When the Bears opted away from Jerry Angelo and for Phil Emery as general manager, it was with precisely this weekend in mind. The decision has produced mixed results, with an arrow pointing generally up.
Emery’s background on the college-scouting side vs. Angelo’s or anyone else’s on the pro side was the tipping point for an organization determined to right its often-foundering draft ship.
The overall negative is that the Bears have missed the playoffs in Emery’s first two years. By comparison, the Bears won the NFC North in Angelo’s second season. Drafts have turned teams around, as Tommie Harris’ selection in 2004 helped do. The Bears haven’t had that kind of hit yet with Emery.
On the other hand, the Emery staff has selected two Pro Bowl players (guard Kyle Long, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery) in two drafts. Projecting the 2014 Opening Day lineups: The two drafts have produced two starting offensive linemen, one starting linebacker (assuming either Jon Bostic or Shea McClellin starts at SLB), and one starting safety (assuming Calvin Pryor or whichever safety the Bears land at No. 14, if it is a safety).
The Bears reached the playoffs in Angelo’s fourth and fifth years as GM, with quarterbacks (Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton) he drafted in addition, plus starters that included Harris, Lance Briggs, Bernard Berrian, Alex Brown, Chris Harris, Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher, plus Devin Hester.
Not all of those came in the first two Angelo drafts, and not all of those were flourishing under a two-gap defensive scheme under Dick Jauron. A coaching change suddenly made Angelo look like a far better drafter.
Emery has done his coaching change. Now the simple task is to give it the talent core via the draft, particularly on defense, that Angelo once gave Lovie Smith.
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Holding to the cliché that a draft cannot be really evaluated for three years has been passe for, well, a lot more than three years. The NFL doesn’t allow that. Quarterbacks, even first-rounders, were once given that long to hold a clipboard (see: Aaron Rodgers). But the Seattle Seahawks certainly didn’t need more than one year to evaluate their 2012 draft picks in the first round (edge rusher Bruce Irvin, eight sacks) or second (linebacker Bobby Wagner, quarterback Russell Wilson).
The Bears’ 2012 draft may take three years to evaluate if only because McClellin is starting over at linebacker.
But it does not take three years to decide whether the 2013 draft with linemen Long and Jordan Mills was solid. The only question is not whether it was a good draft, but how good. Bostic is the “upside” of that draft.
The Bears play the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 and the Green Bay Packers two weeks later, with the New York Jets in between. That means that by the end of September, the Bears and the NFL will know a great deal about the quality of the 2013 draft for the Bears’ defense.