In the Wake of the News
9:25 PM CDT, March 13, 2012
I doubt anybody describes Bears general manager Phil Emery as dull today.
This is how a new GM gets his point across clearly, by pulling off the type of trade that drops jaws and potentially changes the balance of power in the NFC. This is when you can begin forming a fair opinion of Emery; not after an awkward news conference or silent NFL combine but after one of the shrewdest Bears trades since the Jay Cutler deal.
This is when it truly hits Bears fans that there is a new guy calling the shots at Halas Hall.
Jerry Angelo spent a decade answering questions why the Bears couldn't find a No. 1 wide receiver. Emery acquired one just two minutes after his first free-agent signing period began.
The Bears confirmed Tuesday's trade with the Dolphins for wide receiver Brandon Marshall in a news release. Amazingly, they were able to avoid using exclamation points.
In giving up the mere pittance of two third-round draft picks for Marshall, Emery didn't just get the type of target Cutler prefers. He got the prototype by which Cutler measures every NFL receiver he ever has targeted since he entered the league in 2006.
He got a guy who in six NFL seasons has caught two more passes — 494 — than the Bears' all-time leader in receptions. He got the athletic Pro Bowl-caliber wide receiver the Bears never have had ready to enter his prime simultaneously with Cutler.
Now Emery gets the benefit of the doubt going into April's NFL draft.
For all the hype surrounding free agent Vincent Jackson, considered a target of the Bears, Marshall comes younger and cheaper. Baggage accompanies both high-profile, big-play receivers, but Marshall's past rapport and success with Cutler made him a better fit.
The debate over the Bears' pursuit of defensive end Mario Williams fascinated us. But Williams quickly priced himself out of range for the Bears, who already have a Pro Bowl pass-rusher and correctly decided to prioritize offense this offseason. How refreshing when a GM in a passionate sports town recognizes the obvious shortcomings in his team and takes swift actions to address them.
Symbolically and otherwise, striking with the Marshall trade so soon after free agency began illustrated Emery understood the urgency of fixing the Bears' offense before anything else. Signing veteran backup quarterback Jason Campbell after acquiring Marshall provided more evidence Emery had studied what undid the last two Bears seasons.
Not having a capable replacement for Cutler for the final six games ruined 2011 and the 2010 NFC championship game. Not having a legitimate downfield threat has spoiled much more than that since before Cutler's arrival.
Immediately tending to both issues gave us reason to believe Emery will try supplementing the offensive line with a veteran it still badly needs to help protect Cutler.
Emery's bold move also reminded everybody how responsive the Bears organization has become to Cutler, power broker. First, the Bears removed offensive coordinator Mike Martz and promoted Mike Tice — with Cutler's blessing. Then they hired quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, a confidant formerly on the Broncos staff where Cutler-to-Marshall flourished.
Now, Emery completed the deal Cutler floated via Twitter in January during his stint as interim GM.
"I can get #15 out of storage! Suit you back up," Cutler tweeted Marshall on the quarterback's verified page.
When a fan suggested in a tweet the duo reunite in Chicago, Cutler pounced.
"Let's do it!" Cutler replied.
Now that Emery did it, and gave Cutler everything he asked for, no more excuses exist. He will experience fewer of the dangerous 7-step drops to which Martz subjected him. We no longer can refer to the Bears receiving corps as pedestrian. Nor can the Bears show any more fear in the deep passing game. Thanks to Marshall, the field just became easier to stretch than the truth at a high school reunion.
Likewise, pressure Lovie Smith can handle shifts to the head coach with a history of handling players as troubled as Marshall. With the Broncos and Dolphins, Marshall challenged authority as much as he did defensive backs.
But of all the risks the Bears could have taken on the first day of free agency, this was the most calculated and the one offering the highest reward. The structure Smith provides combined with the familiarity Cutler offers puts Marshall in the best position to succeed since he was with the Broncos.
And it puts the Bears in better position to contend for an NFC North title.
This is the way a new GM announces his arrival, by addressing a need neglected too long. This is how Emery effects change and makes a statement nobody in town can mock.
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