Bears

Bears GM search begins

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Bears GM search begins

When Ted Phillips was looking 11 years ago for Mark Hatleys replacement to head up Bears personnel, the team president employed a search firm experienced in pro sports executive recruitment.

The firm conducted preliminary interviews with prospects and narrowed the field to 10 candidates. Those were interviewed by Phillips and a list of three finalists developed. One of those was Angelo.

To find Angelos replacement, however, Phillips is running the search himself, with help from coach Lovie Smith.

My feeling is that over the last 10-11 years, my experience, my contacts in the league with other teams, talking to some folks internally, I think we'll be able to handle that search and come up with the right candidate ourselves, Phillips said Tuesday in the aftermath of Angelos exit.

This will be Phillips first solo foray into hiring for this area of NFL operations. He did not hire Hatley, a holdover from Michael McCaskeys time as Bears chairman.

But he was explicit in the first area for considering candidates to take over football operations for an NFL charter franchise.

I think it will be someone with an emphasis on talent evaluation, said Phillips, targeting the No. 1 stated reason for Angelos dismissal. I think well probably lean toward someone who has a talent evaluation background to at least some extent.

Lovie Smith rapport

It will be a hire with a condition: keeping Smith as head coach. The Bears have 11 million committed to Smith over the next two years and they have declared that they believe him to be the right one to stay the course of pursuing and overtaking the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

Talent evaluation is going to be key, Phillips underscored, in addition to, chemistry with Lovie; understanding of the coaches; solid character and work ethic and a clear strategy to get us to win a championship.

That will mean getting past Green Bay and Detroit, two teams in the postseason with their best players acquired through the draft.

It's not just the Packers, said Bears Chairman George McCaskey. The Lions finished ahead of us this year, so we need to target them. The Vikings have a good coach; they played us pretty tough just a couple of days ago.

I think we're the only division in the NFL that has had every team in the playoffs sometime in the last three years. So we're one of the toughest divisions in the NFL and we need to close the talent gap in order to compete in the division.

Playoff chase

The Bears are expected in particular to pursue candidates from currently successful programs, meaning ones already in the 2011 playoffs and especially ones with the best draft histories.

The blizzard of names will swirl until the Bears begin to settle on finalist. But sources told CSNChicago.com that Green Bay director of player personnel Reggie McKenzie and Baltimore director of player personnel Eric DeCosta were high on Phillips preliminary list, both with teams in the playoffs on the strength of their organizations draft performance.

The Bears are expected to make a strong play in free agency and with free agency beginning in mid-March it's going to depend on whether there are any candidates on playoff teams as to how long it'll drag out, Phillips said.

Kyle Long looking forward to 'seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch'

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USA TODAY

Kyle Long looking forward to 'seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch'

Former Bears offensive linemen Kyle Long appeared on The Rap Sheet and Friends podcast hosted by NFL insider Ian Rapoport and he didn't shy away from questions about Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Long, while stating that he understood the questioning and criticism that Trubisky faces, still believes in him.

"The Bears have won with Mitchell Trubisky."

Indeed Mitch was the starter for 14 games of the Bears 12-4 season before this year's 8-8 disappointment. The issue was Trubisky's play was of course, as he didn't show any noticeable improvement in 2019 after tossing 24 touchdowns in 2018. "We all regressed this year, but unfortunately heavy lies the head that wears the crown, and Mitch is the captain," Long said. 

"Mitch is the quarterback. He’s also suited to take the stuff that he’s gotta deal with, and that’s what I love about Mitch. He can deal with the noise, and he’s young. He’s so young."

Long seems excited by the idea of Chicago's hires, saying that new faces could have quite the positive effect on Trubisky’s game "I’m looking forward to seeing what another set of eyes from a coaching perspective can give Mitch. It’ll be cool to see.”

This offseason the Bears have brought in a new offensive coordinator (Bill Lazor), quarterbacks coach (John DeFilippo), and promoted former quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator. Bears head coach Matt Nagy, similar to Long, has faith in Trubisky developing, especially in regard to Ragone. In December Nagy said, “I think I know Mitch better than anybody in this building, except maybe Dave Ragone.”

Long certainly seems to miss his teammates though he clearly has no regrets about his decision. He and Trubisky definitely share a bond that will last long beyond their playing days. “I love the kid, he’s a great friend obviously, a teammate, but I’m looking forward to seeing him develop.”

Similar to the message delivered by the Bears’ front office, Long was in full support of Trubisky throughout the entire interview.

"Mitch is the quarterback. He’s also suited to take the stuff that he’s gotta deal with, and that’s what I love about Mitch. He can deal with the noise...”

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Kyle Long says retirement was easiest decision he's ever made

Kyle Long says retirement was easiest decision he's ever made

Kyle Long saw the same thing Bears fans did during the 2019 season. His level of play was no longer among the top guards in the NFL. In fact, he became a liability for an offensive line that ultimately became one of the biggest weaknesses on the team.

"Fans who are frustrated with my performance, you don’t think I’m sitting in that film room just clenching my fist because I just can’t make a block, or I’m just not healthy enough to get there?" Long said on the Rapsheet and Friends podcast this week. "It’s frustrating. I feel that. I’ve seen the writing on the wall, the Bears did it right, they gave me every opportunity to get healthy. Any other team in the league would have cut me years ago, I’m talking years ago.

"The Bears did me right, and I wanted to do right by them. I’ll never wear another set of colors but navy and orange. I take pride in that, a lot of guys have gone and played somewhere else when this time came for them and it tarnished their legacy, in my mind at least."

Long started 76 of 77 career games with the Bears and during the course of his seven-year career in Chicago became one of the team's most recognizable personalities on and off the field. It began during his rookie season when he was selected to the NFL's All-Rookie team and was an NFC Pro Bowler.

"The miles that I do have in the NFL are rough ones," Long said. "I played the game hard when I could, I played it as I thought it should be played, I gave everything I could to my teammates, emotionally and all that. I always knew there would come a time where I would not recognize the player that I’m seeing on film, and no player wants to have that. 

"It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made because I didn’t recognize the guy on film. I’ll be honest, I was an ass-kicker for a long time. You line ‘em up, I’ll put ‘em down, but there came a point where I couldn’t do that anymore, and it was frustrating. So I knew it was time."

Long, who said he could play another three or four years, didn't use the word retirement when discussing his status. Instead, he chose 'hiatus' as a better description of his current state.

"Could I play more? Absolutely," said Long. "If I took a year off, can I go play 3-4 more years? No doubt in my mind. Do I want to do that? It remains to be seen, which is why I use the term hiatus."

Maybe we haven't seen the last of Long with the Bears. But one thing's for sure, he won't be suiting up in 2020.