Bears general manager Phil Emery worked his way to the top
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org January 29, 2012 8:48PM
New Bears GM Phil Emery insisted the Falcons draft receiver Roddy White with the 27th pick in 2005. | Getty Images
Updated: March 1, 2012 8:40AM
Phil Emery didn’t ride the fast track to become an NFL general manager. His journey took him through non-traditional outposts such as Mt. Pleasant, Mich., Georgetown, Ky., and Silver City, N.M.
“I’ve joked with [the Emerys], ‘I’m not sure there’s not a state they’ve been in, and a school,’ ” Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay said Sunday. “That’s Phil’s commitment. He just keeps working. And he’s reached this level because of this work ethic.
“He earned it. And he’s very, very good at what he does.”
McKay knows all about Emery, who will be introduced as the Bears’ general manager Monday. Emery was with the Falcons from 2004 to ’09, and McKay said the only thing he hasn’t done is campaign.
“We have people who are self-promoters, who deal through the media or others. They like to get things out there about themselves,” McKay said of some NFL scouts and executives. “But he’s not in that club, and he has no desire to be a member. He’s all about the work, not the publicity that comes with it.”
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli said that Emery ran his team’s draft meetings and that he had a key role during the draft. With the Falcons, McKay said Emery tirelessly developed the team’s college scouting program.
“His body of work should be well respected,” McKay said. “He’s sitting in that seat, running that room. That’s a big job.”
McKay marveled at the number of hours Emery worked.
“That’s kind of how he’s wired,” McKay said. “But beyond that, he’s a really good football evaluator. In the basics, he’s as good as it gets. Very organized, very hard-working, very diligent guy.”
One of his strengths, McKay said, is Emery’s refusal to pre-judge a player. Instead, he’ll research a player, then make an educated assessment. In 2005, Emery insisted the Falcons take Roddy White with the 27th pick, although the receiver played at Alabama-Birmingham.
“Phil worked every possible angle on that player, and he got it right,” McKay said.
White is a four-time Pro Bowl selection who has topped 1,000 receiving yards in five consecutive seasons and has 45 touchdown catches.
McKay said the Bears’ organizational structure puts Emery in a position to succeed.
“In Chicago, you have a really good salary-cap manager,” McKay said, referring to Cliff Stein. “[President] Ted Phillips understands our system as well as anyone. Then you’ve got a coach [Lovie Smith] who has been really successful.
“I think it’s a really good situation for him. And the most important thing is, he’s really comfortable with all those people.”
But McKay quickly offered a warning.
“That doesn’t mean he’ll just agree,” McKay said. “He will not be a man who just says yes. He’ll be one to challenge people to make the right decisions.”