The critiques and probings for the last couple of months have all been on players how they have performed, how they project to perform, how they measure and so on.The Bears have done all of those analyses but the one they did before the process ever started will matter more than that of any pass rusher, wide receiver or anyone else in this draftPhil Emery.This is the first time Emery is in charge of a draft and that was the chief area of operations for which he was hired. He kept the scouting staff and head coach and that staff in place after his hiring. A reasonable conclusion from that is that the Bears are not suddenly going to morph into some completely unrecognizable drafting organization.The area scouts here are as fine as youre going to find in the NFL, Emery said. They know how to go about their job.So Im excited to see how we do as a group and as a team in attacking the question of whose the best player thats going to help us now, at each level, each spot in the draft, at each one of our picks, that brings us closer to a championship.The overly simplistic assessment of Emery is that he comes from the fuzzy notion of a Patriot Way of building teams. Emery never worked for New England but he worked under twogeneral managers Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta, Scott Pioli in Kansas City who did but have not achieved a fraction of the New England success on their own.Thats not enough automatic insight, that somebody worked for somebody who worked someplace else. The keys to a persons future so often lie in the past and Emerys does not fit conveniently into the Patriots way. (Besides, pretty much any Way probably works if you find Tom Brady in a sixth round sometime).Finding a Bears Way?Lovie Smith is quick to correct any reference to the Mike Martz offense or the Tampa-2 defense, speaking only in terms of the Chicago Bears offense. He and Emery also will be about the business of a Bears Way now.Emery was with the Bears longer than with any other organization (1998-2004), a consideration in his hiring as general manager. And its a suggestion that he has more schooling in the Bears Way under Mark Hatley and Jerry Angelo than any other.Emery gives due credit to that Patriots Way but also to the others hes been part of over the past 15 or so years.In terms of taking from my past, in terms of process, I learned a little from everybody along the way, Emery said. Its a long process but the important thing is that you can draw it to a conclusion in a positive way and get to the players that you are most orientated to, that you feel are going to do the most for your football team, impact playmakers, the producers.The Emery BearsNo high draft picks are made in a vacuum, although degrees of control can vary from Piolis control style in Kansas City to Angelos consensus approach. So blaming or crediting one individual for a pick hit or miss is rarely accurate.Emery began in the NFL under Hatley and was the Bears area scout for the Northeast in 1998-99. During that time the Bears drafted Curtis Enis No. 1 out of Penn State, someone who fooled everyone from Joe Paterno on down (or up, depending on your JoPa feelings). Deride the Enis pick if you like, but Bill Belichick (New England) and Tom Coughlin (Jacksonville) were working the Bears in an effort to trade up to get him.They also selected Jerry Azumah from New Hampshire in the 1999 fifth round, converted him to cornerback and ended up with a Pro Bowl kick returner. Somebody gets some credit there for seeing a college tailback (and Walter Payton Award winner) who could convert to the other side of the ball. From 2000-2004 Emery was the area scout for the Southeast. The Bears picked wideout Dez White from Georgia Tech and tight end Dustin Lyman from Wake Forest in third rounds (2000); in 2002 cornerback Roosevelt Williams from Tuskegee and guard Terrence Metcalf from Mississippi (more South than Southeast) were selected in the third round of the 2002 draft.Alex Brown was a fourth-round hit out of Florida that year.After the Bears traded down and took Floridas Rex Grossman in 2003, Charles Tillman came in the second round in 2003 out of Louisiana-Lafayette. Safety Todd Johnson and Ian Scott, both from Florida, were hits in that draft.As with Enis, the Grossman pick can be ridiculed (and has been). He was also the starter in a Bears Super Bowl appearance and is still going in the NFL (Washington), so fairs fair here.The pressure has been on Emery since he arrived and he has handled that deftly with 10 roster additions via free agency and trade. If the pressure vise is squeezing him now, it isnt apparent.Im having a blast actually, Emery said with very obvious relish. Im having a good time. Im having the time of my life. Its a great city, great fans. Im enjoying every second of it.
On this episode of the Under Center Podcast, J.J. Stankevitz is joined by John "Moon" Mullin. To start, Moon takes a moment to remember Cedric Benson, who died in a motorcycle accident on Saturday night (00:30). Then, the guys discuss the Bears' surprise announcement that they released Elliott Fry, leaving Eddy Pineiro as the only kicker on the roster (05:40).
The guys toss to highlights from Matt Nagy's press conference on Sunday morning where he explains why the Bears decided to cut Fry now, how they think the move will help Pineiro and whether the competition is officially closed (07:55).
Finally, J.J. explains why the end of the kicking competition was just like the end of the Bachelorette (12:10), and which kickers on other teams the Bears may still have their eyes on in the upcoming preseason games (16:40).
Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.
Under Center Podcast
Getting the news that Cedric Benson had died last night in a motorcycle accident was a blow on Sunday. The former Bears running back and a passenger were killed when the bike they were riding collided with a minivan in Austin, Tex. As former Bears defensive end and Benson teammate Adewale Ogunleye tweeted Sunday, “What the hell is going on? The Bad news wont stop.”
Personally, this sort of thing hits hard. The passing of receivers coach Darryl Drake last week, former 1994 first-rounder John Thierry dying last November – of a heart attack at age 46 – Rashaan Salaam committing suicide in December 2016, and now Ced. That’s too many good dying young.
And yet even as the Benson news was sinking in, Bears beat colleague Rich Campbell over at the Tribune was celebrating the birth of his daughter. Not sure why that seems so striking, maybe just something about the circle of life, or just how there’s a spot of sunshine somewhere.
As in so many of these things, the Ced death sparks memories, and in this case, good ones. Which may seem a bit unlikely, since Ced was one of the least popular Bears during his three (2005-2007) years after the organization made him the fourth-overall pick of that 2005 draft.
But things are not always as they seem.
Benson went through a 36-day holdout before reporting to the team, missing just about all of the 2005 training camp and preseason. When he arrived, the locker room seemed pretty set against him, for various reasons:
He was drafted as the replacement for Thomas Jones, the very popular tailback who’d been signed in the 2004 offseason but who failed to impress in the first year of a four-year, $10 million contract. He and Jones did not get along, coming to blows in one practice, and teammates were clearly Jones supporters.
But Jones had zero 1,000-yard years over his first five seasons; beginning with ’05 and the arrival of Benson, he went on a run of five straight seasons of no fewer than 1,100 yards, two with the Bears followed by three with the New York Jets after he engineered a trade to get out of Chicago.
And Ced was just…different. But to this reporter, different in good ways. He was very thoughtful; more than a few times, he’d have a question posed to him, then take an unusually long time before answering. But he was simply a thoughtful guy.
Case in point: I did a lunchtime sit-down with Ced outside the Olivet Nazarene mess hall during the 2006 training camp in Bourbonnais. To one of my questions, Ced said, “Hmm, that’s an interesting question. Let me get back to you about that one.”
Much later that afternoon, after a brutal, full-pad practice, I was walking away from the fields. Ced came running over, still in pads. “Hey,” he said. “I was thinking about what what we were talking about… .” And he had. And he also was honest about getting back to me. Yeah, I liked the guy.
The Bears let him go after a disappointing 2007 season and he caught on with the Cincinnati Bengals the next year. In 2009 the Bears went to Cincinnati and were annihilated 45-10, putting 215 rushing yards on a very good Bears defense and Benson accounting for 189 of those yards.
Afterwards I was able catch Ced before he left, and I was stunned to see how good he looked physically. He laughed at my surprise, then talked a long time about how he’d discovered a severe gluten intolerance. With that fixed, his complexion cleared up and he wasn’t dealing with the intestinal issues that any gluten-challenged fan out there knows too well. Anyhow, it was great to see a young man moving on to some sort of career, which included that year and the next two with more than 1,000 yards.
That it didn’t happen for him in Chicago was always a little puzzling. He was a phenomenal athlete, good enough to be drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an outfielder and play in their summer league.
He was a very, very emotional guy; at Halas Hall Sunday it was recalled how he’d cried during his conference call with the media following his drafting by the Bears. And he had his problem situations off the field, and he was waived in the 2008 offseason after a couple of arrests involving suspected alcohol abuse.
Those are probably the things too many people will remember about Ced. Too bad. There was much more to the young man. And as was said before, things — and people — are not always everything they seem to be. Under that heading I’d include Thomas Jones’ tweet on Sunday. From a supposed “enemy:”
“Woke up to the horrible news of Cedric Benson's passing,” Jones said. “My heart aches for him and his family. Sending love, peace and blessings their way. Gone way too soon my brother. Rest well young King. You will truly be missed…. “