New Chicago Bears general manger Phil Emery began his career in the sport of football as a strength and conditioning coach for a number of colleges during the 1980s and early 1990s. He got his first job as a scout with the Bears in 1998, a post he held until 2004.
Since then, he has served as director of college scouting for the Atlanta Falcons (2004-2008) and the Kansas City Chiefs (2008-2011). He was hired as Chicago's fifth GM because of his considerable experience evaluating collegiate talent.
"The job of general manager, as all of you know, it's an enormous responsibility. It goes so much further than just being a talent evaluator," said Bears president Ted Phillips.
Emery will soon face challenges the likes of which he's never dealt with during his time in the league. He's never had to run an organization from top to bottom, dealing with unhappy players and their agents. Never has Emery sat in on contract negotiations, or outlined a plan to fit a 53-man roster under the salary cap.
For that reason, Emery will need to rely heavily on Cliff Stein, Chicago's senior director of football administration and general counsel. Stein joined the organization in February 2002 as director of player contracts and legal affairs. He was promoted to his current position in 2007. He's the team's lead contract negotiator for all player contracts and assists the general manager in the management and strategic planning of the club's salary cap.
Stein's experience on the financial and legal side of the business will be invaluable for Emery.
"Cliff Stein is a great resource. He's in the forefront in that role in this league," said Emery. "Have I been involved in those discussions before? Yes. As I said, Rich McKay was a great teacher who was very inclusive to his entire staff in terms of understanding the big picture of putting a draft together, putting together a free agent plan and moving forward with it. So I have some experience in those areas, but I will be leaning on Cliff."
Emery inherits two unhappy players, Matt Forte and Lance Briggs, both of whom have expressed publicly their desire for a pay raise. With little-to-no experience in such negotiations, Emery will likely defer to Stein during the process of placating the team's two best players.
"Cliff, over the years, has played an increasingly important role," Phillips said. "He's going to continue to do that. Like Phil, he's organized, he's detailed and well respected. So I think he'll serve us well."
Stein comes from a purely legal background. He serves as the club's general counsel on all general legal matters and liaison to outside counsel. In 2005, he was admitted by the Supreme Court of Illinois to practice law as House Counsel pursuant to Rule 716.
From a financial and legal standpoint, Stein is a huge resource, yet he has no experience as a scout, meaning his relationship with Emery will be absolutely crucial in developing a sustainable roster loaded with top talent.
"Cliff's not a talent evaluator but what he does know is value," said Phillips. "When it comes to contracts you have to look at value and compare it to other players in the league and on your own team. He'll be instrumental in that along with Phil."
Stein and Emery are hoping to pick up where they left off, when the two worked together for the Bears back in the early 2000s.
"I was here when Cliff came in, and he's very good at his position," Emery said. "Cliff, along with other people in the building, we're going to help one another. We're going to be a cohesive team. Sometimes in a team you have some weakness and you have strengths. The key is putting those things together to help one another move forward."
If Emery and Stein stay on the same page, utilizing their respective talents in a unified manner, it will serve as a solid base for building Chicago's roster going forward.
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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.