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Jerry Angelo was named general manager of the Bears Monday night after a six-week search led club president Ted Phillips to one of the most obvious candidates.
During 14 years as director of player personnel with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Angelo saw first-hand how a team can emerge from bad drafts and organizational dysfunction and rise from the bottom to the top.
When he arrived in Tampa in 1987, the Bears were still riding the crest of their glory years and the Bucs were on the bottom. Now, the roles are reversed.
Angelo will have the authority to hire and fire the head coach, but Phillips made clear that Dick Jauron's job is safe for this season. With training camp less than six weeks away, it is far too late to make a change anyway. Jauron's contract runs through 2002.
Angelo, 52, beat out Denver Broncos' director of college scouting Ted Sundquist and Baltimore Ravens' director of pro personnel James Harris after Phillips narrowed the original list of 11 interviewed by Joe Bailey of the New York executive search firm of Russell Reynolds Associates.
It was an uncommon and unusually long process advocated by the NFL, which is trying to align its procedures for hiring more with corporate America than with its notorious good-old-boy network. The process turned off one of the leading prospects, former Philadelphia Eagles director of football operations Tom Modrak, who wanted Phillips to move faster.
"We are excited to bring Jerry to the Bears as our new general manager," Phillips said in a news release Monday night. "He brings a proven football philosophy to our organization. Jerry's credentials and enthusiasm made him the best person to lead our football operations."
Angelo would not comment on Monday night, but said before his final interview on Saturday: "The process has allowed me to really study the Bears. They need a football guy. It is not a general practitioner's job. It's going to take a specialist because the problems are acute." The Bears will hold a Tuesday press conference to introduce their first general manager since Jerry Vainisi, who was fired after the 1986 season. Angelo will have the most authority of any football man in the organization since Jim Finks, who was hired in September of 1974 and served through the 1983 draft.
Angelo was a recent candidate for general manager positions with the New York Jets and the expansion Houston Texans. Although Angelo's patience with the process and his intimate knowledge of the NFC Central Division and the Bears paid off with Phillips, he also is very much a product of the NFL establishment. Angelo began his scouting career under Dallas Cowboys legend Gil Brandt in 1980, and worked five seasons with the New York Giants from 1982-87 under George Young, now senior vice president of football operations for the league and a backer of Angelo. Of the three finalists, Angelo was the most experienced. Sundquist, 39, has been in the league only nine years and Harris, 53, began his scouting career under Angelo in 1987.
Phillips was so deliberate in his decision that sources within the NFL personnel ranks said Monday the club was keeping a negotiating door open to Sundquist just in case final contract details with Angelo fell apart. Bailey informed the third finalist, Harris, on Monday night that Angelo was the choice.
The job is expected to pay in the $600,000-$750,000 a year range, the low end for a general manager but a significant increase in what any of the finalists are now earning. One of the candidates eliminated earlier in the six-week interview process said he would ask for at least a six-year contract because 2001 "is already shot."
Angelo worked with four coaches and several different organizational structures in Tampa, including two coaches-Ray Perkins and Sam Wyche-who also carried the title of director of football operations. The Buccaneers finished last in the division five times in the last 14 years and won it in 1999.
After a series of poor drafts, the Bucs' fortunes turned around in 1995 when Rich McKay became general manager and in 1996, when McKay hired Tony Dungy as head coach. Angelo remained director of player personnel, overseeing the team's scouting department.
Angelo's situation is similar to the man he replaces, Mark Hatley, who arrived as Bears' director of player personnel in 1997 after laboring in the shadow of Kansas City Chiefs' general manager Carl Peterson and coach Marty Schottenheimer. Hatley never was given authority over the head coach.