It’s up to Phil Emery to right the Bears’ ship
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org January 28, 2012 8:38PM
THE EMERY FILE
• Michigan native who graduated from Wayne State University.
• Joined Central Michigan as a graduate assistant in 1981-82.
• Named offensive line/strength and conditioning coach at Western New Mexico from 1982-84.
• Named defensive line coach at Georgetown College (Ky.) from 1984-85.
• Defensive line/strength and conditioning coach at Saginaw Valley State from 1985-87.
• University of Tennessee assistant strength and conditioning coach from 1987-91.
• Director of strength and conditioning services and associate professor at the U.S. Naval Academy from 1991-98.
• Bears area scout from 1998-2004.
• Atlanta Falcons college scouting director from 2005-07. He was a national scout in 2008.
• Kansas City Chiefs college scouting director from 2009-2011.
• Named Bears general manager Jan. 28, 2012.
Updated: March 1, 2012 8:33AM
Phil Emery, whom the Bears tabbed as their general manager Saturday, has history with the organization, starting his NFL career at Halas Hall in 1998.
But don’t expect the status quo.
Emery agreed to a multiyear contract with the Bears, beating out another finalist, Jason Licht of the New England Patriots, to succeed longtime general manager Jerry Angelo. He will be formally introduced at a news conference Monday at 2 p.m.
But Emery, 53, returns to the Bears a different man, a different scout, someone shaped by a broad range of personalities he’s encountered in his 14 NFL seasons. From former Bears personnel executive Mark Hatley, to Angelo, to Rich McKay — a key architect of the return to relevance of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — to Atlanta Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli.
Not to mention the nearly 20 years before he even emerged on the NFL radar, spending much of the time at smaller college programs such as Western New Mexico and Georgetown College, before becoming director of strength and conditioning services and an associate professor at the U.S. Naval Academy.
Three league sources said Emery possesses a clear vision for shaping a franchise, one he articulates clearly without superficiality.
With his style — he sports cowboy boots — Emery has a commanding presence.
Yet what likely appealed to the Bears were two things: his plan, and his ego — or lack thereof.
“He’s an incredible teammate,” Pioli said of Emery. “Even if there were a situation like that [taking credit], he’d shy away from that.
“When something goes well, it’s about everyone else,” Pioli said. “When it goes wrong, he points the finger at himself.”
That sounds like another general manager in the NFC North: Ted Thompson.
The Green Bay Packers general manager is quiet, by nature, and his history is rooted on the college side. Famous for his work ethic, Thompson spends more time on the road scouting college players than most of his counterparts, an approach some project Emery to adopt.
According to league sources, the Bears will not handcuff Emery in any way, other than to keep coach Lovie Smith at least for the 2012 season. He’ll have full authority to retain his scouting staff, including player personnel director Tim Ruskell, who is under contract through 2013.
But it’ll be curious to see what Emery does with Ruskell. In 2004, Ruskell provided Emery his break in the NFL, naming him the college scouting director of the Falcons. Ruskell, at the time, was the Falcons’ assistant general manager.
But one league source who worked with Emery said the Bears new GM won’t be threatened by Ruskell, who, before joining the Bears, had been the president and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. Not lacking in confidence, Emery will make an informed decision with one overriding idea in mind: what’s best for the Bears.
Odds are that Ruskell will not be retained and could be let go before the veteran free agency period that begins in March.
All the other scouts, who have contracts that will expire after the NFL Draft in late April, will be evaluated. The Bears scouts, though, have a very strong reputation throughout the NFL, and Emery might have some competition keeping some of them.
But changes at Halas Hall were necessary, after the Bears dropped five consecutive games, after a 7-3 start and finished 8-8. In talking about Angelo’s replacement, team president Ted Phillips insisted the Bears needed to close the talent gap with the Packers and the Detroit Lions in the NFC North. Those teams had largely built their rosters through the draft, which is why he slanted his search toward candidates with a college scouting background.
In addition to Ruskell, Marc Ross (college scouting director of the New York Giants) and Jimmy Raye (player personnel director of the San Diego Chargers) were also candidates who interviewed for the Bears vacancy.
But as the Sun-Times reported on Jan. 20, after Emery’s first interview, he was the favorite, according to three league sources. The following Monday, several outlets, in fact, reported that Emery was offered or landed the job.
That, of course, was premature.
Licht was interviewed a second time on Thursday followed by Emery on Friday.
Emery has a unique career path.
A native of Michigan, he started his career at his alma mater, Wayne State, as a student assistant. He then headed to several other schools, before landing at the Naval Academy.
He started his NFL career with the Bears, as an area scout.
Pioli told the Sun-Times on Tuesday that Emery was ready to be a general manager.
“The things that stand out are his work ethic, his work habits, how detailed he is, how meticulous he is,” Pioli told the Sun-Times. “He’s a very good teacher, and he’s a very good listener.”