already and the Rams will interview him this week.
Another executive reportedly coveted by all three teams with GM vacancies is Les Snead, player personnel director for the Atlanta Falcons. Snead oversees both the college and pro scouting efforts and works closely with Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff. With Atlanta eliminated from the playoffs yesterday, expect him to be on Chicago's invite list for this week. Snead has an interview scheduled with the Colts as well.
Other reported candidates are former Indianapolis Colts GM Bill Polian, Minnesota Vikings director of player personnel George Paton and Arizona Cardinals director of player personnel Steve Keim, among many others. When the team starts scheduling interviews in the next day or so, we'll have a much clearer idea of where they are headed.
But rest assured, Phillips' first, second and third options are to bring in someone from the outside. Ruskell is a candidate, but he's nowhere near the focus of this search. Don't let the inactivity of the front office fool you, the hunt in earnest has not yet begun.
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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.