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Bears Thu Jan 05 2012

Time For a Change: Bears Dump Longtime GM

Thumbnail image for bears.gifThis week, the Bears parted ways with general manager Jerry Angelo and offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Martz was a relatively recent arrival who made his name elsewhere; his departure after two uneven seasons was celebrated by many Chicago fans. But that reaction was nothing compared to the excitement voiced about the departure of Angelo, who been Bears GM since 2001.

It's been a rocky 10 years.

Sure, there were the good times, like building the 2006 NFC champions and drafting cornerstone players like Lance Briggs, Matt Forte and Devin Hester. Angelo brought in talented quarterback Jay Cutler without giving up too much. There even were times when the Bears appeared to be the most dominant team in the NFL.

But then there are the negative marks against him. And there are quite a few.

Chicago's struggles on offense have been well documented. During every year of Angelo's reign, the Bears were in the bottom third of the league in offensive yardage (except in 2006, when they finished 15th).

There are a few simple reasons for this:

The Bears allowed the fifth-most sacks in the NFL this season, and the most last season. And this has been an issue in the past too, with Chicago being top-10 in sacks allowed in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2007. With a shoddy O-line, the Bears (and their fans) are forced to watch Forte run into a wall for no gain or Cutler scramble around aimlessly far too much.

Another problem was giving up on Cedric Benson and Greg Olsen. Although Benson did have his issues in Chicago, Cincinnati picked him up on the cheap, and Benson is coming off his third straight 1,000-yard season. After all, he was the fourth pick in the 2005 draft.

And while Olsen didn't quite tear it up in Carolina this year, the league is moving more towards offenses with athletic, pass-catching tight ends. Think Rob Gronkowski in New England and Jimmy Graham in New Orleans. Olsen is much more of a better fit for those types of schemes than Kellen Davis.

Obviously, the main reason Angelo was fired was that when Cutler went down, the team did likewise because the Bears were ill-prepared for the injury. Caleb Hanie was not good at all, and signing Josh McCown off the scrap heap to start a few games had to be an embarrassment for everyone (even if McCown looked semi-competent).

Now, let me play devil's advocate for a moment: Is Jerry Angelo the scapegoat in all of this?

If Cutler and Forte don't get hurt on fluky plays, or if Kansas City doesn't score on a Hail Mary, or if Marion Barber keeps the clock running -- all plays the general manager has nothing to do with whatsoever -- the Bears might be getting ready for the playoffs with Angelo still at the helm.

On the other hand, scapegoat or not, Angelo's firing is for the greater good. It was telling that the city's reaction to the move was of joy, not the sort of confusion and mixed feelings felt in Indy this week when Bill Polian was let go.

I'm reminded of Lenny Dykstra's famous 1991 quote upon hearing the Phillies had traded away Von Hayes, a less-than-popular teammate:

"Great trade!" Dykstra said. "Who'd we get?"

Same principal for the Bears. Angelo is out, and even though a replacement isn't lined up yet, no one seems too bummed about the ousting.

 
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