General manager Phil Emery was hired in no small part for an expected ability to build the Bears through the draft, the primary venue through which the Green Bay Packers have been assembled.
Actually, not only the draft. The real task is to fashion a championship team through more than buying talent on the free-agency market, which is only so affordable in the first place, and with a tight salary cap not realistic anyway.
With the start of the 2013 season, how are the Bears doing at developing their own “original” acquisitions? Right now, not necessarily appreciably better than they have in winning seasons past.
(Does this really matter? Read to the end and find out.)
The Emery strategy
First, the guideposts.
“I firmly believe the best way to build a team is your own original talent: your draft picks, your college free agents,” Emery said. “It helps you in several ways. It helps you manage the cap so that it gives you flexibility so that when you do need a dynamic player to help you fill in you are able to go and get them. You have the cap flexibility to go get that player who can add to the consistency of your team winning year in, year out.
“It also gives your team a home-grown flavor for your fans and it also allows those players to be together longer and to improve together and to play together as a team for a longer period of time and with more consistency.”
For comparison purposes, the 2013 Bears are slightly less self-developed than the 2010 team that reached the NFC Championship game, or the 2006 team that reached the Super Bowl.
|Olin Kreutz||Muhsin Muhammed|
|Bernard Berrian||John Tait|
|Rex Grossman||Ruben Brown|
|Tank Johnson||Roberto Garza|
|Tommie Harris||Fred Miller|
|Alex Brown||Desmond Clark|
|Lance Briggs||Thomas Jones|
|Brian Urlacher||Jason McKie|
|Charles Tillman||Adewale Ogunleye|
|Nathan Vasher||Hunter Hillenmeyer|
|Johnny Knox||Frank Omiyale|
|Chris Williams||Roberto Garza|
|Olin Kreutz||Jay Cutler|
|J'Marcus Webb||Brandon Manumaleuna|
|Greg Olsen||Israel Idonije|
|Lance Briggs||Anthony Adams|
|Brian Urlacher||Julius Peppers|
|Charles Tillman||Nick Roach|
|Chris Harris||Tim Jennings|
|Kyle Long||Brandon Marshall|
|Jordan Mills||Jermon Bushrod|
|Matt Forte||Matt Slauson|
|Alshon Jeffery||Roberto Garza|
|Corey Wootton||Martellus Bennett|
|Stephen Paea||Tony Fiammetta|
|Lance Briggs||Jay Cutler|
|Jon Bostic||Julius Peppers|
|Henry Melton||James Anderson|
|Charles Tillman||Tim Jennings|
Looking into the pipelines
Starting lineups are only part of the story, however. Equally important is the talent in the pipeline, because of its youth and affordability.
Emery is tracking the Bears vs. their NFC North rivals.
“I went through it and what I saw was we're 29 out of the 53 players that we have or roughly 55 percent are ‘original’ Bears,” Emery said. “They were on this team originally. That was their original team.
“The Green Bay Packers are 43 of 53. The Minnesota Vikings are 39 of 53 and the Detroit Lions are 27 of 53.”
The Packers won the 2010 Super Bowl and are perennial NFC North contenders in part because of their pipeline (which once contained Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre).
The Minnesota Vikings rose from nothing to reach the playoffs last season and are a common pick to stay ahead of the Bears.
The Lions? One winning season in four under coach Jim Schwartz and not expected to have one in 2013, either.