It has been a long seven years since I’ve typed one of these pieces out. Alas, the time has arrived to find another GM to build the Chicago Bears into a Super Bowl contender. And, for the first time since the position was re-introduced in 2002, they will be the top football exec in the building. Without question.
As reports of more interview requests come pouring in, let’s get straight to the names already identified and verified by credible sources.
The Known Candidates
Joe Schoen - Buffalo Bills Assistant General Manager (link)
George McCaskey has been adamant on building a strong culture within the Chicago Bears’ organization. He also wants to completely transform the football operations side of the house. Not one organization has seen more positive change in recent years than the Buffalo Bills.
Joe Schoen, who serves as General Manager Brandon Beane’s right-hand man, is a big reason for this successful turnaround. And he has a vast amount of experience in scouting.
Starting in the year 2000 he got his foot in the NFL’s door by interning in ticket sales with the Carolina Panthers. Then, in 2001, he transitioned into scouting. From 2001 until 2005 he served as both a southeast and southwest regional scout for the Panthers, before transitioning to the Miami Dolphins.
He spent five years (2006-2011) serving as one of the Dolphins’ national scouts before his first promotion to Director of College Scouting in 2012, then another promotion to Director of Player Personnel. He remained in that role from 2014 to 2017.
In 2018 he was hired by Brandon Beane to serve as his Assistant GM. The draft picks, free agency signings, and their trade acquisitions have all been fruitful. Brandon Beane is an innovator with advanced scouting, and has shown Joe Schoen the way. It has become a rarity for the Bills to make a bad move. He’s easily one of the top candidates for the Bears.
Ran Carthon - San Francisco 49ers Director of Player Personnel (link)
A former Florida Gator, and teammate to “legendary” Bears QB Rex Grossman, he has worked in the NFL as a scouting executive since 2008. His stops include the Atlanta Falcons (2008-2011); the (now) Los Angeles Rams (2012-2016); and the San Francisco 49ers (2017-Present). John Lynch and his staff have done an incredible job with rebuilding what was once a depleted roster.
Ran Carthon deserves a great amount of credit for the turnaround at Santa Clara. Fans will immediately note the 49ers preferred Trey Lance over Justin Fields at QB, and might mark that as a bad thing. In reality, I found both QBs to be excellent, and the work spent in building around the QB should be considered more important. The 49ers have done well in that regard.
His success in running the big board for free agency is strong. And the 49ers have drafted well in recent years. He’s the only candidate so far to have more than one team submit an interview request - that other request being from the New York Giants.
Ed Dodds - Indianapolis Colts Vice President of Player Personnel (link)
He might very well be the fan favorite for the Bears’ job. And who could argue against that? The work he’s done throughout his career as a scout and as an executive is simply outstanding. His career includes a lengthy stay with the Seattle Seahawks (2007-2017) and this current role with the Indianapolis Colts (2018-Present)
Let’s first talk about his most recent work with the Indianapolis Colts. The offensive line has gone from being one of the worst units in the league, to one of the very best. Same can be said about their defense. Almost every position around the QB for the Colts is stacked with long term answers. Whoever you decide to talk with in regards to GM candidates, Ed Dodds’s name is seen as one of the best talent evaluators in the league.
Then there’s his legendary work with the Seattle Seahawks. He was one of the chief architects for the Legion of Boom, and also did the extensive work which resulted in the Seahawks drafting Russell Wilson in the 3rd round. He’s interviewed for GM jobs across the league, including the Detroit Lions just last year. Ed Dodds has been incredibly patient in selecting his opportunities.
One underrated aspect of Ed is the sheer amount of energy and motivation he works with. Chris Ballard doesn’t put so much faith in people he doesn’t think would give their all each and every day they’re in the office. Check this quote out following the Colts’ 2018 wildcard win over the Houston Texans:
“I just felt like everyone was jacked, we’re on this win streak, and I’m kinda like, what the (expletive) does it matter?” Dodds said, via The Athletic. “If we don’t go to a Super Bowl, so what? A couple of injuries, bomb a couple of draft picks, no one in the pipeline to replace the players you lost? You gotta be relentless. You can’t stop. I don’t.”
I mean... what else is there to say about him? This could be the year Ed Dodds finally gets a top job.
Rick Smith - Former Houston Texans Vice President of Football Operations (link)
Out of all the confirmed names so far, Rick Smith is my personal favorite for the Bears’ GM job. Word has also gone around that the interest is “mutual” between the Bears and Rick Smith. He hasn’t worked in the league since stepping down in 2017 to tend to personal matters. It appears he’s ready to step back into the fray as an exec in the NFL.
Rick Smith is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos. He actually started his football career off as an assistant coach with Purdue in 1992, before being hired by Mike Shannahan as an assistant DBs coach. He coached for four seasons from 1996-1999. In the year 2000 he was immediately named the Broncos’ Director of Pro Personnel, where he served from 2000 to 2005. His next opportunity arrived when the Houston Texans hired him as their General Manager in 2006.
It was while with the Houston Texans that Rick Smith’s career really took off. He was only 36 years old when named to that position, which made him the youngest GM in the league at that time. His first draft as GM was perhaps the best first-year class anyone could ask for. Players from that draft alone included: Mario Williams; DeMeco Ryans; and Owen Daniels. He strung together consecutive draft classes and free agency hauls to build the Texans into a legitimate threat in the AFC.
What stands out about Rick Smith in comparison to his peers is how often he struck gold on early draft picks. You know, the one serious problem the Bears have encountered with every GM hired thus far? He’s also not afraid to mix things up in free agency or the trade market. In 2012 he was promoted to Vice President of Football Operations. And he reported directly to ownership. Sound familiar?
Up until 2017 he continued to have enormous amounts of success with roster management. It was a slow and methodical rebuild, but he had long term answers throughout the roster. He did; however, need to make a coaching change. He fired Gary Kubiak after a disastrous 2013 season, and hired Bill O’Brien as his replacement. Between the two coaches the Houston Texans went to the playoffs four times. Tragedy struck, and Rick Smith announced he was stepping away to handle matters. The Houston Texans proceeded to hire a new GM who lasted just one year.
Sometimes the biggest indication of one’s success isn’t seen until after they left. Brian Gaine, the GM hired to replace Rick Smith, was fired after his lone 2018 season when Bill O’Brien seized his opportunity to gain more power. What’s more, Jack Easterby later arrived from New England, and established what I call Patriots Midwest. Since then, the Houston Texans have collapsed completely.
George McCaskey mentioned the Bears’ new GM will report directly to him. That new addition to the job description is identical to the job description Rick Smith was tasked with while in Houston. His persona, strong character, and extensive history of sound roster building is why he’s at the top of my personal list. He will build and win Super Bowls in the right organization. Let that be with the Chicago Bears.
Morocco Brown - Indianapolis Colts Director of College Scouting (link)
Does this name sound familiar? It should - Morocco Brown is one of the notable Chicago Bears alumni that has made his way to the top in their various stays around the league.
In fact, Morocco Brown served as the Chicago Bears’ Assistant Director of Pro Personnel from 2001 to 2007. Those free agency classes featured some of the best additions in franchise history, including stars like John Tait, Ruben Brown, and Muhsin Muhammad. He developed an eye for talent at a very early level of experience.
He moved on to Washington where he served as their Director of Player Personnel (2008-2013) and had a great deal of success with that organization. His next opportunity was short lived, as he was hired by the Cleveland Browns in 2014 as their Vice President of Player Personnel. Cleveland cleaned house (again) following the 2015 season. During that same 2015 year he interviewed with the Chicago Bears for their vacant GM position.
Which ultimately went to Ryan Pace... who Morocco Brown could potentially replace. Not sure if that’s awkward, or awesome. Redemption, maybe?
Anyway, his former co-worker from the Chicago Bears — current Colts GM Chris Ballard — hired Morocco Brown as his Director of College Scouting in 2017. The draft classes since that year have been fantastic. Players like Malik Hooker; Quenton Nelson; Darius Leonard; and Johnathan Taylor all stand out as recent picks who made instant impacts. And now Morocco Brown has a well rounded set of experience between all phases of building a proper football team.
It’s unfortunate he didn’t earn the Bears’ top job in his first opportunity in 2015. There’s a reasonable chance he could stand to be hired on his second opportunity. Chris Ballard has pushed real hard to recommend Morocco Brown as a future GM. I’m buying that sales pitch.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah - Cleveland Browns Vice President of Football Operations (link)
This is where things get interesting. Virtually every GM candidate here has at least a modest amount of familiarity with data analysis; advanced scouting; football analytics; etc. That’s one of the commonalities between all names listed so far. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah takes this concept to an entirely new level.
He has, perhaps, the most interesting and unique background out of anyone in this article. Kwesi, a Princeton grad and basketball player, spent 10 years working on Wall Street handling portfolios before arriving to Andrew Berry and his staff with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. Under Andrew Berry — who is now the GM for the Cleveland Browns — Kwesi held the title as Director of Football Research and Development. That was also during a time where analytics was just beginning to make it’s way through the league.
In 2020 we saw Kwesi make the jump to his current role with the Cleveland Browns as their Vice President of Football Operations. Cleveland is considered by many as one of the big hubs for advanced scouting and metrics-based analytics. The biggest strength of Kwesi is his ability to collaborate and make informative recommendations/decisions based on the findings and recommendations from his staff.
It’s here where I highlight the one notable experience that appears missing from Kwesi’s resume - actual scouting. Is that really a problem? Not necessarily, but it would be the most significant change we’ve ever seen at Halas Hall. The Bears have always been dependent on classic film and field-level scouting. Their analytics department is literally manned by just one person. Any of these candidates will likely usher in a much larger analytics team. I believe someone like Kwesi would expand that department by the power of 100.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s arrival, or his counterpart below, would overhaul the Bears’ scouting departments and structures completely. It’s long past time to modernize the football operation at 1920 Football Drive.
Glenn Cook - Cleveland Browns Vice President of Player Personnel (link)
His background isn’t as unique as Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s. Yet, Glenn Cook’s story is incredible in it’s own right. He’s a multi-sport athlete who played collegiate football with The U (of Miami) and baseball. If his name sounded familiar to some on here... he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2009. He would play 34 games within the minor leagues before leaving to work for the NFL.
Glenn Cook’s first stop was with the Indianapolis Colts in 2011, where he first met Andrew Berry. Those two worked together as scouting assistants under Bill Polian, who’s assisting the Bears in their GM and HC searches. That next year he left to join the Green Bay Packers and worked for John Dorsey, who mentored Glenn Cook and developed a close working relationship with. Andrew Berry later became the Vice President of Player Personnel for the Cleveland Browns, and hired Glenn Cook away from the Packers in 2016.
Once John Dorsey’s arrival in 2018 took place, Glenn Cook found himself as one of the very few people kept while the transition to Dorsey took place at GM. Glenn Cook decided to take a job with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019 for one season, before returning to the Cleveland Browns as Andrew Berry assumed the GM and Vice President title. Glenn Cook has played an instrumental role in Cleveland’s transformation.
Jeff Ireland - New Orleans Saints Assistant General Manager & College Scouting Director (link)
And now we get to the final name on this already long list of confirmed candidates for the Bears’ GM position. Jeff Ireland is by far the most experienced person in terms of their deep scouting background which dates back to 1994. He first spent time working as a scout for the NFL’s scouting combine.
Jeff’s first extensive taste of scouting began when he was hired by the Kansas City Chiefs as an area scout in 1997. From 1997 to 2000 he remained with the Chiefs, before moving on to the Dallas Cowboys as a national scout in 2001. Within the Cowboys next four draft classes notable names like perennial Guard Andre Gurode; Safety Roy Williams; CB Terence Newman; and TE Jason Witten were credited to Ireland’s work. Jerry Jones saw fit to promote him to Director of Pro and College Scouting in 2005.
Bill Parcels hired Jeff Ireland to be his GM for the Miami Dolphins in 2008. I will admit, his time as the GM in Miami was a checkered, mixed bag. There was the fiasco in 2010 when Jeff Ireland asked a completely inappropriate question to draft prospect Dez Bryant, of which Jeff later apologized. Then there were the lack of definitive hits in his draft classes, and the fumbling of free agents. And of course there was the RItchie Incognito incident in 2013. The Dolphins and Jeff Ireland mutually agreed to part ways in 2014.
For a brief stint, he joined the Seattle Seahawks as a draft consultant in 2014. Finally, a chance at redemption opened up in 2015. The New Orleans Saints needed to fill their vacancy at their Assistant GM and College Scouting Director following Ryan Pace’s departure for the Chicago Bears’ GM job. The Saints have strung together some rock solid draft classes since Jeff Ireland’s arrival.
Hey, how about some family history while we’re at it? Jeff Ireland’s grandfather — Jim Parmer — was once a football exec for the Chicago Bears. Because of that, he eventually got a chance to serve as the Bears’ ball boy at 12 years of age. It’s been mentioned the Chicago Bears are his dream job.
His time with the Miami Dolphins will give reasons for people to pause at this candidate. I will also say he has connections throughout the league, and has been tied to premier (potential) coaching candidates like Jim Harbaugh. Does he get a second chance?
Other Names to Consider
If you have made it this far, congrats! I never anticipated this many interviews to be requested by the Chicago Bears in any hiring cycle. But, I would be remised if I didn’t at least expand this list by a few more names to consider. Here are some candidates that I feel would make all the sense in the world for the Bears.
- Reggie McKenzie - former (Oakland) Las Vegas Raiders GM and current Senior Scouting Exec for the Miami Dolphins
- Omar Khan - Pittsburgh Steelers Vice President of Football Operations & Business Administration
- Will McClay - Dallas Cowboys Vice President of Player Personnel
- Joe Hortiz - Baltimore Ravens Director of Player Personnel
- Pat Moriarty - Baltimore Ravens Senior Vice President of Football Operations
- Mike Potts - Cincinnati Bengals Scouting Director (College)
When, or if any of those names become official candidates, I will gladly go over those names in full detail. Whether it’s here in a follow-up article, or on my personal twitter account (@EDuerrwaechter). Next up... the Bears’ HC Search Extravaganza!
Oh, and if anyone feels I left a GM candidate out, then you can certainly let us know in the comments below.