Phil Emery was hired by the Chicago Bears as the team’s new GM in late January, 2012. The Bears were coming off a disappointing 8-8 season one year after reaching the NFC title game. But the 2011 season should have had an asterisk given all the late-season injuries that crippled the team. With Jay Cutler healthy, the Bears were 7-3 and poised for another postseason run; after he broke his thumb, the Bears went in the tank.
The natural move by the new GM is to find a new coach – “his guy.” The new GM doesn’t want to risk struggling with someone he didn’t hire, and everyone in Chicago noticed this immediately. Lovie Smith, who guided the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2007, had to know his days were numbered. [Memo to Rex Ryan: No playoffs and you're gonna get Emery'd.]
Initially though, Smith looked fine – after the Bears dropped 51 on the Titans, they were 7-1 and considered a Super Bowl contender. And then, it happened again – Cutler went down. He was knocked into 2011 against the Texans, the Bears lost the game, and the season once again went sour. The real killer was a devastating loss at home to Seattle in overtime. Losses against the Vikings and Packers followed, and the Bears, despite a 10-6 record, missed the playoffs.
Out went Lovie. Players were unhappy. This week Emery low-balled Urlacher, who had been the team’s defensive leader for the last decade – yes, he’s getting older and not the 8-time Pro Bowler he once was – and you have to wonder about the state of the locker room.
Their new coach is a guy who has toiled in the CFL forever. It’s a risky move by Emery – perhaps as risky as screwing Urlacher. Hate to bring this back to the Jets, but they made a lot of poor moves involving locker room leaders after going to two straight AFC title games, and that tinkered with chemistry. The replacements weren’t very good. The locker room became a free-for-all Now, they’re among the dregs of the league.
Good luck, Phil.