The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Phil Emery takes over as general manager of the Chicago Bears
LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Phil Emery presented a thorough plan for improving the Chicago Bears, and team president Ted Phillips loved his attention to detail and his toughness from his days as a strength and conditioning coach at Navy.
That's how Emery became the top choice to become the team's new general manager. And when Phillips called around the league and talked with other GMs, coaches and executives to get their take, he heard nothing that challenged his initial impression.
"Nobody had a negative thing to say about Phil Emery, so I became intrigued early on," Phillips said.
Emery was introduced Monday as the Bears GM, taking over after Jerry Angelo was fired following an 8-8 season that featured the Bears faltering down the stretch after injuries to quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte.
During Angelo's 11-year run, the Bears won four division championships, reached the Super Bowl and got back to the NFC championship game after the 2010 season. But Angelo, who had been under contract through 2013, was undone on several fronts — especially when backup Caleb Hanie struggled mightily after Cutler was hurt.
Chicago has missed the playoffs four out of the last five seasons.
The 53-year-old Emery actually worked under Angelo when he was a Bears area scout from 1998-2004. His final year in that post overlapped for five months with coach Lovie Smith, whose future Emery will now determine.
Emery made it clear that he's his own man and not following in the footsteps of Angelo, who like Emery had an extensive scouting and personnel background before getting his first GM job.
"I'm a very different person than Jerry. I worked for Jerry. I respect him. But we both come from different backgrounds as any two people would," Emery said. "My influences are different."
Emery spent the three previous seasons as director of college scouting for the Kansas City Chiefs. From 2004-08, Emery held a similar post with the Atlanta Falcons. Among his several college coaching stops were stints as conditioning and strength coach at both Tennessee and Navy.
There are areas where he is not as experienced. Emery said during his stay with the Falcons he became familiar with salary-cap issues, but acknowledged he would have to rely on Bears lead contract negotiator Cliff Stein.
Emery and New England Patriots director of pro personnel Jason Licht were finalists and both interviewed twice. The Bears also interviewed San Diego Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye, New York Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross, and former director of player personnel Tim Ruskell.
Ruskell and the Bears parted ways by mutual decision Monday, a team spokesman said, so Emery now has a vacancy to fill.
Phillips said Emery's previous stint with the Bears was not a major consideration in him being hired.
"The familiarity really had no bearing at all," Phillips said. "I mean, he was an area scout so you really only saw him at draft time for a couple of weeks so I really didn't have a relationship with him.
"But what you do find out is — you did sense even back then — that he had convictions in his evaluations even back then. You saw a little start of what might be traits of a general manager but really had nothing to do with the fact that he worked here."
Phillips' mandate for his new GM was an ability to work with Smith and close the talent gap in the NFC North with the Packers and more recently the Detroit Lions. He said he also wants the Bears to be more productive with their higher picks.
As for his relationship with Smith, Emery said he, Smith and all members of the coaching staff and football operations department will be evaluated daily.
He praised the schemes Smith has brought to the Bears and said he would do everything possible to be in synch with Smith and work with him toward building a championship through the draft and free agency.
"I have great respect for what Lovie has done," Emery said during a nearly hour-long news conference at Halas Hall. "The consistency of teaching, of being systematic is very important. I would say that the Naval Academy taught me more in that area than any other coaching assignment.
"We had players who were under extreme stress in their daily activities and it was very important that the scheme stayed the same so that we could play fast. ... When I watch Lovie Smith's defence those players play fast because they know the scheme. So consistency is important."
Phillips said Emery has the power to hire and fire a head coach and final say on the 53-man roster but he doesn't expect there to be any problems.
"The idea is you work together to find the best team for the Bears," Phillips said. "I don't know of a single team that's been successful with a general manager jamming players down the coach's throat."
Emery, who said he watched tape or six or seven Bears games before his first interview and even more before the season, praised Cutler and veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher, who will be entering his 13th NFL season as the Bears' marquee defensive player.
"I've heard rumblings that there is age on our roster," Emery said. "I kind of look at it this way: It's not a numerical number. It's whether you are making plays. If it was just a numerical number and number of grey hairs, I wouldn't be standing here."
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