Bears' GM search could last into February

The Chicago Bears have one stipulation in place for their new general manager: He must embrace the opportunity to work with coach Lovie Smith in 2012.

After this year, a decision on the head coach can be made by the new general manager. Team president Ted Phillips announced that decision at a press conference Monday at Halas Hall, and Phillips also said Smith will be involved to a degree in the selection of the franchise’s next GM, an interesting dynamic because he will have a hand in picking his new boss.

Phillips, who 11 years ago matched ousted general manager Jerry Angelo with former coach Dick Jauron in an arranged marriage, doesn’t believe this will create an obstacle in acquiring the best possible candidate.

“I think that there’s a lot of candidates out there that would be proud to work with a coach like Lovie Smith and when they take a look at the staff he has and some of the success we’ve had and some of the players we have in place,” Phillips said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue at all.”

Angelo was fired after four division titles and one Super Bowl appearance in 11 seasons because Phillips deemed the Bears had slipped too far behind division rivals Green Bay and Detroit in terms of talent. A long series of bad drafts contributed to that, but drafting, of course, is a two-fold process. The talent needs to be developed as well.

“Overall, we want to get our talent level on par so we can keep pace with our division,” Phillips said. “That’s the easiest way to get to the playoffs, that’s the easiest way to get to the Super Bowl.”

There is no firm timetable for a hiring. Phillips said talent evaluation is his top criteria and that means he’ll probably be seeking key personnel men working for clubs that have had extended success in drafts in recent years. That means the Bears could be seeking candidates working for playoff teams and that is a process that could stretch into February.

But Phillips isn’t worried that placing a GM with an existing coach won’t create an awkward arrangement as it did last time with Angelo and Jauron.

“Fair question,” Phillips said. “It’s a lot different I think. First of all, we hadn’t had a general manager for a while. Dick Jauron wasn’t hired by me. So then I came in as CEO and then two years later I brought in a general manager. It’s a totally different set up now and different structure, so I’m not expecting any concerns that way.”

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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