I had the opportunity to watch Bears GM Philip Emery's press conference today and there was a lot to take away from it.
So I thought I would recap some of the most vital bits for those of you who missed it.
I really liked what I heard from Emery, who I have been impressed with since last spring. He was very up front about where the team fell short but quick to point out that they have the talent and expect to get better.
Emery admitted that Matt Forte was woefully underutilized in the pass game and that Cutler needs help to improve.
He gave us a fascinating insight into his decision-making process and how he uses everything from scouting tape to Pro Football Focus and Stats Inc. (whom he both said were fantastic, unbiased sources of data) to determine everything from where they need to improve to who they draft.
Emery didn't throw anyone under the bus, didn't close any doors for potential candidates or retaining players or coaching staff.
He took a lot of responsibility for this season, both good and bad, and shared how he has overcome adversity before in places like the University of Tennessee.
Here are the highlights and important things he talked about on Tuesday afternoon.
Lack of offensive production and playoff appearances did Lovie Smith in
Ultimately, this isn't a shock to me. The offense has been inconsistent for pretty much the whole of Smith's tenure. The team has missed the playoffs in five of the last six years.
While they made moves to improve the offense—trading for Brandon Marshall, drafting Alshon Jeffery, adding Michael Bush—it didn't improve.
Had the offense been better, the Bears might well have won a game or two more and Week 17 wouldn't have come down to hoping the Packers pulled off a win.
Lovie Smith might still have a job.
Missing the playoffs, especially the last two years when they had historically bad skids to end the season, was a huge factor in this, though Emery didn't mention them directly.
You can't fall apart like the Bears did two seasons in a row.
Put those things together—and they do go hand in hand—and it looks like as far as Emery and ownership were concerned, Smith just wasn't getting the job done.
Jay Cutler is here to stay
We talked about Cutler being replaced briefly yesterday, mostly because I found it interesting. I never expected him to be released.
Emery made it totally clear that Cutler is here to stay. Any coach who comes in will be one who can help Cutler improve and get better. They will have to continue to build around him.
As it should be. Cutler may not be a top tier quarterback, but he plays well—more than well enough to get them into the Super Bowl with the right scheme.
And some protection, which brings us to another point Emery spoke about.
Offensive line needs improvement
Emery was candid in his thoughts that they failed to achieve the improvement they set out to get this season in terms of offensive line play.
It sounded as if he feels they played better—mentioning that sacks and quarterback pressures don't always tell the whole story—but need to do more.
More interesting than that obvious tidbit was an insight into how he goes about deciding who to draft where during the actual draft.
First of all, whether we agree or not, the team very much believed in Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb and it sounds like they continue to feel that way. Emery also went out of his way to praise their guards, highlighting their efforts this past season as evidence they were strong in the interior of the offensive line.
So when it came down to their second pick, Emery felt they didn't need a guard, nor a center. He felt as though a tackle was an option but at the 13th pick of the second round there wasn't a tackle better than Carimi or Webb.
So he chose to go with a playmaker in Alshon Jeffery. This thought process seems to have also factored into trading for Brandon Marshall over acquiring a free agent tackle.
Again, whether you agree or not, Emery was upfront both about his reasons for the pick and the reasons for the lack of action across the line.
As well as his belief that it didn't work out.
Which honestly makes me wonder why Mike Tice is still employed—although that's a subject for a whole separate column.
Wants coach in by College All-Star Games
Emery would prefer to have a coach in house by the time the All-Star games roll around and as the Senior Bowl is just a few weeks away, that should tell you a few things.
First, that with all the teams now looking to fill head coaching vacancies, the Bears do not intend to miss out on their top choices. They don't want to be dithering around while other teams pick off guys Chicago wants.
It also tells you that Emery and his people likely already have two or three candidates they really, really like who they would prefer above all others.
They certainly have some strong ideas about how they want and Emery had some specific things he needs in a head coach.
Pete Carroll's name keeps coming up when people talk about head coaching vacancies, something I couldn't quite figure out until Yahoo! Sports and Shutdown Corner writer Doug Farrar pointed out that the relationship between Carroll and Seahawks GM John Schneider sounds very much like the one Emery wants.
Emery mentioned wanting a high-energy, media savvy coach with whom he could work side by side and as a team.
Schneider-Carroll have that down pat. So it could be that Emery isn't going after Carroll (who I can't imagine leaving Seattle unless the NCAA comes to investigate him for something) but really wants a Carroll type.
Of course, we've also mentioned how Emery needs someone to improve the offense and help Cutler get better as well. He mentioned his dream candidate being someone motivated, highly organized and supremely dedicated.
Just a hunch, but Emery has a guy in mind already. It's just a matter if he interviews well and they can talk him into the job.
Not looking to change defense
Someone in the press corps asked if the Bears would consider changing from their current 4-3 to a 3-4 and Emery was blunt about his resistance to that.
They don't have the personnel to run a 2-gap 3-4 and Emery said any coach who wanted to make the change would have a hard sell to convince him.
He's right; the Bears don't have the players to run a classic, 2-gap 3-4 defense without turning over the roster. Maybe they could run a 1-gap 3-4, but why?
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. This is a team that is going through some serious changes on one side of the ball. Why force a change on the other side of the ball that's working?
There was a question about whether Brian Urlacher would return and Emery was a bit cagey in his answer. He said Urlacher played well and he saw him run offensive players down, so he felt Urlacher hadn't lost a step.
But he fell short of saying Urlacher would be back and said that the team and Urlacher's people would have a discussion at the appropriate time.
But other than that, what is there to fiddle with?
Emery says that this team isn't retooling—it's going to be built with an eye for winning Super Bowls now.
Which shows you that despite firing Smith, this is not a franchise panicking. They have talent, and do not need to turn over the roster in some sort of bench-clearing move.
They know they aren't far off. They aren't freaking out.
They want to win now.
Which is bound to be music to their fans' ears.
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