The Bears are the NFL charter franchise and they have finally set up a winning management structure. You can say whatever you want about the job Phillips and Angelo have done in the last few years but now the calibration is in place and the Bears have no excuses heading into the 2004 season and beyond.
Losing teams such as the Bengals and Lions have finally adapted to starting a hierarchy system, and it at least showed signs of working in Cincinnati last year. Washington has Joe Gibbs making a majority of their football personal moves now, but teams like Arizona and Oakland still have the iron fist owner running the show.
Regarding the new head coach, fans have to be very impressed with the attitude and ideas Lovie Smith has brought in. Dick Jauron never brought any innovative thoughts to the Bears and was always known as Michael McCaskey's second choice when he was hired. From a fan's perspective Jauron was a bore to listen to and it was always hard to picture how he could possibility have motivated the team from his constant expressionless and unemotional behavior.
Smith doesn't have previous heading coaching experience like some of the other candidates such as Nick Saban or Tom Coughlin, but Smith comes from winning philosophies and has always succeeded and persevered up the ranks. The fact that what Smith and Angelo helped build in Tampa Bay under Tony Dungy turned into a Super Bowl title has to be very exciting for Bears fans. Also the idea that Smith has brought in an offensive coordinator to run the system he would like to see implemented is positive. An exciting high-powered offense that will have Bears fans attention as opposed to years of John Shoop's dink and dunk scheme that accomplished nothing.
Smith is looking for speed and athleticism on both sides of the ball and the Bears could certainly use a makeover after achieving only one playoff win since the Mike Ditka era ended. Angelo can now do his player personnel evaluating with the understanding of the players Smith craves. The days of indecisiveness draft disputes and a losing mentality are hopefully over.
It does get tricky now with the life span of a NFL head coach shorter then ever. Smith will be given a little leniency to get his players and coaches on the same page. But if the Bears and Lions start regularly competing for the cellar in the NFC north Angelo and Smith could be in big trouble. The 13-3 season was a thrill but there hasn't been this much optimism in Bears country since the very early 90's.
I am not sure yet how I feel about the two free agent acquisitions thus far. Quarterback Jonathan Quinn knows the offensive system from his experience under Terry Shea in Kansas City and was only signed as a backup, the question remains will he be the second or third QB on the depth chart.
Signing Thomas Jones at running back really doesn't excite me. I would rather have taken Duce Staley or Charlie Garner and personally I do like Anthony Thomas. The big argument is that Thomas will not fit into Shea's new system in which the running back catches the ball out the backfield. Well the last two years Thomas has been running behind battered offensive lines while sustaining injuries himself. I would give the former second-round draft choice an opportunity to prove whether or not he can excel in the new offensive system.
Jones hasn't proven anything with either Arizona or Tampa, other then he's quick. Yes he was a top ten-draft choice, but hasn't amounted to anything. If a change of scenery or offensive system is going to be brought up I feel Thomas will persevere more in the NFL possibly on another team then Jones would with the Bears. I am not saying that I completely don't like Jones, I just feel shutting the door on Thomas would be a huge mistake.
Angelo looks to be quickly attempting to improve the offensive line with the offer sheet out to John Tait and on the defensive side Ron Rivera's squad looks like it will be smaller and faster. Aggressive play that forces takeaways is the central theme of a Lovie Smith defense.
The combination of both sides of the ball under Smith's philosophy should lead this team to at least a duplicate of last years 7-9 record or even better. Injuries are always the key word in addition to hopefully a promising finish to free agency and next month's draft. The Bears will no longer be looked at as a joke in the NFC.
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