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Bears fans shouldn’t revel in Packers’ demise, plus 10 thoughts

Before Bears fans start reveling Packers' demise they should remember ththeir team still has catch up with Green Bay. |

Before Bears fans start reveling in the Packers' demise, they should remember that their team still has to catch up with Green Bay. | AP

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Updated: January 17, 2012 12:34PM

Even before Eli Manning’s four-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham all but clinched the New York Giants’ 37-20 victory over the top-seeded Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field was eerily engulfed by stunned silence as the upset unfolded Sunday night.

But let the record show that it was just as quiet at Soldier Field.

And, even more to the point, it’s still just as quiet at Halas Hall.

So before Bears fans revel in the Packers’ demise, let’s not forget two indisputable facts: the Packers are still the Packers. And the Bears are still the Bears.

The NFC North went 0-2 in the postseason, but that still leaves the Bears trying to catch up to the Packers and Lions, who will be everybody’s pick to finish 1-2 in the division in 2012. Their postseason losses didn’t invalidate the daunting regular-season performances that convinced the Bears to fire Jerry Angelo.

So after a difficult weekend for the Packers, it’s the silence at Halas Hall that speaks the loudest. As Bears sideline reporter Zach Zaidman tweeted yesterday, Sunday marked the eighth anniversary of Lovie Smith’s hiring as the Bears’ head coach. I’m not sure how the rest of Chicago celebrated, but the party at our house was rather subdued. The mood was dampened further by this reality: Saturday was the seventh anniversary of Ted Thompson’s hiring as the Packers’ general manager.

And Jan. 14 is late for them. When the Packers finally tired of falling behind the Ditka-era Bears, team president Bob Harlan fired general manager Tom Braatz with five games left in the 1991 season and hired Ron Wolf one week later.

That gave Wolf time to evaluate his roster and his coaching staff. He fired Lindy Infante one day after the season ended and — after finding out that Bill Parcells would cost too much — hired Mike Holmgren on Jan. 11, 1992. A month later Wolf traded the 17th pick in the upcoming draft to Atlanta for quarterback Brett Favre. And they were on their way. The Packers, who had lost 14 of the previous 17 games against the Bears, won 20 of the next 24.

At the rate the Bears are going, it’s unlikely they’ll turn things back around as quickly. Not only are they taking their time in hiring a replacement for Angelo, but their strategy is inherently flawed — allowing their head coach input in hiring a GM who will not be allowed to hire his own head coach.

That’s exactly the situation the Packers wanted to avoid when Wolf announced his retirement after Mike Sherman’s first season as head coach in 2000. Instead of hiring a GM who had not hired Sherman, Harlan gave Sherman the dual role of coach/GM.

And when the error of that strategy became clear when the Packers started 1-5 in 2004, Harlan immediately started looking for a new general manager. Wolf recommended Thompson, who was hired even though the Packers rallied to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs in 2004.

Thompson had full authority to fire Sherman but did not. After the Packers went 4-12 in 2005, Sherman was out. The Packers interviewed Ron Rivera, Maurice Carthon, Jim Bates, Tim Lewis and Wade Phillips before hiring McCarthy, the dark horse candidate. The whole process took 10 days.

That’s how the pros do it. If the Bears really want to catch the Packers, they need to be the Packers. In that respect, they’re further away than they think. CLICK HERE for 10 more observations on the Bears and the NFL Playoffs.

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