Jerry Angelo was fired today as the Bears General Manager. You can read all about it on other sources, like ESPN, or the Chicago Tribune, so I won’t go over the details. I do however, think it was a good move. I also am glad that they kept Lovie Smith.
His departure got me wondering about the most highly publicized choice that a general manager makes every year – the number one draft pick. Here are Jerry Angelo’s top draft choices each year:
2002 – Mark Colombo. A complete bust with the Bears. After three injury-plagued years he played one game in 2005 before being released. Since then he has had a respectable career with the Cowboys and now the Dolphins.
2003 – Rex Grossman. Sexy Rexy defined inconsistency during his Bears tenure. It seemed like every game was a toss-up whether you’d get “Good Rex” or “Bad Rex.” In his only full season as a starter, the Bears went to the Super Bowl, but he had more turnovers than touchdowns.
2004 – Tommie Harris. After three seasons, Harris looked like he could be the dominant defensive lineman in the game. After Pro Bowl seasons in 2006 and 2007, he kind of disappeared. In 2011 he bounced from the Colts to the Chargers.
2005 – Cedric Benson. Angelo decided to keep Benson over Thomas Jones after the Superbowl season of 2006. He responded with 674 yards rushing in 11 games. He’s had a decent career with the Bengals.
2006 – No pick
2007 – Greg Olsen. It seemed like every preseason people said that Greg Olsen was going to have a break out year. His best year was 2009 with 612 yards receiving and 8 touchdowns. Now he’s a Panther.
2008 – Chris Williams. Williams is an offensive lineman who had back problems coming out of college and has had back issues as a pro. He was moved from tackle to guard, and in 2011 he injured his wrist and went on IR.
2009, 2010 – no pick, trade for Jay Cutler
2011 – Gabe Carimi. The lineman from Wisconsin could barely stay on the field this year and ended the season on IR.
Not exactly a great track record. Exactly 0 of these players finished on the Bears depth chart in 2011. Three O-lineman with injury problems, an inconsistent QB, a flash in the pan D-lineman, a head case running back and an above average pass-catching tight end that can’t block. It’s not exactly the stuff championships are made of.
In the same time period the Green Bay Packers first round draft choices have included some busts (i.e. Justin Harrell and Ahmad Carroll). They have also included a couple of Pro-Bowlers in Javon Walker and Nick Barnett, two solid linebackers in AJ Hawk and Clay Matthews, two good (though currently injured) O-linemen in Bryan Buluga (NFL All-Rookie Team last year) and Derrick Sherrod (actually a little too early to tell if he’s good or not). And then there was that Aaron Rogers guy.
The Steelers’ drafting in that span included Troy Polamalu (’03), Ben Roethlisberger (’04), Heath Miller (’05), Santonio Holmes (’06), Lawrence Timmons (’07), Rashard Mendenhall (’08), and Maurkice Pouncey (’10). All of those guys contributed significantly to one or two Superbowl championships.
There was a time of course, when the Bears did draft well. Check out the Bears’ first round drafts from 1979-1985. This is what championships are made of:
1979 – Dan Hampton and Al Harris.
1980 – Otis Wilson
1981 – Keith Van Horne
1982 – Jim McMahon
1983 – Willie Gault and Jim Covert
1984 – Wilber Marshall
1985 – William Perry
Hampton is the only Hall of Famer, but Al Harris was the only player that was not a major contributor to the Bears’ last Superbowl championship.
It seems clear that, while there are certainly other factors, the success of a team is hinged largely on the ability to nail that first round pick. The Packers and Steelers have been doing it a lot lately, and they are two dominant teams in the NFL. The Bears used to do it on a regular basis and built a perennial power. Angelo was unable to do it, and today he was fired.