A slight smile played on the face of Bears Chairman George McCaskey when the subject of GM Phil Emery was brought up. And it wasnt in relation to Brandon Marshall or any particular player.
Emery had been a Bears scout from 1998-2004 but that didnt necessarily vault him to the head of the list for McCaskey and President Ted Phillips.
I didnt really know him when he was an area scout because the area scouts are like phantoms, McCaskey told CSNChicago.com, laughing. Theyre on the road so much. They come in, file their expense and other reports and theyre back out on the road.
But hes demonstrated himself to be a leader. Theres something about him. Hes a take-charge guy without being over-bearing.
The Bears got the elite wide receiver they sought in Marshall. They bagged starter-grade backups at quarterback (Jason Campbell) and running back (Michael Bush). That part of the offseason has gone according to plan.
They werent able to secure a pass-rushing defensive end, however, and havent added to the offensive line, both targets going into the offseason.
But McCaskey is anything but disappointed in the early Emery efforts.
You go in with a plan, I think it was well executed, and youre going to have curves thrown at you, McCaskey said on Tuesday. The key is how you adjust to them.
Free agency is not supposed to be the answer to all of your challenges anyway. Fill holes, find the right value and prepare for the draft.
As part of our coverage leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 100 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.
Derek Barnett, OLB, Tennessee
6'3" | 259 lbs.
56 tackles, 19 TFL, 13 sacks, INT, 5 PD, 2 FF
"Strong edge presence with NFL-caliber hand usage and play strength. Barnett is one of the most productive defensive linemen to come out of the SEC in quite some time despite lacking the length and twitch that teams usually look for off the edge. His awareness and play traits should keep him near the action and he has the talent to step into a starting base end spot right away. There could be coordinators who view him as an early down, outside backer in a 3-4 with the ability to put his hand in the ground on sub packages." — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
Video analysis provided by Rotoworld and NBC Sports NFL Draft expert Josh Norris.
Click here for more NFL Draft Profiles
PHOENIX — When the 2014 season concluded, with all its drama, poor play and internal dysfunction, Bears Chairman George McCaskey passed along the unvarnished mood of Bears matriarch and owner Virginia McCaskey:
"She's pissed off," George McCaskey declared.
The 2016 season ended worse record-wise (3-13) than 2014 (5-11) but Bears ownership sees arrows pointing up, not down as they appeared after 2014, occasioning the jettisoning of the general manager and coaching staff.
"[Virginia] sees the progress, but like any Bears fan, she wants results," George McCaskey said, chuckling at the recollection of relaying his mother's mood. "That's the quote that won't go away."
"Progress" and "results" are vague terms, and sometimes relative. But Bears ownership is not setting a public fail-safe point for either general manager Ryan Pace or head coach John Fox to remain in place, although no scenario could presumably consider four wins actual "progress" from three.
"We want to continue to see progress, see the building blocks but there isn't any sort of particular threshold," McCaskey confirmed. "We're not on any particular timetable that somebody else is wanting to set for us. We're wanting to see continued progress toward our goal of sustained success."
"Sustained success" is not beyond the scope of possibility, assuming that a talent core can be established and includes a quarterback, which the personnel department under Pace believe it is on the brink of putting in place, whether around Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez or a player to be drafted or traded for later.
[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bears tickets right here!]
GM Phil Emery adopted the buzz phrase of "multiple championships," but current leadership does sound less grandiose and more grounded. And where Emery drafts proved disastrous, the Pace administration has had clear hits, injuries notwithstanding, as recently as the 2016 class, which McCaskey mentioned in the context of Pace building the roster exactly the way ownership prefers.
"We have confidence in Ryan and John," McCaskey said. "We want to build through the draft. Ryan said that in his interview when he said he was interested in coming to the Bears and we like how he's stuck to that plan. We saw it last year when we had three rookies on the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team; Cody Whitehair, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Howard.
"And that's what we need to keep doing; keep building through the draft. I told Ryan he should get ripped this time of year every year for not being more active in free agency and that's because we're developing our own guys and rewarding our own guys."
McCaskey supported the actions, or lack of same, by Pace in the pursuit of max-dollar free agents this offseason. The Bears dropped out of sweepstakes for cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Tony Jefferson, among others, when prices spiked far beyond the parameters set by the Pace staff.
"I've been very impressed with [Pace] as a leader, as an evaluator of talent," McCaskey said. "And one of the things I've been most impressed by with him is the discipline he's shown just as recently as this free agency period. He didn't want to overpay guys. Too often, I think, you overpay guys who don't come through for you and then you have a big hole in your salary cap and you're behind the 8-ball. So I like the discipline he has shown, the restraint he has shown in free agency."