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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Hey, David Haugh Gets Paid by the Word, Alright?

Today, I plan to carry on a proud SKO tradition by mocking a Chicago Tribune reporter’s outright idiocy in debate form. For my first foray into this territory, I’ve chosen my personal least favorite, noted scribe David Haugh.

In his column, “In the Wake of the News,” on Thursday, Haugh took on the futile and seemingly unnecessary task of defending Jerry Angelo’s tenure as GM for the Bears. The most outstanding question about this, in my opinion, is “why bother?” but that’s beside the point.

 As is custom, Haugh is in italics, I’m in regular font.

Contrary to the convenient but lazy local narrative being retold all week, Bears 2008 first-round draft bust Chris Williams didn't get former general manager Jerry Angelo fired.

Not as much as Caleb Hanie did.

I don’t think anyone was saying that either of them got Jerry fired. I was under the impression that a history of first-round busts and willful ignorance of the most critical needs of his team was what got Jerry fired. In short, Jerry Angelo got Jerry Angelo fired. 

If Hanie had played as well replacing Jay Cutler late last year as many of us expected, most notably Angelo, then the Bears would have made the playoffs — and we likely would be speculating now over Angelo's contract extension, regardless of Williams. Instead, Hanie's failure going 0-4 as a starter exposed Angelo's neglect of the backup quarterback spot for the second straight season and elicited unpleasant memories of Todd Collins.

This is exactly the sort of thing sportswriters love to do, and it is absolutely ludicrous. It’s the equivalent of a Scooby Doo villain saying “I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” Angelo neglected the backup QB position for years, and it bit him in the ass. Saying a GM shouldn’t be fired just because his players are shitty and lose important games is ignoring the most important function of a GM.

The surprising collapse screamed for necessary change at Halas Hall. Without it, the Bears would have sent the wrong message that they held only the football gods accountable for the unfortunate way their season ended. That excuse was so 2010.

So the team chose Smith over Angelo because one of them had to go. Essentially the Bears decided to replace a GM instead of a head coach and several assistant coaches who likely would have followed Smith out the door.

No, David. The Bears chose Smith over Angelo because Smith had proven he could take a consistently mediocre crop of new recruits over .500, and Jerry Angelo had proven that he sure could shake hands with bad players on draft day. I’ve never understood the “Fire Lovie Smith” crowd in the first place, but even they have to admit that this decision was much more than a coin-flip. Lovie has a winning record. Jerry drafted Marc Colombo. 

This week's release of Williams merely reflected poorly on Angelo's lousy record of first-round draft picks that renewed inaccurate portrayals of his 10-year tenure. The Bears reached the Super Bowl during the Angelo regime. They maintained an enviable level of consistency that often gets obscured in the civic angst expressed whenever Angelo's name comes up.

Let me put this in less vague terms for you, David. This week’s release of Williams was yet another example of how Jerry Angelo took the most important chance for a team to inject skilled, young players into its roster and repeatedly shat all over it. A lousy record of first-round draft picks is totally justifiable as a cause for complaint with a GM. That is his job. 

And yes, the Bears reached the Super Bowl during the Jerry Angelo era. That was 6 years ago, and Angelo’s failures have far outweighed his successes since then. How long does Super Bowl Armor last? Ask Peyton Manning. “Consistency” is only a desirable attribute to have when you’re good. Being “consistent” runners-up in the wild card is no better than going to the playoffs one year and missing by a mile the next.

Not that anybody will hear Angelo say so. Since getting fired, Angelo has declined several interview requests and has not returned messages. One former colleague suggested privately Angelo's prolonged silence implies how he feels his former bosses betrayed him.  

This is an old, cheap journalistic trick where he takes the silence of a man who is no doubt upset and has no cause to talk to the media and tries to turn it into a blood feud between Poor Jerry and those Mean McCaskeys. I would’ve cut this sentence entirely from my recap, but I, unlike Haugh, have integrity.

The loudest statement on his behalf comes in the NFC North standings.

Remember that Angelo played a bigger role in building this Bears team than his successor Phil Emery. Emery has done a commendable job. He immediately traded for Brandon Marshall, the kind of No. 1 wide receiver Angelo never made a high enough priority. He drafted a healthy player in the first round, defensive end Shea McClellin, who has made an immediate impact. He ensured the backup quarterback position wouldn't foil another season by overpaying free-agent Jason Campbell.

He complemented the playoff roster Angelo primarily put together.

“Emery has done a great job, but don’t forget that Jerry Angelo gets partial credit for all his wins until every Angelo player is dead.” Also, and I’ve noticed this is a trend with Haugh in almost every piece he writes, but he feels the need to throw a little dig in by saying Emery “overpaid” backup Jason Campbell, not just that he signed him. I don’t think anyone watching Caleb Hanie start last year thinks Campbell is overpaid.

Angelo pulled off the trade for Cutler, his signature move. He signed defensive end Julius Peppers, the No. 1 free-agent of the '10 class. He found cornerback Tim Jennings on the NFL scrap heap after the Colts discarded him. He took a shot with underrated starting outside linebacker Nick Roach after the Chargers cut him. Defensive tackle Israel Idonije didn't find his way to Chicago from Canada accidentally. Neither did former defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, a key part of the 2005-06 dominance whom Angelo acquired in return for Marty Booker in August 2004.

Look, I don’t think anybody is saying that Jerry Angelo never made a good personnel move in his life. The Cutler trade was a real game-changer for a rudderless offense, and Peppers has been nothing short of a menace since he came to Chicago. Roach and Izzy are both underrated players who have the misfortune to play in the shadows of giants but are quite capable themselves. Jennings was a bit of a project, but he’s hit his stride in a huge way.

And in this column about how Jerry Angelo did a lot to help this year’s Bears succeed, Haugh chooses to bring up Adewale Ogunleye and Marty Booker. Two players who, you might notice since Haugh himself pointed it out, are no longer members of the Bears. And right there, Haugh wrapped up the glaring flaw in his argument with a neat little bow. If you have to look back six fucking years to point out more than five acceptable personnel moves, you are a bad general manager. 

Also, note that Haugh’s point is specific to this year’s Bears team, but he still had to reach back to the Super Bowl year just to make a (poorly) defensible point.

Lest anybody forget in this week's piling on of Angelo that the '08 draft that Williams marred also included the Bears selecting Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte in the second round and trusty wide receiver Earl Bennett in the third. The misses at the top of the Bears '09 draft that made us shake our heads — pool-leaping defensive end Jarron Gilbert and wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias — make it easy to forget Angelo also found three starters with late-round selections: Nickel back D.J. Moore, defensive tackle Henry Melton and guard Lance Louis. He selected starting safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte in the third rounds of the '10 and '11 drafts, respectively.

I love all of those players, don’t get me wrong. Matt Forte is my favorite player in the NFL, and the lot of them are showing up to play hard this year. But a history of middling to great third-round picks does not offset a history of atrocious first-round picks. Matt Forte would probably still have been there in the second if you had picked somebody who would, you know, actually play football for this team a few times in the first.

In 2003, Angelo made perhaps his best draft picks when he selected Charles Tillman (second round) and Lance Briggs (third). Or was taking Devin Hester in the second round in 2006 better?

Pretty much the only part of this column I can’t disagree with. All three of those are utterly defensible as Jerry’s Best Find. No snark here, we’re lucky to have those guys on this roster. 

As far back as the checked-box fiasco in 2002 involving outside linebacker Warrick Holdman, criticism came easily for Angelo's well-documented mistakes. He neglected the offensive line in too many drafts and struggled finding playmakers before too many seasons. There were too many Dan Bazuins and Mark Bradleys. He gambled and lost drafting players with injury histories, with Williams being the most notable. His bad back flared up during Williams' second practice as a Bear. That doomed his career before it began.

Now it seems like you’re agreeing with me, Dave. Have I… did I win? I expected more of a fight than that from you.

Label Williams the biggest bust under Angelo, an even bigger disappointment given expectations than animal-loving defensive end Michael Haynes. Yes, running back Cedric Benson merits consideration but at least he contributed to an NFC championship. Williams started seven games at the left tackle spot he was drafted to solidify for years.

Man, those guys were pretty bad. You’re right, David, I’m glad we’ve found common ground. I’ve always wanted to see the inside of the Trib; I think this is going to be a good friendship. Want to go grab a-

Blame, however, stretches beyond Angelo. 

God dammit.

Coaches tried Williams at right tackle and left guard. Williams himself lacked intangibles great players possess.

No. Just, no. Nobody ever said it was Jerry Angelo’s fault Chris Williams didn’t pan out. Angelo didn’t hurt his back. No, what Angelo did was willingly draft a player with a bad back, one who himself admitted he wasn’t a great player. You cannot say that a GM is free from criticism because his pick turned out to be shitty. It is his job to not pick players who are shitty. So no, Chris Williams’s failure was not Jerry Angelo’s fault. Unfortunately, Chris Williams’s presence was totally Jerry Angelo’s fault.

To use Williams' release as final confirmation of Angelo's incompetence misses the point and unfairly castigates someone whose contributions have been too easily forgotten.

“To say that the last of many shitty draft picks over a career with more low notes than high in the last few years was the final nail in Angelo’s coffin misses the point.” What is the point, David? Nobody’s out there with torches and pitchforks saying we should round up all of the Jerry Angelo signings on the roster and toss them in the lake. 

Considering how often you and yours criticize Jay Cutler’s accuracy, I’d think that you of all people would understand that throwing 2 touchdowns isn’t as impressive if they come on the heels of 3 interceptions. Yes, Angelo made good signings. He also crippled this team for half a decade by failing to answer the most basic offensive needs while he cycled through a cavalcade of B-listers and busts.

 At the end of the day, the GM, just like everyone else, is judged by the big picture.


Code Red said...

I defended Angelo a lot in previous years. He was nowhere near the boob that fans made him out to be, but just ran out of time. He had clearly defined issues (he was never going to fix the offensive line, he didn't value receivers, etc) and he just hadn't had a good, complete draft in years. No one other than the most irresponsible of meatballs (and if that's who you feel you have to argue against, okay, Dave) thinks that everything Angelo did was stupid and awful and wrong. He had 10 years. He built some good teams but also failed in a lot of key areas. He definitely found some stars late but his teams mostly lacked depth. He was, simply, an average GM who got average results, and the franchise finally got tired of that after 10 years.

Erik said...

That's about where I am. I'm just confused as to why Haugh even got started down this path. It's like he started to say "Well, not everything Jerry Angelo did was awful," but accidentally ended up saying "Jerry Angelo built this playoff team and Chicago betrayed him by firing him." Granted, it's a lot easier to be a "successful" columnist when all you have to do is beat up a straw man.

Code Red said...

I think that's exactly what happened. My favorite part of this is that Haugh absolutely loved Caleb Hanie. He called him a "dynamic playmaker" and basically predicted a QB controversy. Slammed Martz for being rough on Hanie in the offseason. You can still feel his hurt

Erik said...

Well, sportswriters do that at least once a year. Look at every single analyst and commentator saying "It's just stupid to question Jay Cutler's toughness now and it was stupid to do during the NFC Championship game," even though they were the ones questioning his toughness. Remember when they were all predicting James Starks would revitalize the Packers' run game?