As we've noted before, there are some inherent similarities in the ascendance and early tenures of NFC North general managers Ted Thompson and Phil Emery. Both men have backgrounds as beat-the-bushes scouts, both returned to their current franchises after working elsewhere, and both fired the incumbent coach after one year.
But I think we can all agree that the comparisons should end there. While we all have a pretty good idea of how Thompson operates the Green Bay Packers -- yea on the draft, nay on free agency -- Emery has broken free of any stereotype with the Chicago Bears that his scouting background might have carried.
How does Emery operate? Grantland.com's Bill Barnwell offers us a pretty thorough analysis, focusing on four aspects that stand out: Public engagement, a clear plan, embracing the unknown, and a willingness to use "nontraditional" aids such as advanced math to make decisions.
"By virtue of his background, his work ethic, his brainpower, and his open-mindedness," Barnwell writes, "Emery gets himself ahead of the curve … that stand out as tenets of what a great modern GM should embody."
That's pretty high praise for a general manager who has been on the job for 19 months and faces a defining list of roster decisions in the next month. In the end, I think Barnwell's big-picture point is that Emery seems to embrace every possibility for team-building, eschewing nothing and yet having the courage to make unconventional decisions. Emery has developed an ideal process, Barnwell argues, independent of whether it leads to immediate success.