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Bears GM Jerry Angelo just couldn’t keep pace with Packers

Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey (L) President  Ted Phillips talk about firing General Manager Jerry Angelo resigning Offensive Coordinator

Chicago Bears Chairman George McCaskey (L) and President Ted Phillips talk about the firing of General Manager Jerry Angelo and the resigning of Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz Tuesday January 3, 2012 at Halas Hall. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 5, 2012 8:19AM

As he praised Jerry Angelo for his character and contributions, Bears president Ted Phillips always circled back to the team’s reality.

The longtime Bears general manager had revamped the scouting department, hired coach Lovie Smith and helped the team win four division titles, reach two NFC title games and appear in one Super Bowl.

“He’s put his life’s blood into the Bears,’’ Phillips said Tuesday. ‘‘He’s a tireless worker, and I’m going to miss him. But at the same time, we need more.

“The decision was made that we need to keep pace with our division rivals.”

The Bears’ season ended Sunday in Minneapolis with a less-than-convincing 17-13 victory that snapped a five-game skid.

While injuries to quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte were unfortunate, the team’s lack of depth — most notably at quarterback — was exposed during that losing streak in which they played only two playoff teams, one of them an 8-8 squad (the Broncos).

As the Bears conduct their search for Angelo’s replacement, the Lions and Packers are preparing for playoff games.

But as Smith has said repeatedly, the Bears don’t expect a massive rebuild, a point new chairman George McCaskey reiterated.

“The goal is 2012,” McCaskey said. “And it’s not just the Packers. The Lions finished ahead of us this year, so we need to target them.

“The Vikings have a good coach; they played us pretty tough just a couple of days ago . . . We’re in one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, and we need to close the talent gap in order to compete.”

McCaskey didn’t mince words when he indicated that Phillips decided to fire Angelo and also will hire his replacement. Phillips didn’t provide a timetable, and he didn’t rule out any candidates, including ones in the NFC North. Director of player personnel Tim Ruskell will serve as the interim general manager.

When the Bears last were looking for an offensive coordinator, they asked the Packers for permission to speak to quarterbacks coach Tom Clements but were denied.

According to a league source, Packers general manager Ted Thompson isn’t expected to deny college scouting director John Dorsey or football operations director Reggie McKenzie a chance to become a general manager.

Each has long been employed by the Packers and groomed — along with Thompson — by former general manager Ron Wolf, who’s retired. McKenzie already has been linked to the GM opening in Oakland, where he played linebacker from 1985 to 1988.

Lions pro personnel director Sheldon White and Vikings director of player personnel George Paton also are considered strong GM candidates within the division.

Outside the NFC North, the Bears surely will discuss Bill Polian, one of the league’s most respected talent evaluators.

He and his son Chris were fired by the Colts on Monday. Others often mentioned for GM openings include Les Snead, the director of player personnel for the Falcons, and Eric DeCosta, the director of player personnel for the Ravens.

In his 16th year with the Ravens, DeCosta repeatedly has turned down opportunities to even interview for GM vacancies.

His wife is from the Baltimore area, and he’s considered the GM in waiting whenever Ozzie Newsome retires.

But according to, DeCosta would be open to leaving Baltimore now and that the Bears’ job could “entice” him.

Whatever happens, though, the Bears will have to honor the “Rooney Rule,” established in 2003 to ensure teams interview at least one minority candidate for head- coaching and senior-football-operations positions.

Central to the diversification of the NFL has been the Fritz Pollard Alliance. The organization got together two weeks ago for its annual meeting with the NFL’s Diversity Committee, which includes commissioner Roger Goodell, attorney Jeff Pash and Steelers chairman emeritus Dan Rooney.

Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten shared the organization’s “short list” with the Sun-Times on Tuesday.

It included McKenzie, White, Marc Ross (college scouting director for the Giants), Ray Farmer (director of pro personnel for the Chiefs), Will Lewis (vice president of player personnel for the Seahawks), Louis Reddick (director of pro personnel for the Eagles), Lake Dawson (vice president of football operations for the Titans) and Morocco Brown (director of pro personnel for the Redskins).

Brown was the Bears’ assistant director of pro personnel from 2001 to 2007.

The Bears will have competition because the Raiders, Rams and Colts also have vacancies. In addition, Phillips emphasized that any candidate will have to accept Smith as the coach for 2012 and Cutler as the franchise quarterback.

The Bears, in part, landed Cutler because there was tension between him and Josh McDaniels, whom the Broncos had hired as their coach.

“I don’t see bringing in a general manager that doesn’t think that Jay Cutler can lead us to a championship game,” Phillips said.

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