We've spent the better part of the day (and evening) going over the remarks of general manager Jerry Angelo today from his Halas Hall press conference that lasted a half-hour. Here is a transcript of the session so you can go over it for yourself:
Not a good time obviously. We anticipated to play this week, unfortunately it didn't work out that way and I don't really want to get into the season, I'll let you ask questions obviously if you want and we'll talk about that in terms of questions and answers. Really want to talk about going forward what the process will be. I think that's the thing that we're focused on and being proactive and going into the '09 season, But before I start that I don want to say this and this will always be our mantra as along as I'm here and I know as long as Lovie's here, that we'll never be accepting of mediocrity. We had a 9-7 season, I know that's a winning season but we didn't make the playoffs, we fell short of our goals, and our goals are always first to be a competitive football team. That's first and foremost. If you're not a competitive football team, you're not going to put yourself in a position to win. Naturally from there we want to win our division and that's our goal every year and that's very realistic goal. You're never going to hear me say rebuilding or we have to take a step backwards or subliminally send a message to our fans that we aren't going to be a good football team or we can't, irrelevant of what the situation is. You see that a lot, you saw it with Atlanta this year, nobody gave Atlanta any chance. Come in with a rookie quarterback doing the things they did, it happens, and it happens every year. That's just the dynamic of our season, so every year we expect to win and we're not satisfied with mediocrity, we never will be satisfied with mediocrity, even though in some cases mediocrity is probably the best we can be. If that's the case, so be it, but our goal is always the same every year and I want to make sure our fans understand that. Very disappointing the way the season ended obviously, particularly when we went into the last game having some control over our destiny. It didn't work.
So we're here now and we're moving forward, and the process will be as what it has been in years past. There's always pressure when you don't get into the playoffs, that goes around the league and that's here as well at halas Hall. We haven't made the playoffs the last two years, and that is bothersome and we do feel that pressure and we are going to work very hard this off-season in terms of what we're going to do. If changes need to be made, changes will be made and those things are going to be talked about thoroughly. Sometimes when you talk about change, change might come in the form of your approach and what you're doing. Like in the off-season a few years ago we cut our timeline with our players from 14 weeks to 10 weeks and I thought that was a very good thing, I thought our players when we first did it we didn't know what to expect, but I felt that was a big plus for us in what we did. So some of the things that we do logistically we're going to talk through at length, we're going to talk about again the approach we've taken, that approach is what Lovie touched upon yesterday with schemes, with players with coaches how we do business, etcetera. And we need to look at everything now, and I'm not saying we haven't before but we have to go back to the drawing board so to speak, and we need to do that again and we will. We have more time, unfortunately but we're going to take advantage of that time to do those things. I feel very confident that we have a good core of players and a team in place. I'm very confident. We'll add players obviously, but if we didn't add anybody, we're still going to be a good football team, people, and I feel very strongly about that.
DID LOVIE LEAVE THE WRONG IMPRESSION WHEN HE SAID YOU WERE CLOSE? DID IT BOTHER YOU TO HEAR THAT?
JA: I know Lovie probably better than anybody in this room. Lovie and I talk a lot and what I construed that statement to mean Dave was that Lovie is a great leader, and all great leaders create hope., he does not want anybody, our fans, our players ever thinking that there isn't hope. I know that's what he meant. And he, as I was after the game, we were visibly upset, very, very disappointed. I'm sure Jim Hendry sees a side of Lou Piniella that we don't see. I'm sure [Kenny] Williams sees a side of Ozzie [Guillen] that we don't see. I don't know that maybe we don't see it with Ozzie, but anyhow, there might be some things that Kenny deals with at times and that same can be held with Lovie and our relationship. I promise you nobody is any more competitive than Lovie. He's driven to win and our p;layers know that. I think the one thing you could say about the Bears this year, most of the time is that we were a pretty resilient team. You didn't see much quit in this football team. Take that Green Bay game up there that was probably the only game that I felt like hey we just weren't ready to play. Other than that you have to give the other guy credit, too. We played the Texans, they did a pretty good job, after I looked at that tape what they did in terms of their offense, their offense was good for a reason. They did a nice job on our defense, it wasn't lack of hustle to the football or anything like that. We made some mistakes but good for them bad for us, but it wasn't a lack of effort. I felt one of the strong points of our football team since I've been here is we have been a resilient team, we've handled adversity, we play hard, we come to play and usually that game goes down into that fourth quarter.
HAVE YOU SHARED YOUR OPINIONS WITH LOVIE REGARDING HIS COACHING STAFF?
JA: Well we haven't talked about that at length, we've touched on it again, we've only been two days postseason so we'll get into that in all likelihood a little bit this week, and we'll talk more about it next week. We want to have a little bit of down time to get people collected so to speak, but we've touched on that some so far and I'm sure we'll continue to get into that next week.
YOU WERE IN FAVOR OF HIRING ROD MARINELLI AS THE D-COORDINATOR IN 2004, DO YOU WANT HIM TO JOIN THE STAFF NOW THAT HE IS AVAILABLE?
JA: I think the world of Rod Marinelli. I would love to have Rod Marinelli on our staff and I think Lovie would say the same thing. He's a great football coach. Anytime you get a chance to get a great coach or great player, you're not going to sit here and say that you wouldn't consider him or you wouldn't work a way to do that. But again, that's premature, the answer to your question about Rod because I do know Rod. I think Rod is a very good coach and he'll be a great addition to any staff.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE DEFENSE, WHICH HAS BEEN HIGHLY PAID?
JA: Well, the disappointment in the defense was the inconsistency in the defense. We just never really hit a real plane where we were able to maintain a consistency. That created frustration because that's tough now. When things aren't going right, it's hard to say, 'Well, really, what is it?' Is it attitude? Does it have to something do with the scheme? Is it the personnel? That became for me personally, that was frustrating to watch. I thought prior to the Houston game that we were turning the corner on defense. We were doing things a little bit better, showing a little bit more of that consistency. So the big issue probably again was the inconsistency of it.
IS THE MOST DISAPPOINTING PART THAT YOU PAID EVERYBODY?
JA: Well, I don't know that everybody -- if it's about effort, that's probably what I'd be a little bit more sensitive to. I can live with a mistake. I can live with a guy maybe not being good enough as long as they're going hard and they're playing and giving their best. That's really all you could ask out of a guy. If we made a mistake on his talent and we thought something, that's one thing. But then if they're not playing hard or playing up to their abilities, that's on them and I do take that very personally. And I will address that. That will not happen here. I am disappointed with a few players. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm not. And those players are going to have to be accountable for what they do. I'm not going to get into names, but that's the bottom line and we are in a bottom-line business and we're competitors. That's being part of a team. If you're part of a team, you're giving your best each and every day. That's not asking too much; that's expected and that will always be expected here in Chicago as long as I'm here and as long as Lovie's here.
WILL YOU SHY AWAY FROM CUTTING PLAYERS WHO YOU HAVE SIGNED TO EXTENSIONS?
JA: I think you've seen our track record. I'm not hesitant to cut anybody. I don't let money get in the way of doing what's right for this football team. No, I'll take that on any day of the week. Egg on my face doesn't bother me. Pain in the locker room, meaning guys aren't producing and aren't good karma for this football team, does. So whatever we need to do, we will do to be the best we can be. We make mistakes. That's part of the game; every team does. I've always said this: The only thing worse than making a mistake is justifying it, and I think we have a track record of doing some things out of the box at times when we feel we need to do them. But we don't act emotionally. We don't. It's not knee-jerk. These things, we talk behind closed doors and we're very candid and we're very honest about how we evaluate our players, how we evaluate everything. So I don't want anybody to run when I say that.
IS THE DEFENSIVE COACHING STAFF PART OF THE EVALUATION?
JA: You have to. You can't put your head in the sand. You might have said there was a little bit of a Super Bowl hangover last year, I know that was said. I'm not saying it, but I know that was said. We had some injuries; injuries are part of the game. But you could say that there were reasons, there was history for some of the things that went through. But this year, things didn't come along maybe quite the way we wanted them [to]. That's why I said when I started this, we need to look harder now. The hardest thing to do for any football team is to evaluate themselves. I've said it before, it's very, very hard to do. Look at all the teams this year that started out great and then just went into a real tailspin. It's very difficult and we're no different. But to get good, valid evaluation, you have to be objective and you have to be honest. That is our goal and that's what we'll do this offseason. We need to do that in every area. We do every year, but we need to be a little bit more adamant about some things that maybe we hadn't done in the past so to speak. But again, that's just part of the business. We understand it and we'll get through it. Now we have been together a long time. That's a good thing. It's a good thing when you have that kind of continuity because we do know how each other thinks. We all have strengths, we all have weaknesses and we play off those strengths and weaknesses too as an organization.
PLAYERS TALKED ABOUT THIS NOT BEING THE SAME DEFENSE AS IT WAS IN 2005 OR 2006, BUT THE CORE GROUP IS IN TACT. BOB BABICH IS THE MAIN PART OF CHANGE SINCE THEN. WHERE IS THAT IN THE EVALUATION?
JA: Well, you're asking me a lot here, but when you're not playing consistent football, your job's not good enough. Obviously you have to be consistent in this league. If you're going to win, you have to be consistent in what you do. It just goes with the territory. We weren't consistent and those are the things that we'll get into. I don't want to go any further than that because we haven't talked about anything. I don't know what all the issues are. There are things that are going to be shared with me that are going to give me things to think about. There are thoughts that I have. I'm going to have different opinions. I know one of our coaches made a statement on one of our players. I don't necessarily feel that way. Does that make him right or me right? No, we'll find out, but we do need to come to an agreement at the end of the day and then once we agree to something, then we make it work. One thing about good organizations that I do know is they know what they have to do and they know they need to do it together and you need to operate as a team. We can't have finger-pointing. I will say what I feel, as Lovie will, as his coaches will, behind closed doors. We will be very candid and very honest. I know you would love to be in that room, I know you would, but that's just not the case. I can't sit here and say all the things that I feel to you today. All I can tell you is that we'll be very honest. We see what you see, and we will be very objective about our approach. The things that we can change, that need to be changed, will be changed. That's all I can tell you. Right, wrong or indifferent. Not every decision we will make, as much as we believe in it, will work out. That's just part of the business, too. But hopefully you don't miss big.
DO YOU NEED MORE NFL EXPERIENCE ON YOUR COACHING STAFF?
JA: I don't want to get into that. We do have NFL experience on our staff. We had a lot of NFL experience when you bring in the continuity of the staff working together. I know where you're going with it. When things aren't going right, it's a legitimate question. If we need to look into that more, we will, but again that's a little premature right now.
HAS IT BEEN FRUSTRATING TO WATCH THE DEVELOPMENT OF YOUR DRAFT PICKS?
JA: Not really. Some of the draft picks, I know Dave wrote an article, a few days ago or a week ago about some of the draft picks not playing or performing but the way I look at it, they haven't played yet. Until they play we can't sit here and say for sure what they are or what they aren't. I want all our draft picks to play and I think the draft picks, I think there were probably five that played this year, and when they played, they all contributed, which was a good sign to see. But in Earl [Bennett's] case he didn't get a chance to play.
JA: He didn't. That's a coaching decision and our coaches felt, and I say this to our coaches, `You put the best players on the field that give us the best chances to win on Sunday.' That's their call. Do I bring up players from time to time? How's it going with him? Here's what I think. Certainly, I do that. But ultimately, that's their call because they live with the players, they know the players, they're in the meetings with the players. I'm not. That's their job. That's what their paid to do.
HOW CONVINCED ARE YOU THAT KYLE IS THE LONGTERM SOLUTION AT QUARTERBACK?
JA: Well, I'm not convinced 100 percent obviously. I believe in Kyle but until Kyle puts a good year together we can't say for sure. I saw some really good things out of Kyle, particularly early on in the season, he didn't have the second half of the season that he did the first half of the season. Is that part of the growing pains that come along with the position? I can't answer that right now. We do believe that Kyle has some good things, really buy into Kyle the person. He's shown an exemplary work ethic, leadership to be named captain by your peers I think speaks volumes, particularly at that position, but really do feel good about Kyle. He's still a work in progress. We have time. We're going to take our time and we're just going to have to wait and see.
WOULD YOU FIND A GUY TO COMPETE WITH KYLE?
JA: I think we have to have competition at that position, yes. I know Lovie said that we have to have competition at all positions but we still have to keep an eye at that position more than any. We have to get that position right. I know that there is going to be a lot of talk about a No. 1 receiver. Guys, it starts with the quarterback. It's all about the quarterback. You don't win because of wide receivers. You don't win because of running backs. You win because of the quarterback. We've got to get the quarterback position stabilized. We're fixated on that and I don't want us to lose sight of that. The rest of that is peripherous stuff. That's something that if you don't have anything to write about, you'll write about that. It starts with the quarterback and that's the bottom line.
SO IS QB YOUR TOP OFFSEASON PRIORITY, WOULD THE FREE-AGENT MARKET BE SOMETHING YOU WILL BE PURSUING AGGRESSIVELY?
JA: I don't know that yet until I know who is out there but if we feel that is our best option then we have to look at it very seriously because that's what I just said. I can't say one thing and come back and do another. That position has to get righted. The offense starts with the quarterback and we know it's the most valuable position on a football team and we have always been mindful of it. We've gone through so many different scenarios at that position we can write a book, more so of what not to do than what to do. But I do have confidence in Kyle. I don't want anybody coming out of this thinking that you know we don't believe in Kyle. We do believe in Kyle. But Kyle has got to take another step and that's the bottom line. It's a very difficult position to play, it consumes an inordinate amount of money on your cap, it's a very big decision and we're going to measure twice to cut once on this one.
HAS THE PERFORMANCE OF GUYS WHO YOU HAVE EXTENDED EARLY MADE YOU GUN SHY AT ALL ON DOING MORE?
JA: Gun shy? I don't know if I would use that. It makes me sound weak. I do have my weak moments but I am certainly not going to share them with you. I would say that any time we do a contract extension we look at it very, very hard in terms of knowing the player, not just from a talent standpoint, it starts with talent first and foremost, but making sure to that we buy into the person. I always talk about our locker room. You can't have a good football team unless you have a good locker room. Character is very important to us in terms of what he does here each and every day in terms of his work ethic, his love of the game. But you don't know for sure. It's impossible to know. It's like the guy that won the lottery. He's not going to be the same guy the next day but you hope the core of what that person is the same. Sometimes they don't work out. For the most part I think we've had a pretty good batting average since we've done a lot of them in my time here. But you're not going to hit 100 percent. Nobody does.
DID URLACHER'S EXTENSION HAD AN ADVERSE EFFECT ON LEVEL OF HIS PLAY?
JA: No, the one person I do believe in in terms of every day and who he is is Brian Urlacher. I will never question his commitment, his passion, his love for football. He has too much character, too much pride to ever not be the best he can be. Is he the Brian Urlacher of old? I can't say that. I can't say that. Could he still make a Pro Bowl? He still has enough to make a Pro Bowl. He's still a very good football player. I have to go with what I saw on tape guys, just like when you go to the game. But I have a lot of confidence in Brian. He's been a great player for the Chicago Bears. He's been a great leader for us. I respect him immensely, and you have to look at the total package when you evaluate a player.
URLACHER DOWNPLAYED INJURY SITUATION; DO YOU THINK IT'S A FACTOR?
JA: I don't know. I'm not a medical person, I'm not a psychic. All I know is what I see on tape. That's what I evaluate, is what I see on tape. That's in black and white. That's the bottom line. There's some subjectivity. But that's the way we try to do business around here when we put a value on our players. Brian is a very good player. He's been a great leader for the Chicago Bears. I respect that immensely and we are glad that we have him on our football team.
DO YOU HAVE THE SAME CONFIDENCE IN TOMMIE HARRIS?
JA: I'd say this with Tommie: He's had a lot of things go on, and I felt like about the midway point of the season, things started to settle down for him. I'm not going to get into Tommie's personal life--that's none of my business--but I know he shared some things early on, and I feel like he's got things together. He's grounded. And I felt we saw a lot better Tommie Harris, particularly in the last quarter of the season. I feel strongly that he's going to come back and give us the kind of play that we paid him for. I feel very strongly about that. I'm seeing the arrow going up. He knows what he has to do and Tommie holds himself accountable.
GOING BACK TO QB, IS THAT A POSITION WHERE YOU CAN GET A PRO BOWL-QUALITY GUY AT A CHEAP PRICE?
JA: The only thing I can say about it is that you're seeing more quarterbacks become recycled and do well. This year it was the over-the-hill quarterback gang, when you look at Frerotte, you look at Collins, you look at what Kurt Warner did, you look at Garcia. It's amazing. You would have never thought that 10 years ago. The quarterback play, it looks like it can come from anywhere at any age now. So again it's tough. Part of it is the supporting cast, etc., the scheme, those things all have a play into it. I don't want to overrate the position. I just want to make sure that we understand the value of the position. Is it all on his shoulders? No. You've still got to block. You still have to run the football. You still have to catch the football. Those things are important too. So I don't want to underscore those.
DOES THAT TREND MAKE YOU LOOK MORE FOR VETERAN BACKUP?
JA: No, not necessarily. I think there's been a lot of players that have ascended. They have the traits and the things that you look for. If you're patient with them, they'll develop. Really I would say almost half the league starting quarterbacks at some point were fourth-round, free-agent types people that were patient with them and they've done a good job. We can go that way, too. We're not ruling anything out. But when we talk, we'll explore all our options once we know what those options are.
DO YOU REGRET HAVING DEVIN AS A STARTING RECEIVER AS IT IMPACTED HIS RETURN ABILITY?
JA: No, we said that that was a possibility. I made this statement to Devin and I think I've said it here to some of you if not all of you at one point, that there's never been a No. 1 receiver and a No. 1 kick returner. If there's never been one, there's probably a reason for that. So I anticipated the potential of Devin's returns to fall off given the fact that we were going to escalate his play time at receiver. We wanted to escalate his play time and that's the course we chose to go down. His returns did suffer. Now is that to say that's the absolute reason why? I don't know that. Teams got better with their coverages, being there was more of a sense of urgency. I'm sure they did a lot more studying and how to cover with Devin. There are probably other things there too. He wasn't the returner he was in the last couple years. We're going to look at that real hard too and make sure we continue to define what his role is because the one thing that we know about Devin and he showed it at receiver is that he's a playmaker, and when you get a playmaker, you want to make sure you get him the ball the best way you can to make as many plays as he can on Sunday.