Angelo Is Making His Presence Felt

LAKE FOREST, IL -- Change was supposed to come incrementally with new general manager Jerry Angelo. Instead it's arrived at breakneck pace.

The Bears are a team in transition and there simply is no telling who is safe, how it's going to end or when it will stop. Not when you are in the throws of what happens to a football team when a new guy is in charge. Is the punky quarterback not living up to expectations? Ship Cade McNown to Miami draft history be damned. Is the defensive tackle making too much money? Waive Mike Wells regardless of his contribution in the past or that expected in the future.

Angelo was hired in the second week of June and this was supposed to be his "caretaker" season before the big moves began next off-season. Funny thing is nobody told him that.

"A caretaker to me is someone, who watches things from afar,'' Angelo said. "No. You can't do that. That's not the way this business is run now. Every year you are creating a new landscape for your football team. If you don't maintain it properly, or you let it go, then you are going to get more negatives to deal with later on. It just doesn't go away." When Jerry Angelo was hired in June as the Bears' first general manager since 1986, he arrived with a reputation as a consensus- builder, someone who could create unanimity within the organization for even the most unpopular moves.

While other candidates for the job spoke of the need for a mass firing and catastrophic overhaul, Angelo preached patience and sound judgment.

It always was going to be difficult to direct a team with a two-fold agenda--the coaching staff's need to win immediately weighed against the general manager's mission of building for the future--but Angelo's methodology may yet give the Bears a chance for both.

"I am totally supportive of all the decisions made so far,'' Bears president Ted Phillips said Tuesday (8-21). "We're trying to put the best team together that we can. The moves so far aren't knee-jerk reactions, if that is what you are asking. We are trying to get better." "There are a lot of young players that Jerry believes and [coach] Dick [Jauron] believes add value to the team, not just this year, but in the future, too. Sometimes with that comes tough decisions.''

The toughest of those decisions may have been releasing Wells for salary-cap purposes. That was a stunning blow for the vaunted offseason plan that had the Bears threatening to attack offensive lines with waves of defensive tackles.

"This was not a bomb that was dropped on us,'' Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "We had discussions. The Mike (Wells) thing was not a shock to us. We weighed all the pluses and weighed all the minuses, looked at right now and looked down the road and decided what was best for the Chicago Bears."

"This made sense. Time will prove that out. There is no doubt in my mind.'' Blache went so far as to say the decision on Wells was the right one, even if Ted Washington were to go down with an injury. That's a pretty significant statement, considering Blache not only was close to Wells, but also is arguably the most outspoken coach on the staff. He's usually forthright about how he feels, and while he might not bad-mouth a move publicly, he wouldn't praise it if he thought it was bad. "I was close to Mike,'' Blache said. "Mike and I stood toe-to-toe and fought the devil and looked him in the eye. Mike was a warrior. But you have to make some tough business decisions.''

Angelo and his staff have been meeting with the coaches twice a week to discuss various issues, top among them personnel decisions. By the time McNown was dealt to Miami, everyone was on board with the decision. When you get down to it McNown was just a third-string quarterback barely worth noting were it not for the fact the Bears selected him with the 12th overall selection of the 1999 draft and labeled him their quarterback of the future.

You remember Cade McNown, the quarterback who gives us the best chance to win?'' Turns out what he really gave the Bears is a chance to stockpile low-round draft picks. Two disastrous seasons after joining the Bears, McNown was worth only a swap of selections for next April, a seventh-rounder for a sixth-rounder, and a conditional pick in 2003 that likely will be a seventh-rounder, but could be as high as a third-round pick if McNown winds up the starter in Miami.

Don't laugh.

Actually, the funniest thing about this trade is that the would-be quarterback of the future will play for the coach of the past. McNown was the Bears' first draft pick after the Dave Wannstedt era, and he no doubt will find a sympathetic ear in Miami when he tells stories of Bears fans chanting obscenities at him from the north end zone of Soldier Field. Wannstedt has been there and done that.

The word out of Miami is that when the Dolphins first talked about trading for McNown, no one was too excited at the prospect until quarterbacks coach Mike Shula pointed out how difficult it is to play in Chicago and how failure with the Bears is not a precursor to failure in the NFL. A source with the Dolphins said that story just isn't true. But we love it anyway.

Wannstedt couldn't pull his pieces out of their places when he was with the Bears but somehow managed to go 11-6 last season and finish first in the AFC East. Not bad when you consider the growing number of Bears transplants he's working with.

McNown will rejoin former teammates Todd Perry, Terry Cousin and Alonzo Mayes, and the coaching staff includes Tony Wise, Keith Armstrong, Clarence Brooks and Shula from Wannstedt's staff in Chicago. And don't forget Miami's personnel boss, Rick Spielman, who was Mark Hatley's right-hand man when the Bears drafted McNown. His No. 1 assistant is George Paton, who was hired away from the Bears this year.

"Chicago is a tough town to play in,'' Perry told reporters in Miami. A change of scenery will probably do him a lot of good.''

Angelo described McNown as relieved'' and a happy camper'' now that his time with the Bears is over. Everyone around the teams is relieved to close this chapter in Bears history. McNown was never the player he should have been with the Bears, who passed up a chance to select cornerback Champ Bailey in order to trade out of the No. 7 position and move down for McNown. In doing so, the Bears also passed on Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who seems to complete, passes at will against them twice a year.

Why didn't things work out for McNown with the Bears? There is an old adage in scouting: Trust your eyes. McNown's problems were apparent to anyone who watched the Bears play. He could not get rid of the ball on time and on target. He needed plays to break down in order to use his improvisational skills to create big plays. Rarely, if ever, did he make positive plays out of the team's basic offense.

There are excuses for McNown. The offensive system never seemed appropriate for his set of skills. The talent level around him did not take the pressure off. The Bears lacked a locker-room strongman to keep McNown's obnoxious personality in check.

The personality issue was always a factor with McNown. Nothing was ever his fault. He was defiant to those coaching him. They constantly tried to get him to make his reads and release the ball, and he constantly chose to go downfield despite their objections. He mistook blaming others for leading a team and pointed too many fingers when he was to blame.

"I don't think [his personality] made him overthrow the ball,'' Bears coach Dick Jauron said. "I don't think it had a lot to do with things.'' No doubt McNown's cockiness and defiance would have been embraced as necessary intangibles had he gone 12-3 instead of 3-12 as a starter.

"If we won games with Cade, I would have learned to like him,'' Angelo said.

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