INDIANAPOLIS -- The working relationship between new GM Phil Emery and incumbent coach Lovie Smith will be among the most closely watched, most difficult to determine and most important in the immediate direction of the franchise.
Smith was announced as staying in place by President Ted Phillips on the day of Jerry Angelos firing. Emery took the GM job knowing he has Smith at minimum for 2012.
Mike Lombardi, veteran NFL front-office executive and currently with NFL Network, said Thursday on WSCR-AM 670 The Scores Mully and Hanley Show that their relationship could be difficult.
I think its going to be difficult, especially if they dont share the philosophical understanding of players, Lombardi said. When you look at the Tampa way and what Lovie is accustomed to, I think its a bit different. Theyre going to have to see eye to eye.
If theres anything more obvious, Im not sure what it would be. Lombardi even says that as soon as the two get in synch, everything could fall in place.
There could and probably will be differences. Probably should be, for that matter. Indeed, for a possible point of difference, you needed look no further than Emerys introductory press conference in which he stressed that the NFL is a big-mans game.
Smith has long been of a mind that, forced to choose between size and speed, he takes speed.
Yet, as one veteran NFL personnel exec told CSNChicago.com here this week, Lovie also has one of the NFLs biggest middle linebackers (Brian Urlacher) and biggest defensive ends in a 4-3 scheme (Julius Peppers).
And do you think Smith is going to object if Emery holds to his pattern of drafting bigger wide receivers (Michael Jenkins, Roddy White, Jonathan Baldwin)? Not likely.
GMs inheriting head coaches under contract can indeed be very difficult situations. Angelo arrived with Dick Jauron in place and it was a bad situation when Jauron posted a strong (13-3) 2001 and Angelo was forced to keep him with a new contract.
But Jauron had had two dismal seasons in his first two years. Smith may have made the playoffs just once in the past five seasons but he also has had just two losing seasons in his last seven, and both of those 7-9s (2007, 2009), not the 6-10 and 5-11 that Jauron had before Angelo.
Nothing is assured whenever there is major change at the top. But neither is it a given that the Emery-Smith arrangement will be difficult.