Jerry-Mandering: Angelo Wraps It Up

Just like Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears GM Jerry Angelo is committed to the running game and getting healthy on defense in 2008. Angelo held his season-ending press conference Thursday at Halas Hall, so here is a CliffsNotes version of what he had to say on all 28 questions he was asked.

Do you prefer to keep the entire coaching staff intact like Lovie Smith does?
Jerry Angelo: He's got to feel comfortable with the people that he works with every day, and that obviously is Lovie's call. ... We have made changes on our staff before. If that were what he felt was in our best interest, I'm sure he would have done it.

How do you feel about the quarterback position heading into 2008?
JA: I felt going into the year this was the best we've ever been. Each one of them played good football at some point in time. It's unfortunate that we had to see all three of them again. So first and foremost, we have to get the position stabilized going into `08. That will be determined in the spring and obviously the preseason.

Do you think you're close to getting back to championship-caliber football?
JA: Right now, what we want to do is fix what we feel is broken. Once we get our ship in order and we get back to playing the kind of football consistently that we're capable of playing – and we got a snapshot of that in the last two games. Those were two good football teams. I'm not going to get euphoric and say, "Well, that's the way were going to be in `08," but it was good to see that we can still play that kind of football.

What do you have to do to be a running football team next season?
JA: We weren't able to generate any big plays with the running game, and that was very disappointing. ... So everything we did, we had to grind it out. And that's tough to do. Very tough to do. If you're a running football team, you've got to get big plays in the running game. Were weren't able to do that.

What's the future for Cedric Benson and his status as the featured back?
JA: I'd like to think he can still be a featured back, but there's going to be competition at that position. ... If something were to arise and there was a good back in the marketplace and/or in the draft that we feel can complement the backs or give us the kind of competition that we [need], then we're going to look at that as well.

Why did the offensive line struggle so badly this season?
JA: Very disappointing, particularly when you have a veteran bunch. Can I sit here and tell you exactly what it was? I don't know.

What if the free-agents-to-be, like Lance Briggs, choose to sign elsewhere?
JA: If we don't [re-sign them], then we have other players that will take their place. You saw Jamar Williams with a start. We have Michael Okwo that will be back. We feel good about him. So we do have players that can replace these players. Can they be as good, better, not as good – time will tell. But we feel good that they fit our scheme and what we look for.

Do you feel there are more holes to fill than last offseason?
JA: I have to say that there are given the record, but I do feel that we still have a good nucleus of the football team irrelevant of how much change goes on this offseason.

Is placing the franchise tag on Bernard Berrian an option you're considering?
JA: We really haven't talked about the franchise tag. You know I don't like to use it. But if it's in our best interest, I'm not going to rule anything out.

What's the status of Mike Brown, and can you count on him in the future?
JA: How am I going to count on Mike Brown? Mike's been hurt a lot. We'd certainly like to have Mike on our football team, but we're just going to wait. He's several months away from being back and healthy again. And we'll just see as time goes on where that road leads.

Was there anything that particularly surprised or frustrated you in 2007?
JA: The losing. ... We lost to a lot of good football teams. There weren't many bad teams that we lost to. ... We were finding a way to lose rather than finding a way to win. What is that? If I knew that answer, obviously, I would be in Canton. But, unfortunately, I don't really see that in my future either.

Do you buy into the idea that this defense started to come together late?
JA: I thought it played pretty well in the last two games. I felt we were very aggressive up front, and we gave the quarterbacks a little bit to be worried about. ... But I thought we played very good defense these last two weeks against two pretty good offenses, so hopefully it's something that we're going to see in `08 right off the bat.

What are your initial thoughts on Greg Olsen and the rest of the rookies?
JA: He's a rookie. It takes a while to integrate new players into the offense, regardless if they're rookies. ... Garrett Wolfe showed a few flashes at the tail end of the season, and hopefully they'll pick up where they left off.

Will you consider an upgrade at the quarterback position if you can?
JA: We'll look at anything. I know that sounds cliché-ish, but we will. We'll look at anything that we feel will be able to upgrade our roster, but we have to be pragmatic about it as well. ... We were a 7-9 football team. Obviously we have things that need to be corrected and fixed, and we have to be honest in our evaluation. And we will be honest in our evaluation.

How is the team set up in terms of the salary cap this offseason?
JA: We're fine. It's just the course that we want to go [and] how we want to allocate our money. ... We have to place a value on a player in terms of what our marketplace is for him as well.

What kind of players are you going to look for on offense these days?
JA: I think we have a good nucleus of offensive players. We have a good blend. We have good possession-down receivers. I think we have good slot receivers. We have speed receivers. Where we did not perform well was in our running game. We weren't able to get the big plays out of the running backs, and that does effect an offense like ours. Particularly when I stand up here and say that the mantra of our offense is to run the football.

Will Benson have competition for the starting job at tailback?
JA: I'm not saying he's got to fight to win the position back, but there's going to be a competition at the position. And he's got to continue to do what in the end he was starting to do. But we need to see it. The foundation is yet to be laid. Does he have the ability to do it? Yes, he has the ability to do it. So we'll just see how the offseason goes and continue on.

Will Rex Grossman be the starter or have to compete if he's brought back?
JA: In all likelihood, without sitting and talking with coaches, off the top of my head, it's got to be competition. I don't see us right now doing anything. Somebody's got to be first in line, obviously, but that will be determined in the offseason.

Would you have liked to see Josh Beekman and Mike Hass get a chance to play?
JA: Personally, I would have. But then on the other side, I wanted to win the football game, too. And that's the bottom line. Each and every week, that's what the goal is. And that ties in with the coaches. If they were comfortable playing a Josh Beekman or a Mike Hass, I'm all for it. But if they feel that they don't give us the best chance on that given Sunday and they wanted to go with a John St. Clair and continue on with our other receivers, I'm understanding of that. The bottom line is, we want to win the game. And we did.

Why did the team play better after being eliminated from playoff consideration?
JA: I don't really know. Was it playing harder for job security? Just playing better because they were better? I don't know ... If I could figure that one out, we wouldn't have been in the boat we were in at the end of the year.

How did this defense fall all the way to 28th in the league?
JA: We got gashed in the running game. Our defense isn't really, in my opinion, set up to be a run-stuffing defense. ... But I will say this: Big plays usually happen in the secondary. And we took on a pretty good hit. We come out of that Dallas game, if you remember, when we went into that Detroit game, we had four new starters.

Do you believe that run-first offenses can still succeed in today's NFL?
JA: I saw a little statistic. There were 142 100-yard rushing performers by individuals players, and on those given Sundays, those teams won 105 times. So my math would be 105-37, so rushing the football is still an important ingredient to good offenses and, obviously, to winning football games.

Will you re-evaluate who starts at the right defensive end position?
JA: I don't really look at it where you have four starters on defense. Really on the defensive line, particularly in our system, you could say we have six starters. ... How the rotation will start next year will be determined by the coaches.

How would you assess the acquisitions of Adam Archuleta and Darwin Walker?
JA: Unfortunately, Adam didn't perform as well as what we'd like, and I think he would be the first to tell you that. ... Darwin got banged [up] a little [and] didn't finish the season.

Who will be the building blocks of this offense going forward?
JA: I can't really sit here and say who do I feel 100 percent about anybody. There's going to have to be more competition on the offensive side of the ball. So we'll see how that plays out after we have our meetings, and then again I want to make sure when we assess what we need to do from a personnel standpoint that we are all on the same page.

When will you look at extensions for players currently under contract?
JA: We want to determine what we need to do to be the best we can be in `08. That's our first and foremost thought. It's not necessarily looking at present players who are under contract [and] giving them extensions. I'm looking at what makes us the best team in `08, and whatever we have to do, that's what we're going to do. And until that's going to be determined in these next few weeks, I can't really sit here and answer that definitively.

What kind of upgrades does this team need to make offensively?
JA: It could be a lot, or maybe not as much as what we think. Part of it, when the coaches go through their cut-ups, maybe some of it ties into scheme. ... It's not all personnel-driven, and as much as you might think it is, it isn't. It could be, but that's not a certainty. So we have to look at everything.

Is the coaching or the scheme more to blame for such a poor season?
JA: If it's not one thing, we'll determine what that one thing is. If it's scheme, I'm sure we'll correct the scheme. If we feel like it is the player ... And what's the optimum word? Honesty. As long as we're honest about our evaluation, in which we will be, then we will get these things righted. I feel very confident. We have enough experience on the staff. We have enough continuity within our organization that I feel we can do this rightly, and we will do this rightly.

Do you appreciate how little experience your defensive coaching staff has?
JA: When I talk about experience, I'm talking about experience of knowing your personnel [and] knowing your scheme. ... You can bring somebody in on the outside who could be an expert with the 3-4 defense. But how he's going to matriculate with our coaches and with our scheme and [how much] value he's going to have, I don't know. My thought would be probably not a lot since he doesn't have the familiarity with the scheme. So that's a double-edged sword.

John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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