The Chicago Bears should change the way their football operations are structured, but not in the way many fans are clamoring for. The President of Football Operations many seek, a position that does not include the duties of General Manager, is historically flawed. Many organizations with non-football people owners have tried it and it has universally failed. The failure is often quite embarrassing.
But what has proven to work around the league and is a direction the Bears have leaned in recent years, is making the next head coach the leading football voice in the organization.
That’s the way several successful teams have operated including Seattle, New Orleans, Kansas City, San Francisco, New England and Buffalo. Green Bay has the head coach on equal footing as the general manager, Mike McCarthy answers directly to ownership in Dallas and you can bet that if the head coaches of the LA Rams or Tampa Bay Bucs said, “it’s me or him,” those owners would pick the coaches over the GMs.
The Bears have come close to executing this arrangement in the past.
They allowed Lovie Smith to speak with GM candidates, and he may have even signed off on the hiring of Phil Emery. There were reports that Matt Nagy had gained equal footing to Ryan Pace last offseason. But this would be different. In this scenario the GM would answer to the coach, or at the very least, both would answer directly ownership with the head coaching breaking all ties.
The key is hiring the right person.
The Denver Broncos made a mistake in giving the keys to Josh McDaniels when he wasn’t ready. The Eagles did the same when they forced Howie Roseman aside for Chip Kelly and, of course, the Jaguars were a disaster with Urban Meyer. (One could even argue that the jury is still out on Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. Good coach. But is he a good personnel man?)
This could fit what the Bears might already be planning. The Ringer’s Kevin Clark said he heard the Bears are “big game hunting” when it comes to their next coach. Albert Breer has repeatedly mentioned the team possibly going after Sean Payton. Other rumored names include Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day and both would surely want as much control as possible. All would surely come aboard with hand-picked GMr candidates. Jeff Ireland could come with Harbaugh or Payton. Some might even be OK with Pace staying, as long as he isn’t their boss.
Having the coach in charge of the show gives the team a direct line between the players who are picked and the product on the field. Everyone in the organization is on one page and it eliminates the politics of who gets the blame for particular failures. What we have seen across the league, quite simply, is that structure works.