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Who is Phil Emery?

An inside look at the new Bears GM. Greg Gabriel

Print This January 31, 2012, 04:00 PM EST

Just like a few weeks ago when the Indianapolis Colts named Ryan Grigson as their new general manager, the Chicago Bears have named a person who may not be well known as far as the media goes, but in the scouting world he carries a big name.

Phil Emery is an excellent choice to lead the Bears. He has been a scout and a Scouting Director in the NFL since 1998. He started with the Bears in 1998 and worked there until after the 2004 Draft when he was hired by Atlanta to be the Director of College Scouting under general manager Rich McKay. He then went to Kansas City as the College Scouting Director under Scott Pioli.

In his years in the league he has been able to learn the philosophies of Mark Hatley, Rich McKay, Jerry Angelo and of course Pioli, who formed his philosophy working in New England with Bill Belichick. That afforded him the opportunity to learn from some fairly good football people.

Phil EmeryPhil Emery has been a scout and a Scouting Director in the NFL since 1998.

Before becoming a scout, Emery was a strength coach at the Naval Academy for seven years and before that he was the strength coach at Tennessee. While a strength coach, Emery was known as a coach who was very scientific and innovative in his approach and the results were awesome. At Navy you don’t get 4 and 5 star recruits to work with, you get special people who are there preparing to serve their country and not make millions as a pro. Emery was able to help develop these kids into players who would compete from beginning to end. With scouting his approach was much the same way.

When I came to Chicago in 2001 I was lucky enough to have Phil work with me as one of my area scouts. Phil’s area of responsibility was the southeast, easily the most productive area in the country. In the three years Phil worked with me we drafted nine players from his area, many if which had very good careers with the Bears. The players included defensive end Alex Brown, quarterback Rex Grossman, guard Terrance Metcalf, defensive tackle Ian Scott and running back/special teams player Adrian Peterson. While none of these players attained Pro Bowl status they all played an integral part in our success. Not only did he provide excellent information on players we drafted, but he also helped us make difficult decisions on players we didn’t draft.

One thing I learned quickly about him was that he was a tireless worker. He left no stone unturned. He quickly grasped our system and gave us pertinent information and more. He knows how to find talent. There are many scouts who can grade tape and tell you if a prospect can play, but few do the in-depth work needed to find out about the intangibles and football character. I have written about football character before and it’s not the same as personal character. A prospect could be the greatest kid in the world but if he doesn’t possess great football character he will bust. Emery was and is excellent at differentiating between the two and finding players who will excel.

I found Phil to be the leader of our scouts and he was highly respected by all his associates. He had two different nicknames that I know of, one was he was referred to by the other Bears scouts as “Doc.” This name came about because of the attention to detail that Phil paid to every assignment given. His other nickname was “Satan.” This nickname was given to him by some midshipmen who found Phil waiting for them at 5:30 a.m. for workouts during a snow storm. As the story goes, the Annapolis area was hit by a severe late winter storm. It was so severe that the Academy basically shut down and classes were canceled, something that rarely happens at the Naval Academy. Storm or not Phil felt an obligation to be at the training facility at the prescribed time. Emery lived close to 40 miles from the Academy so he left plenty early to be there on time. The midshipmen, thinking that there was no way Emery would be there, sent a couple of “scouts” to see if in fact the weight room was open. What they found was Emery sitting in his car having a cup of coffee waiting for his players. When they saw Phil waiting, they quickly informed the others that “Satan” was indeed there, the storm didn’t stop him! That’s being a leader. You don’t let obstacles hold you back.

Having worked with Phil for the better part of three years, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. When I saw the list of candidates the Bears were going to interview for the position, I knew he was by far the best choice. That’s not to say the other candidates weren’t well qualified -- they were -- it’s just that Emery is the right man at the right time to take the Bears to a championship.

I have been in the scouting business for 30 years now and I know few who have the work ethic, character and talent of Phil Emery. In short, he “gets it.” Bears CEO Ted Phillips did an excellent job in the search process. He found a group of well-qualified individuals and then picked the best man. I have heard and read some snide remarks in the Chicago media since the hiring of Emery and frankly they are baseless, unfounded and uneducated remarks. Many in the media wanted the Bears to hire the “big” name similar to the Chicago Cubs hiring Theo Epstein as GM. One thing I know holds true in football: the biggest name isn’t always the best name. Phil Emery has spent a lifetime preparing for this situation and he will succeed.


Add a Comment
Jan 31, 2012
04:24 PM

Cheers for the info Greg.

I wouldn't have fired Jerry Angelo (for which many Bears fans think I am truly insane) but hopefully you are right and Emery can increase the talent level on the roster.

I would love to know how new GMs tend to look at the existing players on the roster, do new GMs see their guys and the old regime's players the same?

Jan 31, 2012
07:12 PM


Thanks for this article, especially the part about the Chicago media. Rosenbloom at the Trib has been working over Emery in each of his articles since the hire and I just don't get it. Why use an introductory press conference to judge the suitability of a position that can only be evaluated by performance? It seems like being inflammatory for the sake of being inflammatory...or so that someone will actually read his column.

Maybe Emery is the perfect hire, maybe he isn't, but this constant string of complaints coming from Chicago newspapers about the Bears is just mind-boggling. There are only so many sexy hire's out there, and getting the big name doesn't always work out anyway no matter what his role will be. Parcells or Saban in Miami, Shanahan in Washington, Holmgren in Cleveland, and the list will likely continue. It isn't about getting a dynamic personality to provide the media with savvy quotes, or a general who will make promises to the fans and demands from his staff on his first day.

I'm looking forward to seeing Emery bring changes to the front office in the places where they have really been lacking: talent evaluation at the top of the draft, building a legitimate receiving corps, and working to find the heir apparent for several aging (or oft-injured) players. I don't give a damn if the man is colourful at a podium, same goes for Lovie. But a GM hire is no different than a draft class, we're looking at 2 or 3 years before we know what kind of a decision was made, good or bad.

Jan 31, 2012
09:36 PM

Personally, I'd have fired JA after the Bazuin/Okwo combo. Adding in Wolfe was just icing on the cake. He was just to caught up in his ego and finding that diamond in the rough. I'm very supportive of Emery.

Jogiwan Austria
Feb 01, 2012
04:50 AM

Nice read about Emery. Always nice to get an opinion from someone who knows what he`s talking about. Emery wasn`t my favourite going into the process but what do I know.

Greg, do you think the hire of Emery will make it easier to get either Dwayne Bowe or Brandon Carr from the Chiefs. Both are Free Agents and there ist only one franchise tag. Both could help to fill a position of need for the Bears but do you think they would fit the team/system?

Thank you.

Feb 01, 2012
08:14 AM

Steve Rosenbloom is a moron and a parody of shock columnists. His act got tired with me a long time ago. Stick with the winners like Barry Rozner. Roz never sugarcoats but he is always fair.

Chris W
Feb 01, 2012
02:19 PM

I palyed little league baseball,high school football and basketball with Phil who was a great team captain and a total team player and gave it his all on the field,the hardwood or in the classroom and the weight room.I am not surprised that he has accomplished so much he had the makings.I admired him because of his dilligence and his ability to focus and man was an he intense athlete and one of the nicest and freindliest guys you'll ever meet.Chicago you are lucky to have him.

Greg Gabriel
Feb 01, 2012
03:16 PM

jogiwan austria,

It sure won't hurt that Phil is now in Chicago, but in free agency it''s money, coaching staff and opportunity.

Feb 02, 2012
03:55 AM

Wow, has the Chicago media really been beating this decision up? I live in Chicago but have tuned out to sports radio/sports media for a few weeks.

If it's just Rosenbloom, you can ignore it. Not to be mean to the guy, but I don't think he really understands what the heck he's talking about. At least, I've never read a single article of his and came away thinking anything other than, "What the -hell- was that garbage?? Didn't even make sense".

But hey, it's their job to get eyeballs on the story, not to be logically or correct, I guess.

Feb 02, 2012
06:39 PM

Did anyone read this article? People this guy is touting for scouting is Rex Grossman and Adrian Peterson... which Adrian Peterson, the Vikings Adrian Peterson, one of the great running backs in NFL history? Or the mediocre special teams practice squad Adrian Peterson?

Get me the guy that scouted the real Adrain Peterson. Bears aren't making the right moves.

Feb 04, 2012
09:26 PM

I played High School football with Phil, and if he approaches this job with the same passion and intensity he did as a player I have no doubt he will succeed. By the way his nickname in HS was "Bear" :)

Feb 06, 2012
08:44 AM

No matter now. It's time to move on and make the best moves for the Bears. I Like this hire he brings hard work and a positive attitude I as a fan can't ask for more than that at this point. Upgrades On the O-Line and he will be a friend for life. Get rid of WEBB & LEWIS and this O-line will improve, they bring very poor habits.

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