Eye On The Future

Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo and President and CEO Ted Phillips addressed Bears fans' questions about the upcoming draft, free agency and the overall prospects for the continued success of the team at the Chicago Bears Fan Convention held February 22-24 at the Chicago Hilton and Towers.

Angelo and Phillips participated in a Team Management Report, which was moderated by Bears radio color commentator Hub Arkush. 

First and foremost in the minds of many of those in attendance was how serious the team was in retaining the services of veteran center Olin Kreutz. 

"We intent to have Kreutz as a Bear for the rest of his career," Angelo said.  "He is the best in this business at his position.  We are going after him just as hard as we can.  But, like so much in this aspect of football, it will all come down to money.  If you fans  care to chip in some cash while you're here, we'll be more than happy to add that to our offer." 

Angelo also outlined the team's current view of  the approaching draft process. 

"Everything comes down to a matter of communication," he said.  "I have been talking to Dick Jauron and to Ted Phillips.  We are all on the same page as far as what our current needs are. We want good players who will fit into our scheme.  By good, I mean only those with intelligence, a keen sense of competition, character and an overall passion for the game." 

When asked which of these attributes the team considers of most importance, Angelo replied: 

"To Ted, Dick and myself, the most important things would be a mix.  I'd say that half of what we want to see is the player's innate talent.  The rest is a strong character.  That can make or break a career. Look at Anthony Thomas. He came in as a rookie this year and produced for us?  Why?  Because he was in the conditioning room every day.  He always tried to be better.  That's what builds winning teams." 

Phillips remarked that most NFL teams are looking 2-3 years down the road when they are making draft choices. 

"You are never sure just how a pick will turn out," Phillips said.  "You hope for the best.  The team is dynamic, things are changing all of the time.  What you try to accomplish is to choose those players you feel will best fit into the direction that the team wants to go. We have a strong core of young players and also some seasoned veterans s.  We want to keep the integrity of what we have while enhancing some of our positions for the future." 

While expressing great satisfaction with the Bears NFC Central division title, Angelo also mentioned that there can be a downside to success. 

"Look at what happened to the Ravens after their Super Bowl win," he said.  "The next year they lost 7 or 8 of their key players. Generally a team has 12 core players.  These are the ones who are going to be making the highest salaries. When you have a winning team, all of the players want to be paid more.  Agents can be more difficult to deal with.  If you don't plan things well with the salary cap, your team can get into trouble.  Even the best players can be vulnerable." 

Both Phillips and Angelo remained outspokenly optimistic for the team's prospects in building on the skills of current players and finding the best available players to fill in any gaps through the draft and free agency. 

"We know where we are weak and where we need to build," Angelo said.  "We need  a strong and consistent pass rush. There should be more sacks and more pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. We are a strong running team, but it would be good to have the ball go deeper down the field in the early downs. These are the things we will be looking at this spring.  Our goal is to have the strongest team that it is possible to put on the field." 

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