Job Security is at a Premium, Even For Jauron

LAKE FOREST, IL -- The saddest element to the Bears 2001 campaign has nothing to do with salary cap cuts or failed first round picks. It's the way in which everyone around town seems to be bracing for the worst.

There is absolutely no faith in the Bears these days around Chicago. And you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone outside his immediate family that thinks Dick Jauron has a chance at keeping his job beyond this season.

The fastest way to clear a room at Halas Hall is to bring up the subject of Jauron's job security. The only guy who is willing to address the subject is Jauron himself, who says he knows he has to win this year.

Team president Ted Phillips has promised Jauron at least one more year to prove himself and has vowed that the Bears, who have never fired a coach in season, won't do that now. New general manager Jerry Angelo has made no promises to the coach beyond this year and even mentioned Jauron's uncertain future in his first comments to the team, a move that annoyed members of the coaching staff.

All of which means that the No. 1 story in the future of the franchise--who the new GM will hire to coach the team--has been put off until the end of the season. Jauron is left twisting in the wind, at the mercy of a team that might not have the talent to save his job.

And while you can make an excellent case that Jauron is just another victim of the Bears, the coach certainly must take a share of the blame for the current state of the team. He's the guy who declined to upgrade his staff after his first year and he's the guy who stayed with Cade McNown way too long last season.

Can Jauron, who has two years left on his contract, keep his job beyond this season? What does he need to do to impress new general manager Jerry Angelo?

Not many NFL people are willing to address the subject on the record, but the general consensus is that Jauron needs to shake up his coaching style and get on his players, or make some sort of bold statement that his players back up in order to keep his job. Angelo, sources say, isn't overly impressed with what he's seen so far, particularly with the lack of urgency the Bears showed in training camp.

Way too many guys missed way too much time with nagging injuries. There was no fear of retaliation for lazy practice habits, no sense that Jauron would ever make a tough cut to send a message to his team. There is an old adage in the NFL that says: "Show me a players' coach and I'll show you a coach about to be fired."

Angelo says he understands the plan Jauron has for this year's team and that he's on board. The plan is to play ball control offense, excel on special teams and win with a punishing defense. The plan was set back with the decision to waive defensive tackle Mike Wells for salary cap purposes, along with linebacker Sean Harris' decision to "retire" during training camp and the Bears refusal to let him back on the team when he had a change of heart.

Nonetheless, the Bears have devoted a lot of high draft picks and free agent money to a defense that Jauron believes can be physically intimidating. They have also devoted a lot of playing time to young players over the past couple of years--Warrick Holdman, Tony Parrish, Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown and Rosevelt Colvin--that should pay dividends this year.

"We believe strongly that if you hit hard legally for the entire course of a game it will be a deterrent," Jauron said. "People will see it on film. They will know we are going to pound them on every single snap. They will know when they run certain routes they will get hit. We don't want them to catch the ball and just tip toe out of bounds.

"I view it as part of the discipline of the game, the overall grinding of the game, the way in which you wear an opponent down over time.

"As he is preparing for you, the process begins. He anticipates the game, then gets what he thought he would get and it keeps coming.''

People don't hear a lot of that kind of tough talk from Jauron and it leads to a belief that he is not a tough coach. In fact, he's a former Pro Bowl player who has been around professional football for virtually all his adult life and understands the type of commitment it takes to win in the NFL.

The concern is that he doesn't have the ability to grab the attention of his players and drag out of them the type of focus needed to win at the highest level. It's the same argument many in New York were making about Giants coach Jim Fassel around this time last year.

Fassel, a guy with a low key personality was deemed incapable of repairing a widening gap between defensive and offensive players that was tearing apart the New York locker room. With his job hanging in the balance following a bad loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Fassel guaranteed his team would make the playoffs and that bold gesture proved a unifying factor that brought the team together and led to a seven-game winning streak that ended in the Super Bowl.

Fassel was rewarded with a three-year extension in the off-season.

"People have a hard time believing I wasn't worried about job security, but I really wasn't,'' Fassel said. "I had to go on the attack, because I felt the team was under attack. That's why I put the gauntlet down on everybody, and I mean everybody--players, coaches, management, owners. I wasn't going to have everybody thinking that I'm walking on egg shells.''

Jauron doesn't appear to have the talent to make that kind of prediction Fassel made and follow through on it, but he needs to get into attack mode if he wants to keep his job.

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