Phil Emery says Lovie Smith has done ‘outstanding’ jobContinue reading.
Top 10: Highlights from Phil Emery’s press conference
There have been some bizarre press conferences at Halas Hall over the years — can you believe that Dave Wannstedt actually showed up and addressed the media at the press conference announcing his firing in 1998? It’s true.
But the only bizarre aspect of Phil Emery’s press conference on the firing of Lovie Smith was how un-Bear-like it was. How un-Lovie-like it was. How rational it was. It was like a real press conference — with substantive, detailed answers to legitimate questions. Instead of being insulted by a question about the offensive line and making us feel stupid for asking about it, Emery provided a step-by-step analysis of the line’s performance and why he did not address it in last year’s draft — the only thing missing were charts and graphs. He gave us more information we didn’t know in one 10-minute answer than Lovie Smith did in nine years. I was tempted to ask Emery ‘What time is it?’ just so I could learn how to build a watch.
And almost everything Emery said Monday — whether you agreed with him or not — elicited the same thought, one that has been frustratingly absent from Halas Hall in recent years: This guy was watching the same games we were this season.
Who knows if Emery will pick the right guy? Who knows if Gabe Carimi and J’Marcus Webb were really better than we thought? Who knows if Kellen Davis is salvageable under a new coach? Emery earned the benefit of the doubt simply by treating Chicagoans like football fans who invest their time, money and emotion in his team.
”I’ll stay as long as you guys want to stay,” Emery said 40 minutes into the press conference when two reporters asked questions simultaneously. ”Don’t worry about that.”
And even after he did that, Emery stuck around for informal interviews with smaller groups of reporters. That’s pretty standard procedure at most places. But not here. You literally had to ask for permission this season to talk to a Bears coach privately after his weekly media availability. They had too much work to do, too many meetings to attend to waste too much time talking to Bears fans.
It’s unlikely to be a watershed moment for the franchise. But for one hour Tuesday, Halas Hall was basking in normalcy. Here were some of the highlights:
1. The head coach is responsible for the offense, too.
While Lovie Smith seemed to think that every bad offensive year was the first one, to Emery they added up to a disturbing trend.
”We have had defensive excellence. However, during the course of coach Smith’s career, we’ve had one offense that was ranked in the teens, I believe 15th [in 2006]. We have not had consistency on the offensive side of the ball. We have gone through a number of coordinators. We have searched for answers. The end result is that we did not have enough consistency.”
2. Matt Forte, Kellen Davis and Earl Bennett were underutilized.
While not blaming first-year offensive coordinator Mike Tice, Emery said Forte, Davis and Bennett have to be better in 2013.
”When I look at our team in the past, and the team that I watched on tape and the team that I’m watching this fall we’ve got to get better at the midfield area of making plays,” Emery said.
On Forte: ”I’m going to be frank — Matt was brought back, and I was excited about his signing because a big part of that is him as a pass receiver. For whatever reason whether it was protection or whether it was utilization or whether it was catching, we didn’t utilize Matt or he didn’t have the opportunity to be fully utilized.”
On Davis: Kellen had a rough year. The Kellen Davis that I saw caught the ball in the end zone the previous year. A high percentage of his total career catches, which were not that high, were end zone catches. (He was) reliable in that area. (He made a) huge catch against Green Bay. Has shown the ability. Just for whatever reason, hasn’t been able to be consistent. I know that’s an area that he’s gonna work on. He’s capable of improving, and I know he wants to improve.”
On Bennett: ”Earl showed us his talent the last game. That catch and run, he showed I think everybody, he has a little bit more zip than sometimes, as fans — and I’m one of them — give him credit for. Took the ball around the seam and he was gone. He’s had numerous midfield catches in his career. Whether it was him not having a fast start because he had an ankle in camp, he missed a little preseason, or the concussions, I don’t know.”
For the record, Emery said it was up to him to improve the talent around Jay Cutler. But other coaches will get the opportunity to benefit from it.
3. It’s a wide-open field.
Considering that bad offenses contributed most to Lovie Smith’s demise, it would figure the Bears would need an offensive-minded head coach to replace him –like Mike McCarthy in Green Bay or Sean Payton in New Orleans. But Emery said he is considering anybody from anywhere.
”We’re going to look at a wide variety of candidates,” Emery said. ”We’re going to look offensively. We’re going to look defensively. We’re going to look special teams. We’re going to look NFL. We’re going to look college. Whatever that person possesses in terms of excellence in combination with the individuals that would comprise his staff will have a lot of weight on that person being right for the Chicago Bears.”
4. Emery wants a more media-friendly coach.
Emery said that Smith had many of the qualities Emery said he was looking for in the new head coach. And while some made sense (”I want somebody that has some warmth that pulls everybody together”) and some were questionable (”I want somebody that has high energy”), one was undeniably a repudiation of Lovie Smith’s demeanor as head coach of the Bears.
”I want somebody that’s good on their feet. I think working with the media not only in Chicago, but in a national sense is very important. I want this person to stand up and represent us well.”
5. Phil Emery is in charge.
When the Bears hired Emery, he had to keep Lovie Smith for the 2012 season but would be free to hire and fire the head coach after that. And it’s pretty clear that’s how it worked out. Bears chairman of the board George McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips were consulted but it was Emery’s call.
”I presented options and a decision [on Lovie],” Emery said. ”Ted [and] George listened to my thoughts. They asked me good questions. Working through all that, a good back and forth, at the end both Ted and George said the same thing to me, ‘Phil, it’s your decision to make.’ ”
Likewise, the decision on the head coach is Emery’s as well. Emery will interview the candidates. McCaskey and Phillips will participate only after two or three finalists are chosen.
”At the end, the final decision will be mine,” Emery said.
6. Personnel is still personal
Emery was in a giving mood, but still would not tip his hand on roster decisions for 2013. In particular he was asked about Brian Urlacher, who is a free agent but missed the last four games of the season with a hamstring injury.
Good question. I respect you asking that question,” Emery said. ”I will tell you that any of the contract situations, I’m not going to speak on. I’ve said it from the very beginning — to me that’s a privacy issue between the player and the team. And those kind of discussions will happen with Brian and his agents and that’s where we’ll leave it.”
Emery did offer a positive review of Urlacher’s season. But that’s rarely if ever been an indication of what he’s thinking when it comes to the roster.
7. Jay Cutler is on the clock
Asked if he was convinced Cutler was the long-term answer at quarterback, Emery seemed to agree with the prevailing opinion that, with one year left on his contract, Cutler still has a lot to prove after seasons with passer ratings of 76.8, 86.3, 85.7 and 81.3 with the Bears.
”That answer is going to come as we move forward with a new head coach,” Emery said. ”Am I convinced that Jay has the talent to be that? Yes, I am. I see Jay as a franchise quarterback. We’ve got to build around him. That’s been the goal from the beginning, to build around Jay and to build our team towards championships.”
8. Emery would like to hire a new coach by Jan. 18.
Emery wants to be thorough in his search, but he doesn’t have an unlimited time frame.
”I’m going to do everything with a sense of urgency,” he said. ”[But] I think it’s important that we be very thorough to get the absolute right person. My druthers would be ideally that I could stand shoulder to shoulder with this person during the All-Star games — the East-West is [Jan. 19 in St. Petersburg, Fla.]; the Senior Bowl is [Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala.].
”The playoffs are a consideration. There might be some candidates that we might not be able to interview during that time frame. There may be a candidate that’s in the playoffs and may be unavailable to us. We may have to wait [it] out. It depends on how these courses of interviews go.”
9. Emery is a ”Moneyball” guy.
Asked about the offensive line, Emery said he used the NFL’s STATS, Inc. and Pro Football Focus to get an unbiased evaluation of the line.
”I went to STATS Inc., went through all the numbers. Went to Pro Football Focus, did all the numbers,” Emery said. ”I’m familiar with STATS Inc. We’re one of their contracted teams. Spent quite a bit of time with their people, not only their programmers but went to their offices, watched how they grade tape, how they triple check all their facts.
”So I trust all their data, that’s it’s unbiased, that it doesn’t have my hands in it, that it doesn’t have our coach’s or scout’s hands in it, or anybody else in the league. They are simply reporting fact. Some ways to look at it is in a very Money Ball way, crunching the numbers.”
The numbers revealed that the Bears were 26th in the NFL in pass protection, ”which tells me we’ve got to get better,” he said. But he added that three teams ranked below the Bears were in the playoffs and the 49ers were 25th. ”So I can’t absolutely say it’s the offensive line that’s going to determine our success or not.”
10. One-and-done playoff run probably would not have saved Lovie.
Emery seemed to refute the notion that he would not have fired Smith if the Bears had made the playoffs. If they would have won a game (which would have been on the road –a first for Lovie Smith with the Bears) it probably would have been difficult to pull off. But had the Bears lost to the 49ers this weekend in San Francisco, it seemed like Emery still would have made the change.
”Going to the playoffs is important, but more important is the track record and the history of meeting our goals,” Emery said ”We were [not in the playoffs] five out of the last six. So since ’06, we’ve only been [to the playoffs] once. I’m glad that we went. I wasn’t here at that time, obviously. It’s important that we go. But to get to be a championship team, to win it, we have to be in it more often.”