New Bears General Manager Phil Emery inherited coach Lovie Smith.
But make no mistake, it sounds at the moment like Smith is very much “his guy.”
There has been speculation about Smith’s future with the club, given the fact Emery joined him rather than picked him, but Emery sounds very much on board with the long-time Bears coach.
In fact, Smith is the fourth-longest tenured coach in the league, behind only Andy Reid, Bill Belichick and Marvin Lewis and tied with Tom Coughlin. But with a contract that runs through 2013, and a new man in charges, the questions are natural.
“I feel very fortunate,” Emery said in a Q and A with Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. “I don’t know why anybody would look at that as a negative. As a first-time GM, having been through several coaching changes as a scout and as a coach, I know how disruptive that is. You can’t ever be afraid to make a change, if you know it’s going to be disruptive. However, I think I walked into a very good situation with Lovie Smith as our head coach. I mean, he’s a dean in the NFL for a reason.
“You don’t stay as long as you, at any one club if there aren’t a lot of high quality attributes as a person that allows you to still be competing and working toward victories.”
Emery has a background with Smith, as he was a Bears regional scout when Smith was hired as head coach in 2004. He said he was impressed by Smith’s ability for interpersonal relationships, which helps him recruit free agents and deal with players once they arrive.
So that trumps the fact someone else hired him in Emery’s mind.
“I’m more caught up in the person that Lovie is, and he’s a guy I want to be around,” Emery said. “That’s the key. I want to be around him, and, as I told him, ‘I want to do my part for you, so we can all be successful.’ To me, it’s about helping him have the right players on the field, that are going to match his schemes and allow him to coach to his full efficiency, so we can win on the field.”
Asked about the fact Smith’s contract expires after 2013, Emery said: “My mind is not around that. It’s around the team and now.
“We’re all going to be judged by the same standards. That’s the standard I put myself on. At the end of that process, we’ll move forward, with where we’re at.”
Translated, Smith can still be Emery’s guy, even though he wasn’t his guy at first.
But if the Bears fall flat with the players Emery has just begun to assemble, the new GM can always go out and find another guy of his own.