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The blame stays the same

With Angelo's staff, it's Emery's draft — and ultimately his fault if the players don't play

Mike Mulligan

8:30 PM CDT, April 28, 2012

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Jerry Angelo used to be a centerpiece this time of year, but now he's living in exile and self-imposed silence.

Bill Polian, like Angelo a guy who lost his job after the season, gets to broadcast his thoughts on ESPN. People want to hear from Polian.

Heck, people seem to respect Charlie Casserly's opinion and Casserly, another former GM now working for the NFL Network, never won a playoff game that wasn't coached by Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs.

Nobody wants to hear from Jerry — certainly not about the draft. If Angelo surfaces, you suspect there will be a movement to transport him to The Hague for trial on charges of crimes against humanity.

Angelo is far from blameless and his wretched draft record over 10 years, especially on so-called first-day picks (Rounds 1-thru-3) speaks for itself. But one man alone didn't ruin a decade of drafts. And one man alone is unlikely to fix the problem. Phil Emery made some bold moves over the weekend and may turn out to be the perfect antidote to counteract a poisonous draft past. But he will need help.

Emery has been effusive in his praise of the Bears college scouts, many of them former colleagues from his time here as a college scout himself. He called the transition one of the "cleanest conversions that I have ever been involved with," and he included Lovie Smith and the coaches in that assessment. Earlier in the week Emery bragged about having "really good people" in the scouting department.

"The area scouts here are as fine as you are going to find in the NFL," Emery said. "They know how to go about their job. They are very professional."

High praise for a group left virtually intact throughout the Angelo era. Of course, it's one thing to throw bouquets and another to restructure the building by simply promoting from within. There is an opportunity now for new ideas, a new system and a new direction, maybe even some accountability beyond one office.

The Bears drafted another safety on Friday night, third-round pick Brandon Hardin from Oregon State. That's eight straight years taking a safety, including a third-rounder for three straight years. Somebody is responsible for evaluating those players and cross-checking them against others, even if they didn't make the final call on taking the guy.

The team is 0-for-8 at linebacker since Lance Briggs was selected in 2003, back in the Dick Jauron era. Legend has it then-Bears linebackers coach Gary Moeller recommended Briggs to defensive coordinator Greg Blache. Pity those guys weren't around to discuss Michael Okwo in 2007. Sometimes it's not just about recommending guys, sometimes it is about filtering out those who can't play. The Bears stayed away from the position this weekend.

Emery presumably will be hiring a director of college scouting, a director of pro personnel, another scout or two if someone leaves and maybe some lower entry-level jobs where he can train some young guys himself. Not a bad plan, but the advice here is to find guys that have done those jobs before instead of constantly challenging the Peter Principle whereby members of an organization are promoted to their level of incompetence. Don't the Bears do that for a living?

In fact, while Smith gets ready for another win-or-else season, perhaps his detractors ought to consider what will happen if he doesn't win this year. The Bears will go searching at the discount head-coach store and replace him with a guy who won't mind coming to town to be quizzed by the brain trust. Forget Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden.

Smith, the man with the job and staff Emery couldn't touch, didn't sound as if his role was much different this year than any other.

"We've been involved every year that we've been here with the drafts," he said. "I was involved this year."

It takes a village — even if one guy gets the blame.

Special contributor Mike Mulligan hosts the "Mully and Hanley Show" weekdays from 5-9 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670.