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Bears stack up well against other franchises seeking a new GM

According poll more than 10 scouts personnel execs Bears president CEO Ted Phillips coach Lovie Smith ought have an advantage

According to a poll of more than 10 scouts and personnel execs, Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips and coach Lovie Smith ought to have an advantage over other NFL teams looking for new general managers. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Key Dates

Feb. 22-28 — Scouting combine, Indianapolis

March 13 — Free agency starts

April 26-28 — Draft

Updated: February 7, 2012 8:33AM

The Bears are competing with three other NFL teams for a new general manager.

But multiple NFL sources said it’s not much of a competition.

In interviews with more than 10 scouts and personnel executives, the Bears’ vacancy is viewed as one of the most appealing, if not the most appealing.

That’s high praise, given the merits of each.

The Oakland Raiders might be turning a new leaf after the passing of longtime owner Al Davis. The
Indianapolis Colts own the No. 1
pick and have one of the league’s boldest owners. The St. Louis Rams feature quarterback Sam Bradford, defensive end Chris Long and the No. 2 pick.

So why the interest in the Bears?

◆ There’s the history. George
Halas. Nine NFL championships. The most enshrinees in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

◆ There’s the market size. With no team in Los Angeles, Chicago is the NFL’s second-largest market.

◆ There’s the quarterback. Jay Cutler was viewed by several of those interviewed as a huge asset.

◆ There’s the reputation. The McCaskeys aren’t perceived as meddlesome owners, and they watched GM Jerry Angelo run the franchise as he saw fit.

On Thursday, the Bears officially requested permission from the Baltimore Ravens to speak with player personnel director Eric DeCosta about their GM position. As reported by the Sun-Times on Wednesday night, DeCosta would “strongly consider” the Bears as an option, according to a league source.

Even persuading DeCosta to
interview would be a feat, since he long has resisted overtures from other clubs and remained loyal to the Ravens. If he wanted, DeCosta could have been a GM six or more years ago, given his and, of course, the team’s reputation of consistently drafting well.

The Bears are expected to seek permission to speak with more candidates soon, and those on the radar are believed to include Les Snead of the Atlanta Falcons and Lake Dawson of the Tennessee
Titans. A league source said Reggie McKenzie of the Green Bay Packers, who also was thought to be under consideration for the Bears’ opening, is working on a contract to become the GM of the Raiders.

Other candidates that also might be in play are George Paton of the Minnesota Vikings, Doug Whaley of the Buffalo Bills, Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals and ­Morocco Brown of the Washington Redskins. Brown and Paton worked with the Bears earlier in their scouting careers.

There are, of course, concerns.

Will the Bears be open to change their old-fashioned reputation? Will they be willing to use salary-cap space?

The McCaskeys have a reputation for being frugal. But several of the sources said they didn’t think a competitive compensation ­package would be a concern. And, as it ­relates to the owners, two noted that the family seems more than fair in giving their top employees a fair chance to make strides. ­Angelo, of course, was the GM for 11 years.

When asked about ­salary Tuesday, Bears president Ted Phillips stressed that the Bears would do what was necessary to get their man.

As for coach Lovie Smith, multiple sources downplayed any concern about inheriting him. Smith is respected in his role, and he doesn’t have a reputation for venturing outside of it. In addition, Smith is under contract through 2013, which means a new GM ­essentially would decide the coach’s fate after the 2012 season.

A head coach rarely enters the final season of his deal without his status clearly laid out.

Besides, on a veteran roster
capable of making a postseason push immediately, Smith would serve as a key component of continuity, as the new GM blends his way onto the team.

There’s expected to be activity Friday. But with many of the candidates on playoff teams, the weekend might quiet down before activity resumes Monday.

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