Angelo fired as Bears' GM after team crumbles
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP)
The Bears fired GM Jerry Angelo on Tuesday and made it clear coach Lovie Smith is safe following a dramatic collapse marked by season-ending injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, along with a drug scandal involving Sam Hurd.
One day after the Colts parted with vice chairman Bill Polian and his son, Chris, the general manager, the Bears called for change after an 8-8 season. A questionable draft record and an inability to fill big holes, particularly on offense, led the ouster of Angelo, ending an 11-year run that produced four division championships and a Super Bowl appearance.
The Bears also parted with offensive coordinator Mike Martz and quarterbacks coach Shane Day.
He's safe for now. Team president Ted Phillips made it clear that the next GM won't be hiring a new head coach anytime soon.
''I think that there's a lot of candidates out there that would be proud to work with a coach like Lovie Smith,'' president Ted Phillips said. ''And when they take a look at the staff he has and some of the success we've had and some of the players we have in place, I don't think it's going to be an issue at all.''
Angelo's dismissal comes after a wild season in which the Bears at one point seemed a lock to make the playoffs. A five-game losing streak spoiled a 7-3 start, keeping Chicago out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
Martz, whose contract was expiring, is gone, too, after two seasons. So is Day.
Angelo, who was signed through the 2013 season, was undone on a number of fronts. The next GM will inherit a team that could use help on the offensive and defensive lines, at wide receiver and in the secondary. Forte's rookie contract is up, and Phillips indicated the Bears would like to lock him into a multi-year deal rather than place the franchise tag on him. Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs would like a new contract even though he has two years left on his six-year deal.
Still, the Bears believe they can make a run next season. Angelo just won't be the one overseeing it.
''I have tremendous respect for him and am sorry to see him go,'' Smith said in a statement. ''But I also will embrace the opportunity that comes with change. As I said yesterday, we have an excellent core in place. I look forward to working with a new general manager to bring a championship to Chicago.''
That's something the Bears haven't done since the 1985 team won it all.
Phillips said he decided to let Angelo go on Monday and informed him the following morning. The announcement comes a day after the Colts fired the Polians, but Phillips insisted the timing was coincidental, that he wasn't aware they had been let go when he decided to make a change.
He said he's ''not anywhere close'' to having a list of finalists, and he declined to comment when asked if he planned to call the Polians. Phillips said there are no interviews lined up and that it's ''hard to tell'' if there will be any this week.
He said the search could last ''into February,'' but he would like to have a GM in place before the start of free agency in March. He has no plans to use a search firm at the moment, and when asked if director of player personnel Tim Ruskell would be considered for the job, Phillips said, ''I'm not eliminating any candidates right now, so we'll see where that goes.''
Phillips also said the decision to part with Martz was ''Lovie's call'' and that they had some ''philosophical differences and a parting of the way.'' He added Smith will be the one picking the next offensive coordinator.
As for why he kept Smith, Phillips said, ''We felt that Lovie is the right head coach for this team. We like his staff that's in place. We want to close that talent gap with our division rivals and that's why the decision was made.''
George McCaskey, who took over as chairman last spring, insisted he has ''complete faith'' in Phillips and dismissed the idea that he was the driving force behind the changes.
''This was Ted's decision,'' he said. ''He asked for my input. I gave it to him.''