Angelo on the Hot Seat

If the Bears don't show significant improvement from last season's 5-11 disappointment, coach Lovie Smith will still be back for a third season. But time is running out for general manager Jerry Angelo.

This year's draft was his fourth, and if his personnel doesn't start to pay major dividends in 2005, he'll need asbestos underwear. Angelo came aboard after the late Mark Hatley conducted the 2001 draft. The Bears made their only postseason appearance in the past 10 years that season, but all the major players were acquired by Hatley. Since then, the Bears' record is 16-32.

Angelo chose Smith to succeed Dick Jauron, who was fired after the 2003 season. When Angelo made the announcement, he remarked that, if things didn't work out, he wouldn't be around long enough to make another coaching hire.

He's right.

A playoff berth might not be imperative for Smith, especially since he's working with four new assistants this season. But for Angelo's sake, the Bears must at least appear to be on the verge of becoming a postseason team.

Angelo's most successful selections have come outside of the first round.

Hitting on players such as Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown in the second, third and fourth rounds respectively has helped build a strong defense.

His top picks have questionable at best.

2002: Marc Colombo might have been a mainstay on the offensive line if it weren't for a knee injury that has limited him to 18 games in three years.

2003: Trading the fourth pick in the draft yielded Michael Haynes, Rex Grossman and Ian Scott.

Grossman is the key to the deal that cannot yet be fully evaluated because he hasn't been able to stay on the field.

Haynes appears to be more of a role player, which is not acceptable with the 14th pick in the draft.

2004: The same slot, a year later, produced a potential Pro Bowl defensive tackle. Tommie Harris appears to be the real deal and should be a star for years to come.

2005: No one can argue with Cedric Benson's production at Texas. He should win a starting job in short order, but is the running back what the team needed when there appeared to be greater offensive needs?

Free agency has had similar inconsistent results.

The offensive line has been built primarily through the open market. John Tait, Ruben Brown and Fred Miller were all brought signed over the past two off-seasons.

Thomas Jones inked a four-year $10 million deal to be the starting running back. A year later, the Bears took Benson with the fourth pick in the draft.

The Jonathan Quinn fiasco has to be put on Angelo no matter what kind of endorsement Terry Shea gave the journeyman quarterback.

Although the Kordell Stewart experiment worked slightly better than Quinn, they both only lasted for a season.

Muhsin Muhammad is what the offense needed, a veteran receiver that can be a go-to target for Grossman. However, the move wouldn't have been necessary if Angelo hadn't traded Marty Booker for Adewale Ogunleye. The Bears may be better off with Ogunleye, but he needs to stay healthy in order to justify the six-year $33 million contract he signed upon coming to Chicago.

Angelo has been responsible for giving long-term deals to Jim Miller, R.W. McQuarters, Bryan Robinson and Paul Edinger. All of whom have since been cut because of a lack of production and a high salary cap figure.

Conversely, signing Jerry Azumah to an extension was one of the first moves Angelo made after being hired and turned out to be a bargain for a Pro Bowl kick returner and starting cornerback.

Although Angelo has overhauled the offense in an attempt to turn the franchise around, the other side of the ball will determine his and the team's fate.

While the Bears have an impressive display of talent on defense, it hasn't equated to success. The unit will have to be among the league's best for the team to succeed and Angelo to stick around.


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