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Listening to new Bears GM Phil Emery doesn’t inspire much confidence

Mel Tucker’s defense was plagued by injuries but Phil Emery (above) Marc Trestman declined commit him for 2014. | Sun-Times

Mel Tucker’s defense was plagued by injuries, but Phil Emery (above) and Marc Trestman declined to commit to him for 2014. | Sun-Times

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Updated: March 1, 2012 9:49AM



I would have felt better if Phil Emery had said that, thanks to his time at the U.S. Naval Academy, he knew 14 ways to kill a man with his bare hands. At least that would have shown some individuality.

But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say he thinks the best way to kill a man is with a consensus approach.

That’s pretty much how the news conference to introduce Emery as the Bears’ general manager went Monday. You asked him about who would have the final say on the draft, and he said it would be a consensus. You asked him about coach Lovie Smith’s future with the team, and he talked about teamwork.

If somebody had asked him about the life of a hermit, he would have said it takes a village to raise a recluse.

You get what you ask for. What the Bears asked for was a GM who has no desire to fire a middling head coach, a GM who thinks the team isn’t far away from being great and a GM who is extremely happy to be here.

Check, check and check.

Emery sounds like a man who can work with anyone who is put in front of him. That includes Smith, the scouting staff and, presumably, Staley the mascot, as long as he’s a team player.

Lots of football-speak

For any of you who were naïve enough to think the Bears would hire someone who would put Smith on notice, well, snap out of it. By saying the new GM would have to keep Smith for 2012, the Bears sent a clear message they didn’t want Smith going anywhere this year, next year or any year in the foreseeable future.

The new GM sounded like a guy who had been studying for this moment his whole life and had taken copious notes. Then he put his glasses on and read all of them.

To be fair, we don’t know much of anything about Emery. He used to be the strength and conditioning coach for Navy. He has been a scout for a long time. His former boss, Kansas City Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, has said in interviews that Emery is a good listener. Pioli might know about that; he has been accused of bugging the Chiefs’ facilities so he could listen to employees’ conversations.

Bears president Ted Phillips gushed about Emery.

‘‘He brings leadership,’’ Phillips said. ‘‘The thing that struck me the most as we went through the interview process was what great presence Phil has. And his presence came with a lot of convictions. He can make the decision that will be tough, that every general manager at some point has to make. His leadership style is one that commands attention.’’

And then Emery proceeded not to live up to those glowing descriptions. Again, we don’t know this guy. He might be Douglas MacArthur, to borrow an Army landlubber. He talked in football-speak, which means with very little detail, so as to not give away any secrets.

But, really, who cares about Emery’s leadership skills? Who cares if he got a bunch of Navy kids to think they could lift more weight than they thought they could? What does that have to do with drafting players?

Bears his model organization

All anybody around here cares about is whether the man can judge talent. More specifically, does he realize quarterback Jay Cutler doesn’t have any wide receivers?

The Bears’ interview team was composed of chairman George McCaskey, Phillips, Smith, the Bears’ salary-cap expert and a public-relations guy. On a scale of one to 10, what’s your confidence level with that group, Bears fans? And, no, negative numbers are
not allowed.

Someone asked Emery if there was an NFL team he looked to as a model for how to build a winner.

‘‘I like the one I’m on,’’ he said.

Lord, help us.

Asked about decision-making, Emery sounded more like Oprah than Bill Polian.

‘‘I look at it as a process,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s going to be a lot of voices that are involved at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. It’ll be very professional. It’ll be very thoughtful. It’ll be people working together. We may have disagreements, but the professionalism comes in learning how to agree to disagree and move on to the next player, where we can find a common ground.’’

The consensus here is that it looks like more of the same from the Bears.



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