You know, I've never really considered myself to be a shill for Jerry Angelo or any of the brains behind the Chicago Bears organization. In the dark, dark depths of the the end of the 2009 season I succumbed to meatheadedry and admitted I wouldn't be terribly upset if the entire regime was dismissed. The fact that I backed off that stance following their offseason maneuvers last year and predicted a return to the playoffs for the Bears made me a damned idiot fool in the eyes of a lot of people. Now, I'm not saying I'm some kind of brilliant wizard for correctly predicting the 11-5 record the Bears would enjoy, or the 6-10 downfall of the Vikings, even if I did predict both, but I am going on record as believing that the Chicago Bears have a good football team, one that Jerry Angelo has assembled.
I've got major beefs with Jerry, that's for sure. His refusal to address the offensive line in the early rounds of drafts until the botched pick of Chris Williams in 2008 has been my biggest beef, naturally. I understand that he was handicapped the last two years after trading away a number of picks for Jay Cutler (smart!) and Gaines Adams (not smart! And not just because he died, sadly) and that the free agent market was thin on quality o-line starters in the last two offseasons, but last year's motley crew was hard to stomach and the blame for that falls on him.
His first round picks have been widely slammed, although I think it's worth adding some context to the whole "only two remain with the team, Carimi and Williams" statement. That's true, but it's worth remembering that he didn't even Make first round picks in 2010, 2009, and 2006. So of 11 possible first round picks, that's 3 that never even existed. He traded down in 2006 out of the 27th pick and got Devin Hester and Danieal Manning. Works for me. The 09&10 picks got us Jay Cutler. Fine by me. So of the 7 first round picks that Jerry actually made, 2 remain (Williams&Carimi) and 6 are gone (Marc Colombo, Rex Grossman, Michael Haynes, Tommie Harris, Cedric Benson, Greg Olsen).
Of that group, Marc Colombo was a solid left tackle for the Cowboys for several years, exactly what he was drafted to be. The Bears had to move on from Colombo not because he was a bust in Chicago, but because he suffered two major knee injuries that wiped out nearly three whole seasons and they were forced to move on because they couldn't rely on him to man the blindside and got John Tait. Fair move, but hardly makes Colombo a bad pick, since he had no injury history in college and the knee injury he suffered was an artificial-turf induced freak of an accident. Tommie Harris was absolutely the best pick they could have made in 2004 and anyone who says otherwise is an idiot who has forgotten exactly what Tommie was before his injury in 2007. A great under tackle makes the entire Cover 2 defense work, and Tommie absolutely was a great under tackle before he lost the burst that made him so tough to defend. Bad luck sucks, but to count Tommie as any kind of first round bust is lunacy. Greg Olsen, for all his faults, was at least a talented, somewhat productive player who earned a pretty good pick in return. I thought he was a stupid pick to begin with, but for the 31st overall pick he wasn't a particularly damning miss.
So that leaves Jerry with three damning busts in Rex Grossman (who still started a Superbowl at quarterback, however you want to view that), Cedric Benson, and Michael Haynes. Having three flops sucks, but he's hardly the absolutely incompetent drafter that statistic would indicate.
What's my point with all of this? I'm not saying I trust Jerry Angelo. I'm saying that his perception as a stingy, incompetent boob seems to be a bit of a media/fan creation. I'd say it's absurd to act like he never makes big moves (Cutler? Peppers?) or that he's generally inactive in free agency. In 2004-2005 he completely rebuilt a shitty offensive line that allowed 66 sacks in 2004 with Fred Miller, John Tait, and Ruben Brown. He brought in Thomas Jones, Desmond Clark, Adewale Ogunleye and several other excellent veterans who carried the team to a superbowl on a team that had Jerry Angelo draft picks starting at almost every other key position (Bernard Berrian, Tommie Harris, Alex Brown, Ian Scott, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Chris Harris). The fact of the matter is, Jerry's track record is that he's an above-average GM. He may not be elite, and I understand the desire for an elite organization. This team needs to win consistently and take its place among the Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Ravens, Packers etc. They have some pieces in place, primarily in the form of Jay Cutler, that make me think those days are coming. I myself haven't been pissed off that much by this free agency period, and I'm going to address those moves specifically in my next post, since this one has gotten extremely long. My point, however, is that simply raging that Jerry Angelo is an idiot gets no one anywhere and would have blown up in most people's faces where they able to be held accountable as fans for their statements after a season like last year. As of right now, the Bears are reigning NFC North champions. They deserve the benefit of a doubt until, unlike last year, they prove on the field that they aren't a good football team, rather than in the minds of an incredibly fickle and irate fanbase.