Save for quarterback, it’s difficult to imagine a more critical job in pro football than a general manager. It’s the person that sets the table for the rest of the organization. They are the roster and salary-cap asset managers at the deepest levels. Essentially, they will make all of the crucial decisions that some fans will never even hear about. Once you understand this logic, it’s easy to see why the once mighty Bears have mainly been irrelevant for almost 40 years: They haven’t had someone who could wear each of these hats with competence.
One of the worst mistakes the Bears have ever made was firing Jerry Vainisi in 1986. The lead architect of a team that would be a consistent force in the NFC over the decade, Chicago never filled its roster coffers again the way it did with Vainisi. The Bears have begun their search for their next executive. They can only hope, in time, that it’s fair to compare whoever that becomes to Vainisi. This is a franchise in desperate need of a brilliant and meticulous mind at the very top, for the first time in years.
In the finale of a roundtable debate, the Windy City Gridiron staff makes our selections for our favorite potential Bears general manager. For once, playing armchair GM is not only encouraged but an absolute necessity.
In case you missed it:
Who is your ideal general manager for the Bears?
Robert Zeglinski: There is no shortage of intelligent football people who can lead a successful NFL organization. The Bears just haven’t hired one in decades, so it’s easy to forget — a key distinction.
My favorite, along these lines, is current Colts Assistant GM Ed Dodds.
Dodds has been the right-hand man of Chris Ballard and is privy to one of the premier processes and approaches in pro football. At this point, he basically runs the show, while Ballard has transitioned to measured delegation, the way all great leaders do. And that is very appealing to me when I see how the Colts are constructed.
Save for quarterback post-Andrew Luck (thank goodness this is taken care of with Justin Fields!), and I would consider the trenches on both sides of the ball that Ballard and, by extension, Dodds have built to be the envy of most of the league. (I can’t remember the last time the Bears had a Quenton Nelson at the forefront). Factor in a solid and healthy salary cap situation (ahem), one of the league’s better coaches in Frank Reich, and I think Dodds playing his part has proven enough that he’ll be the next premier jack-of-all-trades executive. He’s ready for the Big Leap to strike out on his own.
Give this man the keys, George, and let’s have this sort of conversation again come 2040, at the soonest.
Josh Sunderbruch: Ozzie Newsome or the closest clone or doppelganger available. Barring that, I need to do more research.
Erik Duerrwaechter: This one is tough. Many great options have already surfaced for the Bears. Names like Morocco Brown — a former Bears employee himself during their latest Super Bowl run — and Ed Dodds are showing on their radar. Many more, like Mike Borgonzi, should pop up relatively soon.
There is one candidate who I genuinely believe can and will win a Super Bowl if hired: Reggie McKenzie. The same man who drafted Khalil Mack (and didn’t want to trade him away) and built a good squad for the Raiders from scratch has done a hell of a job as an executive for the Dolphins as well. Reggie is well-thought-of and respected around the league. I firmly believe he just got screwed over royally by Jon Gruden. Any GM who can find a starting-caliber quarterback and a future Hall of Fame edge player in the same draft class (2014), then follow that draft up with an All-Pro receiver in the next class, you know what you’re doing. Top that with what he’s done in Miami, and it’s damn impressive.
Rick Spielman would also make sense, believe it or not. He’s one of several former Bears scouts to get GM jobs elsewhere and found success up until he made the egregious error of signing Kirk Cousins. He wanted Justin Fields badly enough to make several calls during the draft to try and out-leap the Bears. We’ve seen what he can do around the quarterback position. So, he comes to the quarterback he wanted to draft and builds his kingdom around him.
Sam Householder: I like what I’ve heard about Morocco Brown from Indianapolis, and he comes from an organization that fits what I laid out before (save for their trade for Carson Wentz, which I think they were more or less resigned to). The other guy I would strongly think about is Louis Riddick. I’ve always liked Riddick as an analyst, and I get that it’s way easier to be on TV making decisions than in the room (see Mayock, Mike). Still, Riddick has always struck me as intelligent, thoughtful, open, and adaptable.
Ken Mitchell: Jacqueline Davidson, Buccaneers director of football research.
She has helped Jason Licht at Tampa piece together a rock-solid team from bottom to top after 11 years with the Jets. She’s young, smart, great with the cap (she’s been instrumental in keeping the Buccaneers together for the last two years), and I think she would be a great choice.
Aaron Leming: For me, it’s Indianapolis Colts’ Assistant General Manager Ed Dodds. For years now, Dodds has been widely regarded as one of the better overall talent evaluators in the league (who is not a general manager). When Colts general manager Chris Ballard was hired, he poached Dodds from an extended stay in Seattle. He’s a well-rounded talent evaluator that holds ties on both the pro scout and college scout sides of the house. For my money, he’s the best candidate not named Will McClay (who does not appear to be leaving Dallas).
Bill Zimmerman: I’d be hard-pressed to find a hire I like more than what Morocco Brown would bring to the table. I want a GM who is an excellent drafter but also values their picks. Ed Dodds is the assistant GM in Indy and is credited with plenty of their success (and the success in Seattle before that), but I like what the Colts have done in the draft, and Brown has been heavily involved in the players they’ve brought in recently like Quenton Nelson, Darius Leonard, and Jonathan Taylor.
Jack R. Salo: Will McClay. You said “ideal.” The Cowboys have a well-constructed roster, and McClay has a scouting background. (McClay has since re-upped in Dallas.)