It was a long 26 days but Chicago Bears president Ted Phillips finally got his man. The team announced yesterday that Phil Emery, former director of college scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs, will become the franchise's fifth general manager.
It's safe to say that Emery will have his hands full over the course of the next few months. As far as his list of priorities, let's start at the top.
Fill vacant coaching positions
The Bears cannot move forward with a coaching staff that still lacks both a quarterback coach and an offensive line coach. Technically, it is Lovie Smith's job to fill those positions but to say he's dragging his feet would be an understatement.
For close to a month, the offense has been left in limbo with just a few coaches still on staff. It's hard to imagine how new coordinator Mike Tice can start to implement his system without two crucial coaches. Until those positions are filled, everything stagnates.
Emery needs to light a fire under Smith and get him to make some decisions so the coaching staff can move forward.
Nine Bears scouts are coming out of contract this offseason. On the college side, contracts are up for Chris Ballard, Marty Barrett, Rex Hogan, Ted Monago, Mark Sadowski and Jeff Shiver. On the pro side, assistant director of pro personnel Kevin Turks and scouts Dennard Wilson and James Kirkland are also coming out of contract.
Chicago's front office has made a number of head-scratching personnel decisions over the past few years, especially on draft day. Angelo had the final word on all personnel decisions, so place most of the blame on his shoulders, yet the scouts also played a part.
Emery is known for his take-charge attitude and has total control over all personnel, outside of Smith this season. It's very likely he'll want to bring in some of his own scouts, guys he's worked and whose opinions he trusts.
One of his first moves should be to gather his scouts and find out which one thought Dan Bazuin was worth a second-round pick in 2007, and fire the guy on the spot.
Lay down the law
With Angelo, there was always an aura of, "Well, this is the best we can do." That nonsense needs to end. Angelo's list of excuses was as long as his list of draft failures.
That attitude, throughout the organization, must change.
Phillips and Bears chairman George McCaskey talked a lot about the goal of winning championships, not just improving. That idea of being the best team in the league must permeate every nook and cranny of the organization. No more, "It's good enough." This team has made the playoffs just once in the past five seasons since reaching the Super Bowl in 2006.
That is not good enough.
That would not fly in New England, New York, New Orleans, Pittsburgh or Green Bay, so why is that acceptable in Chicago? Emery needs to be heavy handed regarding the team's goals and boot anyone that doesn't share that vision.
Re-sign Matt Forte
One of the most incredulous decisions by Angelo last year was his refusal to pay running back Matt Forte. The rift between Angelo and Forte's agent, Adisa Bakari, began in training camp and continued throughout the 2011 campaign.
All Forte did on the field was prove to be one of the most explosive and versatile backs in the league. He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage nearly all season until his knee injury, from which he is now fully recovered. His efforts earned him his first Pro Bowl appearance and respect around the league as one of the best all-around backs in the NFL.
Yet Angelo refused to offer him more than $14 million guaranteed, while other "elite" backs like Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson were signed to twice that amount. When Forte went down with injury, it became painfully obvious how valuable he is to the offense. He's hinted at possibly holding out if the team places the franchise tag on him.
Considering the contracts given to Roy Williams, Brandon Meriweather and Marion Barber last year, and the egregious deal the Bears gave Chester Taylor in 2010, it makes no sense to cheap out with the team's best player. Pay Forte what he's worth and move on without the distraction.
Make Briggs happy
Lost amidst a tumultuous 2011 season was the squawking of All-Pro linebacker Lance Briggs. He wants either a raise or a trade. Briggs made his eighth Pro Bowl this year and was easily the best player on the defense last season. He's on the wrong side of 30 but he's shown no signs of slowing down. Losing Briggs would be deadly to the defense.
It's hard to side with Briggs, considering he's in the middle of a six-year, $36 million contract he signed in 2008, after testing the open market and realizing his value around the league. But something needs to be done to placate him. As with Forte, the last thing the Bears need is one of its best players unhappy to the point of a holdout.
Follow me on Twitter: @BearReport
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.