Well that didn’t take long. Earlier this week I published the first GM Search Extravaganza piece for the year 2022 once the initial tidal wave of names was reported. Since then, we’ve had no fewer than 3 more candidates surface for the top football job in Chicago. Just like last time we’ll dive deep into those names.
Then, stay tuned towards the end, where I’ll go over a pair of more unconfirmed names that I believe should be interviewed.
More Known Candidates
Champ Kelly - Chicago Bears Assistant Director of Player Personnel (link)
Despite what this looks like on paper, or how strongly Bears fans may feel about any promotion, Champ Kelly is a logical internal candidate for the Chicago Bears’ GM position. Also, the Bears have never promoted anyone internally to their top GM job since the position was re-established in 2002. All three GMs: Jerry Angelo; Phil Emery; and Ryan Pace were hired externally after various search committees, firms, recommendations, etc. They have a strong candidate already on their doorstep with Champ.
He started his career off with the Denver Broncos in 2007 as a Northeast region scout before taking over as Assistant Coordinator of Pro and College Scouting in 2008. In 2011, John Elway saw fit to promote Champ Kelly as his Director of Pro Scouting. The free agency classes between 2011 and 2014 were epic. And, they became the 2nd team in NFL history to have at least four free agency signings reach a Pro Bowl appearance within their first year on the team. Oh, they went to the Super Bowl in 2014 as well.
Ryan Pace and John Fox lured Champ Kelly to the Chicago Bears and hired him as their Director of Pro Scouting in 2015. Between 2015 and 2016 he was largely in charge of running their free agency big board, which came with a few big misses, but also some big hits like DL Akiem Hicks and OG Josh Sitton. Champ Kelly has been touted as a strong recruiter.
In 2017 he was given a promotion to his current position. Overall he’s been tasked with overseeing college scouting, pro scouting, and player evaluations along with assisting in making trades. We’ve seen some major splashes including OLB Khalil Mack; WR Allen Robinson; and he was given credit for the trade up to grab QB Justin Fields in this past draft class. His role with the NFL draft process and overseeing advanced scouting has evolved recently.
Right away it’s easy to note and criticize some of the big flops that happened during his time in Chicago. After all, names like QBs Mike Glennon; Andy Dalton; Mitchell Trubisky; and Nick Foles will be permanent stains on an otherwise excellent resume. I will also point out the data metrics department and advanced scouting personnel in Chicago is... small. I do wonder if he has a plan for expanding those offices greatly.
Champ Kelly hasn’t been perfect. Yet he’s also proven himself as a viable candidate nonetheless. Other teams have inquired about interviewing Champ Kelly for their GM openings, including the Denver Broncos last year. On top of that, he’s always been an approachable person, and has earned a great deal of respect from his peers around the league. I wouldn’t rule Champ Kelly out for this job.
Eliot Wolf - New England Patriots Front Office Consultant (link)
As I mentioned yesterday, this is the one real surprise to me in this search. Not in a bad way - I just never imagined the legendary Hall of Fame Green Bay Packers GM Ron Wolf’s own son to potentially earn the top spot for the Chicago Bears. It’s absolutely unprecedented.
However, I will also point out Ron Wolf has always shown a great deal of respect for the Chicago Bears. He once called the Chicago Bears one of the “four crown jewels” for the NFL. Despite him being the chief architect for our 30+ years of suffering at the hands of Brett Favre and (eventually) Aaron Rodgers. Ron Wolf promoted his successors and advised them for several years before his full retirement.
This might very well become the ultimate act of revenge for the Chicago Bears. Or, their ultimate sign of respect for Ron Wolf. Eliot Wolf is an outstanding candidate in his own right.
Eliot Wolf has over 18 years of experience working as a scouting executive and as a front office executive. Never mind the fact his own dad was a Hall of Fame Exec to learn from. Starting in 2004 he was hired by the Packers as a Pro Personnel assistant before being promoted to Assistant Director of Pro Personnel in 2008, then Assistant Director of Player Personnel in 2011, and later promoted to running both offices as their director in 2015 and 2016. His quick ascent wasn’t because of his dad’s legend - he earned his way towards the top on his own. Packers QB and scourge of the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers, was his biggest fan.
The draft classes and financially disciplined free agency periods were widely regarded as some of the best during his time in Green Bay. He even turned down interviews with other franchises, including the Detroit Lions, in a bid to become the Packers’ next GM. In a decision that shocked many — especially a certain QB wearing the #12 — the Packers elected to promote Brian Gutekunst to their top position in 2018 once Ted Thompson was
told to go sit in the corner re-assigned as an advisor.
Once it became clear he was not destined to promote any further in Green Bay, he accepted an Assistant GM Job with Andrew Berry and the Cleveland Browns organization. After spending two seasons in Cleveland the New England Patriots came calling to recruit his services. He was hired in 2020 as a consultant. Yes, that’s his actual title, the Patriots essentially refuse to give anyone titles within their front office. Bill Belichick holds all the power for people not named Robert Kraft. But, Eliot Wolf has played a pivotal role within the Patriots’ front office these past two years.
During free agency in 2021 we saw the Patriots go on the single largest shopping spree we’ve ever seen from New England. Coming off the heels of a disappointing 2020 spurred the Patriots to go for an aggressive mindset in collecting veteran talent. It has been mentioned Eliot Wolf was a big influence in their decision to break from their usually quiet off-season strategies. The past two draft classes for the Patriots have also been productive.
One of the most confounding questions I have here is why didn’t he get the top job with the Packers in 2018? A person who’s produced excellent results throughout their career should have been a shoe-in for a promotion. Instead, the Packers have hitched their wagon to Brian Gutekunst, and may face reality once Aaron Rodgers is moved this coming off-season. I’ll always be curious as to why Eliot Wolf didn’t get the GM job.
He doesn’t strike me as the typical exec from New England, either. Not one person has ever come out to describe him as anything but a genuine, confident leader. He’s been able to manage relationships with strong personalities. This candidacy is worth the lengthy examination. He sure as hell has a strong reason to get back at the Packers, too.
I was forced to read “The Packer Way” by my grandad once while he made a bid to “educate” me into becoming a Packers fan as a kid. Where I can confirm that failed epically for him, the philosophy of learning from one’s enemy remains true. If Eliot Wolf comes to the Chicago Bears and lays out his vision as his own father once did, it’ll be hard to pass on him. He will have instant success wherever he goes.
Just... please. Do not even think about hitching Josh McDaniels’s wagon to Eliot Wolf. That should never happen. And I will absolutely protest any thought of it.
Omar Khan - Pittsburgh Steelers Vice President of Football Operations and Business Administration (link)
That title is an absolute mouthful! It also speaks to the combination of experience he has in all phases of football administration. He has been a scout, an executive, and a “cap guy” for the most stable franchise in the entire league - the Pittsburgh Steelers. They do not fire anyone unless the Rooney family knows someone won’t pan out.
It’s incredibly rare to see anyone leave the Steelers, too. There has been word that, despite current GM Kevin Colbert stepping down and retiring in May of this year, Omar Khan will not be the heir to his position. Allegedly, Brandon Hunt is the person in line for the promotion. Given an identical situation to Eliot Wolf’s above, Omar Khan may be seriously looking at a promotion elsewhere.
In fact, he did get an offer to become a GM outside of Pittsburgh during the 2021 off-season. The Houston Texans originally planned on hiring Omar Khan as their next GM before Cal McNair changed his mind to hire Nick Caserio. Jack Easterby is speculated to be the person who convinced ownership to make this happen. A decision that wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars previously spent with the Korn Ferry search firm. It’s understandable if Omar Khan is more cautious in this upcoming interviewing cycle.
I’m still flabbergasted that Houston pulled out on what would have been a sensational hire. See, Omar isn’t just a “cap guy” or a “numbers guy.” He started his NFL career as a intern scout for the New Orleans Saints, and was quickly hired into their football operations department upon graduating from Tulane in 1997 with his degree in sport management. In 2001 he was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers into their own football operations department.
During his time as a football operations coordinator the Steelers won two Super Bowls. That job in itself is extensive, and it involved many roles. Over time the Steelers introduced analytics and advanced scouting into their player evaluation process. Omar Khan was tasked with aiding in the establishment of those concepts.
He was promoted two more times by the Steelers. In 2011 he was named the Director of Football Administration, which focused on contracting and salary cap management. His final promotion (so far at least) was to his current title as Vice President of Football Operations and Business Administration. He has served in that role since 2016.
In my overall assessment, Omar Khan and Rick Smith (featured in my previous article) have the experience that matches what George McCaskey is seeking in his new GM. It will be an all-encompassing role that reports straight to ownership. It’s also worth mentioning Art Rooney II and George McCaskey are close friends. I certainly believe Bill Polian sees Omar Khan as a candidate in his own evaluation, yet I think there’s a chance Art recommended Omar to George as well. We shall see if that’s the case when/if the interviews are completed.
That will conclude the known list of candidates. At least for now - the list is at 11 candidates. We may see as many as 12, although no names have been requested as of the writing for this article. In an act I hope is pro-active (hey it worked with Omar Khan! Kind of!) here are a couple more write-ups on other names I would recommend for the Bears’ job.
Reggie McKenzie - Miami Dolphins Senior Personnel Executive
I still can’t get over how badly Reggie McKenzie got screwed over (the PC way of saying it) by (now) former Las Vegas Raiders HC/GM/Grand Poobah of Football Jon Gruden in 2018. Truly, for a man who gave it his all as a former Raiders linebacker and exec, he was done dirty. He inherited a complete mess of overpaid and underperforming players in 2012 upon his return as the GM for the (then) Oakland Raiders.
Prior to his stint with the Raiders, Reggie spent 17 years working as an exec under Ron Wolf and Ted Thomson for the Green Bay Packers, from the years 1994-2011. He worked his way up to Director of Pro Personnel in 2008. Did I mention Ron Wolf is a HOF exec? He sure seems like a strong football mind to learn from. His football Alma Mater came calling in 2012, and he could not pass up on that opportunity.
The Raiders hired him to be their GM after John Madden recommended Reggie McKenzie to Mark Davis for that title. The late Al Davis previously held all the control until he passed away on October of 2011.
That Raiders team was so poorly built, the Raiders started off the 2012 offseason at over $32 million above the cap. And he had just a handful of draft picks available to use. It didn’t help matters that Hue Jackson was the head coach prior to his arrival. On top of cleaning house, he had to slash a large number of players to get back under the cap, then try to hit on his small inventory of draft picks.
His GM career started off as rough as one could imagine. This is as true of an example for a complete rebuild that one can find or type out. Eventually, the Raiders started becoming more competitive and stronger as an organization.
2014 turned into a breakout year for Reggie. He aggressively targeted needs throughout the offseason, and orchestrated a draft class that reeled in DE/OLB Khalil Mack along with QB Derek Carr. He followed up his act in 2015 with the selection of WR Amari Cooper. Two All-Pro caliber players and a quality starting QB in two consecutive drafts is a rare feat. Particularly when you’re able to get the two most important positions — QB and Edge — resolved in the same draft class. And Khalil Mack, is Khalil Mack.
In 2016 the Raiders finally broke through with their first winning season (12-4) and playoff appearance in nearly a decade. Everything started clicking for the Raiders... until disappointment happened in 2017. Jack Del Rio was fired, and Mark Davis re-hired Jon Gruden to run the show for the Silver and Black.
That next 2018 off-season is one Chicago Bears fans will never forget. The same off-season is one every Las Vegas Raiders fan wants to burn to ash. Before Reggie could even blink, he was mandated by Jon Gruden to trade his All-Pro edge player Khalil Mack. This decision was made after Jon felt any player on defense shouldn’t command such a large salary as Khalil had requested for his new contract.
The Chicago Bears kept calling. They wanted Khalil Mack. And they absolutely wanted to keep him out of Green Bay. Eventually, Reggie McKenzie finalized the deal with Ryan Pace, and the rest is history. Later that same 2018 regular season, he was forced to deal Amari Cooper away. So for all his effort, what with the handpicking of those very All-Pro stars, he watched them get traded before being fired in December. How was he supposed to succeed under those circumstances?
Eventually he landed on his feet with the Miami Dolphins as part of a re-built front office led by current GM Chris Grier. There are some questions regarding the hits and/or misses in Miami, as they also fired their HC Brian Flores rather abruptly. There’s no question he has a systemic approach that yields results, even if they’re slow growing.
Will he get another shot at being a GM? It’s pretty rare to receive a 2nd stint as the top decision-maker in any building after being fired. He’s more than worthy and capable of such a chance. At least, I sure hope to see him succeed like he should have with the Raiders.
Pat Moriarty - Baltimore Ravens Senior Vice President of Football Operations
If you’re looking at someone who has mastered the art of managing the salary cap, look no further. Pat Moriarty perfected the role of a “capologist” before it ever became popular. His long career with the Ravens started all the way back in 1994 — I was two years old at the time for any idea of how long it’s been. “Organizational stability” is an understatement in Baltimore.
The Ravens also have a history of cross training their employees to completely familiarize themselves with the entire operation. Eric DeCosta, the heir to Ozzie Newsome’s empire, was pursued by NFL teams for years. He was a hot name because of his experience in salary cap management, player evaluations, and advanced analytical comprehension. When he was promoted to the team’s full-time GM role, he named Pat Moriarty as his right-hand man. Considering his title and role of overseeing the entire football operation, he’s got familiarity with how to build a football team in all phases.
Bringing anyone from the Ravens organization is essentially like digging for gold in a loaded mine. The Chicago Bears have struggled with their salary cap management for over a decade. With names like Omar Khan and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah already mentioned on their official list, it makes a great deal of sense to include Pat Moriarty. He’s not the scouting expert on paper like everyone else on paper. And, that might be a reason some will balk on his prospect.
Pat hasn’t received a lot of requests for interviews as of yet. I’m sure that will change soon. Pat’s arrival to Halas Hall would be a complete change from what we’re used to seeing. I would anticipate him building a much larger staff of scouts, analyzers, and misc. staff. Just go look at the Ravens’ team website - the amount of staffing and departments they list is freakin’ huge. It would only be expected to be the same if he took the Bears’ job.
Not the most conventional candidate. But a damn good one to at least investigate.
To Wrap Things Up
This might very well have been the largest list of GM candidates the Chicago Bears have ever requested. There’s no telling how big their list for HC candidates will become, but that’s also next on my “to write” list. Barring any further changes to the Bears’ searches for both vacancies.
Knowing my luck, these lists might wind up being doubled by the end of the week... oy.