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Olson: Bears should give Smith all the power

Caption
Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips (right) speaks about the end of the tenures of general manager Jerry Angelo and offensive coordinator Mike Martz on Tuesday as Bears chairman George McCaskey looks on at Halas Hall in Lake Forest. Angelo was fired, and Martz will not be re-signed. (AP photo)

After listening to Bears president Ted Phillips talk about the firing of general manager Jerry Angelo on Tuesday, it became pretty clear who the team should choose for their next general manager.

Coach Lovie Smith should become the team’s general manager as well.

After all, Smith already works in the building, the Bears have his “football information,” and judging from Phillips’ statements Tuesday, he’s unequivocally the best fit.

Far from being under fire despite the team’s performance the past five seasons, Smith seems to be the Jay Cutler of the Bears’ management team: The Bears want to build around him, not hold him accountable.

“Talent evaluation is going to be key,” Phillips said. “Chemistry with Lovie; understanding of the coaches; solid character and work ethic, and a clear strategy to get us to win a championship.”

No one better meets those qualifications than Smith himself, who seemed to be theSFlbonly one with an umbrella while it was raining blame at Halas Hall. In addition to Angelo, offensive coordinator Mike Martz and quarterbacks coach Shane Day also were asked to leave and not return.

So why not just put Smith in charge of the whole thing, and then if (some might say when) the Bears finish 6-10 or 8-8 next year and miss the playoffs for the fifth season in six, the team can fire both coach and GM in one fell swoop and open the door for someone to come in and make real changes.

With the team’s core of defensive stars continuing to age, the timing should be about right for that kind of change after next season.

Putting all the power in Smith’s hands seems to be the only way that Smith will be held accountable for the team’s shortcomings.

Angelo’s poor drafting skills made him the scapegoat for the Bears’ lackluster performance since their 2006 Super Bowl appearance.

This season, the Bears’ offense followed the old adage about snakes and armies: Cut off the head and the body dies. After Jay Cutler was lost for the season after breaking his thumb in the closing minutes of the Bears’ win against San Diego in Week 11, the Bears lost five games in a row to slide out of playoff contention.

Apparently that also fell at the feet of Angelo and Martz.

Martz’s play-calling sometimes was bad in retrospect, but the offense looked pretty good with Cutler under center by mid-season. Martz also was the one guy in the Bears organization who was right about former backup quarterback Caleb Hanie. Unlike Smith, Martz didn’t trust in Hanie.

But Day, the quarterbacks coach, apparently wasn’t good enough to make Hanie serviceable. Get him outta here!

Smith now will set to the task of hiring his fourth offensive coordinator in nine years. Phillips said Tuesday that coaching hires will be Smith’s prerogative.

Smith has quite a track record so far. His three previous hires at offensive coordinator – Terry Shea (2004), Ron Turner (2005-09) and Martz (2010-11) – made most fans happiest on the day they were fired.

But Phillips and the McCaskeys seem to think Lovie has the magic touch. Why not give him all the power, then, and see how he does?

The alternative is to bring in a different general manager, but not one with the freedom to determine the future course of the team beyond the players it puts on the roster.

In fact, someone who didn’t know better might have thought Smith was the guy in charge already.

“Ultimately, I want to bring in a GM who understands Lovie’s philosophy,” Phillips said. “But as far as not making any changes or suggesting any changes, that’s probably not realistic.”

Sure. What boss doesn’t want to be able to make suggestions?

The suggestion that fans would probably like the next GM to make would be “I suggest you make the playoffs this season, or we’ll be looking for a new head coach.”

Unless the Bears hire Smith himself.

That would make for a seamless transition, a perfect fit with the Bears’ current philosophy, and the team’s ability to clean house in 2013 if it falls short again next year.

• Eric Olson is the Northwest Herald’s sports editor. Reach him at 815-526-4554, email eolson@shawmedia.com, or follow him on Twitter @NWH_EricOlson.

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