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Bears Tue Dec 30 2014

Phil Emery & Marc Trestman Rightly Get Axed by Bears

Chicago BearsThe fans made their voices heard by not showing up. More than 6,000 tickets remained unused for each of the last four Bears home games, with the number topping out just shy of 11,000 in their penultimate Soldier Field game against the Saints. George McCaskey and the McCaskey family heard the boos from the few fans who did attend, and responded to those who were too fed up to watch the misery live by firing general manager Phil Emery, head coach Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer yesterday morning.

Don't worry, Mel Tucker and Joe DeCamillis will be gone in due time too, but they're still under contract and were coordinators who didn't drive a bus over the team's highest paid player. I doubt the Bears will stop them from interviewing for positions elsewhere.

The firings were necessary. Though Emery made a couple great selections in Alshon Jeffery and Kyle Long, he mostly failed during his first two drafts by not providing the quality depth that playoff-bound organizations continuously churn out. Despite a number of misses in April, that was just a small part of the reason he was fired. The two decisions that will define the Emery era involve Trestman and Jay Cutler.

To be fair, Emery got a bit of a raw deal when he was hired as GM in 2012. Whenever you fire a general manager, the coach needs to go as well. Instead, team president Ted Phillips told Emery that he had to keep Lovie Smith for at least one season. Those situations never work, and despite a 10-6 record in his final season, Smith was destined for unemployment because he wasn't Emery's choice.

Though it was a year late, Emery got his chance to hire a coach, and interviewed a laundry list of candidates that reached comical levels. All along he wanted to bring Trestman on as coach, and that predetermination (along with odd interviewing tactics) doomed the team's chances at nabbing the overly qualified Bruce Arians.

He doubled down on Trestman after the offense exceeded all expectations in 2013 by singing Cutler to a massive contract that all but guaranteed a three-year commitment to the always embattled quarterback. Cutler collapsed, leading the league in turnovers while being the highest-paid player at the position in terms of cash payout in 2014. His cap hits the next five years are all lower than the $18.5 million hit he was this season, and he might have a future with the organization because of money he's still guaranteed and the lack of comparable options in free agency. The Bears have the best capologist in the league in Cliff Stein, which has left them flexible in the years to come despite a lot of flashy (and failed) free agent maneuvers. They're one of the league's oldest rosters that needs years of good drafting to recover.

This time around though, Phillips won't be deciding who takes the reins. Instead, McCaskey himself will handle the hiring with the help of newly signed consultant Ernie Accorsi. If there's anyone not currently in a prominent football position you want helping you decide the franchise's future decision-makers, it's Accorsi. His résumé is incredibly solid, with three AFC title game appearances as the general manager of the Browns in the '80s (which all lost to John Elway's Broncos, a quarterback he selected as the GM of the Baltimore Colts) and a Super Bowl loss as GM of the New York Giants in 2000. He hired Tom Coughlin and built the bulk of the 2007 Giants team that won the Super Bowl the following January, but he had retired 12 months before the trophy was handed to Eli Manning.

Accorsi played the role of consultant for the Carolina Panthers in 2012, advising them on the hiring of a former protégé of his, Dave Gettleman, as GM. The Panthers have since reached the playoffs twice, and have drafted a slew of key contributors, including Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short, A.J. Klein, Kelvin Benjamin, Trai Turner, Tre Boston and Bene Benwikere in the past 20 months.

For this to all work, the next leading football mind has to be given the job with no strings attached. Carte blanche on whether to retain Cutler, Brandon Marshall or any other player under contract for next season and beyond is the only way the Bears can build themselves into a powerhouse again. They have to stop basing major personnel decisions around a quarterback who isn't in the elite class with Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.

When you get outside of Chicago, the Midwest is littered with grain bins as far as the eye can see. The steel structures are built from the top down, and house the immense pressure of containing thousands of tons of corn and soybeans that are the backbone of the nation's grain belt. The Bears need to be built that way too: from the top on down. Yesterday's purging was step one in doing the right thing for the future of the franchise.

 
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