The Chicago Bears' front office makes it too easy for those who like to clown on its misadventures. In the past few months alone, we've seen a botched draft-day trade, a practice canceled because no one knew about the poor conditions at Soldier Field and a veteran running back bolt the practice facility after (mistakenly) believing he had been released.
Sometimes, however, comedy can overshadow accomplishments. Via the mailbag, Ted of Iowa voiced an important counterweight to the latest arrows we've all slung the Bears' way:
Every time I disagree with Jerry Angelo's moves (a lot), I end up reminding myself that he built a Super Bowl champ in Tampa, built a Super Bowl team in 2006 and built an NFC championship team in 2011. Somehow, it's hard to argue with the results. There is a method to his madness.
Indeed, Angelo has played a role in building three different teams that went to the Super Bowl.
He was a regional scout for the New York Giants from 1982-86; the Giants won the Super Bowl after the 1986 and 1990 seasons. He spent the next 14 seasons as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' director of player personnel, leaving two years before the Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII, and you're all acquainted with the Bears' success in his Chicago tenure.
If the goal of any front office is to build a consistent winner that contends for championships, then Angelo has, by definition, been a part of multiple successful front offices. He should be proud of his career. I suppose any general manager can trip and bumble into a couple of good seasons, but Angelo's résumé extends beyond that level.
Still, I think it's possible to credit Angelo for a long career of success while also pointing out there have been far too many avoidable organizational blunders under his watch.
You can go all the way back to 2002, when a paperwork error left the Bears unable to collect compensation for the potential loss of two restricted free agents, receiver D'Wayne Bates and linebacker Warrick Holdman. The most recent incident occurred Monday morning, when a conversation between coach Lovie Smith and running back Chester Taylor ended with Taylor believing he had been released. Angelo's lieutenant, Tim Ruskell, later called Taylor's agent to tell him the move hadn't occurred and Taylor was due back for practice.
You could argue that Taylor isn't likely to make the final 53-man roster and thus render the episode largely meaningless. But I don't think it's ever a good outcome if you've give players, other NFL teams or even fans a reason to question what you say. Whether the fault lies here with Taylor or not, the Bears simply don't get the benefit of the doubt anymore.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has suggested publicly that the Bears intentionally duped the Ravens during a draft-day trade. But I think it's quite possible Harbaugh gave the Bears too much credit. I find Angelo's public explanation -- there was an internal miscommunication on who should report the trade to the league -- entirely believable.
No general manager is perfect. Usually, however, their mistakes are errors of judgment or poor personnel evaluation. Angelo has had a few of those, but most of the Bears' blunders under his watch have been inexplicably and inexcusably careless. He has almost always fielded competitive teams, but it's only fair to wonder about cumulative effects and to worry that the next error will be truly harmful rather than just embarrassing.