With the head-coaching carousel operating in high gear in the wake of a blacker-than-average “Black Monday,” there is no shortage of topics to rant about.
But the top rant topic in my mind is the Bears, a team that I am suddenly seeing in an entirely new light after being transfixed by GM Phil Emery’s amazingly transparent 53-minute press conference on New Year’s Day at Halas Hall.
Talk about hitting a home run.
I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Emery, who had been a major mystery man much of his first season on the job, came off as a guy with a rock-solid plan for finding the team’s next head coach.
Emery spelled out a list of top priorities in relative short order, pushing all the right hot buttons.
His insistence that the new head coach be “good on his feet and be able to work with both the local and national media” drew particular approval from the Chicago-area media, which had grown extremely weary of Smith’s stoic, vacuous press conferences over the last decade that never offered the remotest trace of substance.
What resonated even more was Emery’s insistence that the Bears' offense, which had been below average under Smith’s direction most of the time, needed to get much better.
“We’ve got to get better in the mid-field area as far as making plays,” Emery said, not mincing any words. “I was excited about (Matt) Forté as a receiver. But we didn’t utilize Matt well enough. Kellen (TE Kellen Davis) had a rough year. He had huge catches against Green Bay and the Jaguars, but for whatever reason, he has not been consistent enough.
“Earl (WR Earl Bennett) showed his talent in his last game. He’s had numerous midfield catches in his career. We need to get more consistent in that midfield area.
“We also have to get better in protection and I have to provide a better competitive mix of players.”
A little bit more than halfway through the press conference, it became clear that Emery was prepared to touch all the bases he possibly could. At one point, it seemed like the whole event had become almost like an interview of Emery, who didn’t hesitate to reflect in detail about both the success and the adversity he has run across on the road to becoming the Bears’ GM.
And that wasn’t a bad thing, since this was really only the second time Emery had publicly addressed the media all season. He burst out of the woodwork in a big way, I believe, and I have a much more positive feeling about the Bears moving forward as a result
So just who will be the next Bears head coach?
Emery said “nobody is being excluded,” and I’m thinking there are no clear-cut frontrunners in what I expect to be an intense, thorough search that could take a while.
Here’s what I’m thinking. The Bears have made it clear over and over again that, as much as anything, they need to catch up with the arch-rival Packers.
I think Emery, who appears to have inherited Packers GM Ted Thompson's modus operandi, wants to find “the next Mike McCarthy” — an offense-oriented coach with top-notch organizational and people skills. The Bears have been granted permission to talk to Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements, and in my mind, he would appear to be a pretty strong candidate.
Joe Philbin, the Packers’ prior offensive coordinator who moved on to become the Miami head coach, did a solid job this season with the Dolphins. I’m thinking Emery agrees with me.
One more head-coaching related rant before signing off: I find myself looking more forward to tonight’s Fiesta Bowl with Oregon head coach Chip Kelly attracting a growing crowd of NFL suitors (the Browns, Eagles and Bills are all reportedly hot on his trail).
How Kelly’s team performs with him under such close scrutiny could be a telling barometer of his head-coaching ability at the pro level, I'm thinking.
That there’s actually a game worth getting pumped up about on a Thursday night — which has been “must not see” TV on the pro level this season — is worth noting in its own right, even if takes almost four hours to run its course.