Phil Emery

Falcons Hire Phil Emery, Ruston Webster

2:34pm: The Falcons have officially confirmed that they’ve hired Emery and Webster as national scouts.

1:07pm: The Falcons appear set to add a pair of former general managers to their front office, according to reports. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes that the Falcons will add former Bears general manager Phil Emery to their scouting and personnel department, while a Pro Football Talk tweet suggests ex-Titans GM Ruston Webster will join the team as well.Phil Emery

[RELATED: Falcons to retain general manager Thomas Dimitroff]

Earlier this month, in announcing that head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff would return to the Falcons for the 2016 season, owner Arthur Blank indicated that the front office would undergo a bit of a shake-up this winter.

“We are going to make a number of changes to our pro personnel and college scouting departments and that process began this week,” Blank said at the time. “It will take some time, but we will be adding talent on the pro personnel side and re-organizing both of these groups to best align with the shared vision of Coach Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff. I expect these changes will produce positive results for our team.”

Since then, the Falcons parted ways with director of player personnel Lionel Vital, and now it appears that the team will add a pair of notable names to its front office. With Emery and Webster set to join a group that already features Dimitroff, Rich McKay, former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, and former Rams general manager Billy Devaney, the Falcons’ front office will include several executives with GM experience.

Emery was let go by the Bears at the end of the 2014 season along with head coach Marc Trestman, while the Titans opted not to retain Webster at the end of the 2015 campaign, when his contract expired.

Bears Fire Phil Emery, Marc Trestman

9:14am: Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer has also been fired by the Bears, according to Yates (Twitter link via Jeff Dickerson of ESPN.com).

8:38am: The Bears have made a major change in their front office, according to Adam Schefter and Field Yates of ESPN.com, who report (via Twitter) that the club has parted ways with general manager Phil Emery. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk had tweeted earlier this morning that word was “trickling out” of Chicago indicating that Emery had gotten the axe. In addition to firing Emery, the team has also let go of head coach Marc Trestman, per Alex Marvez of FOX Sports (via Twitter).

Hired by the Bears in January 2012, Emery oversaw a solid 10-6 season in his first year with the club, but the team’s record slipped to 8-8 in 2013 and 5-11 in 2014, resulting in his ouster today. Along the way, Emery made a number of questionable decisions, including locking up quarterback Jay Cutler to a seven-year, $126MM contract extension that included a sizable chunk of guaranteed money. Additionally, no team was more active in free agency this past offseason than the Bears, and the results of the team’s spending spree weren’t overly impressive.

The hiring of Trestman can also be viewed as one of the decisions that ultimately led to Emery’s dismissal. The former head coach of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes was considered an offensive – and quarterback – guru, but struggled to find success with Cutler, particularly during the 2014 season. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets that Trestman could be a highly-regarded offensive coordinator candidate this winter, adding that if he were a head coaching candidate like Todd Bowles, he’d give Trestman a call.

In his two seasons at the helm in Chicago, Trestman compiled an overall record of 13-19 (.406), and failed to earn a playoff berth.

Bears Notes: Trestman, Cutler, Shanahan

Fans and pundits have believed that the Bears’ coaching staff could be fired as soon as Monday, but general manager Phil Emery says that the coaches will hold their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.

“Obviously, it’s at the end of the season,” Emery said. “So on Monday, we’ll have a team meeting. Our coaches will hold that meeting. After that, they’ll start evaluating players. We’ve already done that from a personnel perspective, and we’ll move forward.”

Still, major changes are in order for the Bears this offseason, from either a coaching standpoint, a personnel standpoint, or more likely both:

  • While head coach Marc Trestman and his coaching staff are unlikely to return, a big question is whether Emery will lose his job as well, according to David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. Haugh also questions whether the team will begin to look into moving on from Jay Cutler as well. Cutler will be playing for his fifth offensive coordinator since 2009, should Trestman’s staff lose their jobs as expected.
  • Despite the end of the Trestman-era, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes that the organization needs to stop consulting their quarterback when making decisions on coaching. Biggs points out that Cutler has been the common denominator in the team’s perennial underachieving.
  • Cutler did give a vote of confidence to former coach Mike Shanahan, writes Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times. Cutler played under Shanahan with the Broncos during his first few years in the NFL, where he experienced some of his best play at quarterback. “[Shanahan is] a heck of a coach. He deserves to be a coach somewhere. He’s out of the game so I’m sure he is looking to coach somewhere,” said Cutler. “My three years with him were very, very enjoyable. He does a great job of leading teams, on and off the field, and offensively he knows how to get it done.”

 

Breer’s Latest: Coaches, Bears, Whaley

As usual, Albert Breer of the NFL Network touches upon several notable topics in his weekly notes piece for NFL.com, leading off with a look at the Falcons and head coach Mike Smith. Unapologetic about the fact that his team could sneak into the playoffs with a 7-9 record, Smith was also adamant that he doesn’t feel as if he’s coaching for his job as the season winds down. Still, one has to imagine, given how available the NFC South crown has been for the taking this season, that if the Falcons lose one of their final two games and miss out on a playoff berth, the team will have to think long and hard about making changes.

Here’s more from Breer:

  • Suggesting that perhaps the adversarial relationship between Robert Griffin III and Jay Gruden in Washington has been overblown, Breer writes that the head coach simply wants the former second overall pick to earn his playing time, just like everyone else on the roster.
  • One veteran NFL executive predicted to Breer earlier this year that Bears head coach Marc Trestman would have trouble navigating off-field frustrations in Chicago, since he “doesn’t have the ability to control the locker room.” Considering all that’s happened since then – from the blowout losses to the Aaron Kromer incident to Jay Cutler‘s benching – it’ll be hard for the Bears to bring back Trestman next season, and general manager Phil Emery‘s job isn’t safe either, writes Breer.
  • A source told Breer earlier this week that the University of Michigan is “very much in the game” for Jim Harbaugh.
  • GM Doug Whaley may be on the hot seat if the Bills fail to make the playoffs after giving up their 2015 first-round pick to win now, but Whaley can point to his construction of an elite defensive unit if and when he makes a case to keep his job, says Breer.
  • Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly will likely consider making the leap to the NFL in January, or at least weigh the idea more seriously than he has in the last two years, according to Breer, who indicates that Kelly is frustrated with the school’s administration. The 49ers could be connected to Kelly since owner Jed York is a Notre Dame alum, but defensive line coach Jim Tomsula still appears to be the favorite to take over for Harbaugh.

Bears Likely To Fire Marc Trestman

Bears ownership huddled last night and they had a chat about the fate of coach Marc Trestman. Trestman is likely to go, a source tells Dan Bernstein of WSCR (via Twitter), while GM Phil Emery‘s fate is still up in the air.

Earlier today, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote that after the latest disaster in Chicago, Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer both appeared likely to be on their way out. Some in league circles “reserved serious doubt” over the last couple months that the Bears would dump Trestman, but that perception likely changed after Monday night’s contest. The Bears slid to 5-9 after an embarrassing home loss to the Saints, another team that hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire in 2014, though they have the good fortune of playing in the league’s softest division.

It has been an ugly season for the Bears and things only got worse in the last week. Kromer tearfully apologized to his team for being one of the anonymous sources in a recent filing by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. The report indicated that the Bears were growing increasingly frustrated with quarterback Jay Cutler and that the club was having buyer’s remorse over the whopping extension they recently gave him. While Kromer denied being the source of the latter part, he did admit to staying some less-than complimentary things about the team’s high-priced QB.

Just days ago, it was reported that Cutler is extremely unhappy with the team’s coaching staff. Trestman is only two seasons into his tenure in Chicago, but Cutler’s contract is guaranteed at least through 2015, meaning that it is much easier for the club to replace its coach than it would be to change the QB situation.

Coach Notes: Jets, Trestman, Coughlin

Jets coach Rex Ryan intended to talk to the media on Friday about this team’s matchup with the Vikings. Instead, he addressed rumors that he had considered firing offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

“I would deny that, 100 percent I’ll deny that, that I’m looking to fire Marty or anybody,” Ryan said (via Brian Costello of the New York Post). “You know we challenge each other all the time. … I don’t know where it’s coming from. So to me I think it’s a complete bogus deal. So, I’m not saying it wasn’t said by somebody, but it certainly wasn’t said by me or thought by me.”

Let’s take a look at some more rumblings out of the NFL front offices, including whispers about coaches potentially on the hot seat…

  • There has been plenty of finger-pointing in New York regarding the issues surrounding the Jets, and Ryan, Mornhinweg and general manager John Idzik have faced their fair share of criticism. Bart Hubbach of the New York Post believes one member of the organization has unfairly gone unscathed: owner Woody Johnson.
  • While the Bears‘ season certainly hasn’t gone as planned, it doesn’t look like the team will endure any drastic changes. John Mullin of CSNChicago.com appeared on ProFootballTalk Live and stated his belief that head coach Marc Trestman is safe (via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com), noting that firing the coach would be an admission of failure by general manager Phil Emery.
  • Meanwhile, Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times believes the Bears need to make major changes. However, based on the team’s moves in previous years, the team will be apprehensive about making any drastic moves.
  • Dan Graziano is unsure what the Giants will do with head coach Tom Coughlin, but he believes there’s a chance that the team could be grooming offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo for the role.

NFC Notes: Seahawks, McCoy, Lions, Bears

Recent reports indicated that the Seahawks are falling apart and possibly planning to part ways with running back Marshawn Lynch after this season, but Seattle silenced that speculation this week with a big team effort against the Panthers, writes Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post. “[The reports were] not a distraction at all,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Our guys don’t care about what’s being said. We’ve been prepared all year that there would be stuff like this, that there would be controversy and story lines that would try to get in between us. We’re fine.” More from the NFC..

  • The Falcons are 2-6 and Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (video link) says that both coach Mike Smith and GM Thomas Dimitroff could be on the hot seat this offseason. Owner Arthur Blank can be expected to “evaluate everyone” after the season.
  • There isn’t any offset language with the $51.5M of guarantees in Gerald McCoy‘s contract with the Bucs, according to Joel Corry of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
  • With Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush sidelined, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is extra glad that his club added Golden Tate over the offseason. “He’s just a competitive son of a gun,” Stafford said of Tate, according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com. “And you just trust him, you want to throw him the ball, you feel good about it when you throw it to him. And I’m proud of him, happy for him. I know he’s going to be excited when Calvin comes back to be that duo that they want to be.”
  • Bears GM Phil Emery doesn’t sound like a man who wants to make a coaching change. “The solutions to win games are with the people in this building,” said the GM, according to Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter).

Jeffery Buoying Emery’s First Draft

Bears GM Phil Emery has been on the job two and a half years, and with a series of bold moves, has positioned the Bears as a legitimate Super Bowl contender entering the 2014 season. That’s noteworthy status given the fact Emery’s first draft class (2012) has been fruitless with the exception of rising star Alshon Jeffery.

Buried in an article about the Bears’ kick coverage units, CSN Chicago’s John Mullin notes that 2012 19th overall selection Shea McClellin, a disappointment through two NFL seasons, has been used on special teams this offseason. Unable to hold up against the run, the Bears have converted him from defensive end to linebacker, where he’s competing with John Bostic for the starting job on the strong side. Position changes and special-teams impact are things typically associated with rookies, not third-year pros, especially ones drafted as highly as McClellin. His backward career trajectory doesn’t bode well for his future in Chicago.

If McClellin can’t find a way to make an impact this season, he’ll be stamped with the bust label, which prompts a more macroscopic concern. Emery, whose background is rooted in scouting, was hired to replace Jerry Angelo, whose first-round failures still resonate with Bears fans who cringe at the memories of names such as Rex Grossman, Michael Haynes, Cedric Benson, Chris Williams and Gabe Carimi. Emery is supposed to reverse that debilitating trend, but aside from Jeffery in the second round, his 2012 draft class has failed to live up to expectations:

  • First round: McClellin – “Earned” -30.6 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in 2013, and has just 6.5 sacks in 28 career games.
  • Second round: Jeffery – Made the Pro Bowl in his second year, a breakout season in which he totaled 89 catches for 1,421 yards and 7 touchdowns, teaming with Brandon Marshall to form one of the most dominant receiving duos in the league.
  • Third round – Brandon Hardin: Arrived an injured player and departed an injured player, never playing a game for the Bears.
  • Fourth round – Evan Rodriguez: Considered a reach because of character concerns, Rodriguez was released after his rookie season (and two off-season arrests).
  • Sixth round – Isaiah Frey: Has yet to make a significant contribution and faces a training camp battle to stick as the team’s fifth cornerback.
  • Seventh round – Greg McCoy – Cut at the end of 2012 training camp.

In McClellin’s case, the Bears might have misevaluated his utility, as many draft scouts projected the Boise State pass rusher as a 3-4 rush rush linebacker. Nolan Nawrocki’s 2012 Draft Preview graded McClellin as a mid-round talent with tweener traits, strength deficiency and an inability to defend the run: “Functional, character football player who plays better than he tests and could warrant consideration as a stand-up, upfield 3-4 rush ‘backer. Versatility and dependability increase comfort level and could drive up draft status.”

Nawrocki’s assessment proved accurate, as McClellin ascended all the way to the 19th pick, where Emery pounced on him with 3-4 teams such as the Patriots (who took Chandler Jones 21st), Texans (who took Whitney Mercilus 26th) and Packers (who took Nick Perry 28th) lurking in subsequent picks. McClellin’s versatility was key to the selection, with the thinking at the time being if he doesn’t pan out as a defensive end, he could be a starter-caliber linebacker, be it as Brian Urlacher‘s long-term replacement in the middle, or on the outside. The time is now for McClellin to reward Emery’s confidence before Chicago’s all-too-familiar first-round failure worries are stirred up.

Extra Points: Dreessen, Cutler, Ferguson

  • Speaking with Vic Carucci & Dan Leberfeld on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen weighed in on the Jimmy Graham ruling, saying the decision struck a nerve and that he agreed with Tony Gonzalez’s take on the situation: “It’s kind of frustrating that guys who get asked to do probably the second most after the quarterback is kinda down there on the pay scale.”
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune listed 12 NFL training camp storylines to watch, including Jay Cutler‘s new deal. “The Bears signed quarterback Jay Cutler to a $126 million contract extension that is essentially a $54 million deal for the next three seasons before it goes year-to-year,” says Biggs. “It’s a huge payday that general manager Phil Emery based on future performance, as Cutler’s resume includes only one postseason victory.”
  • Last year was an “uncharacteristically bad year” for Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, says the New York Post’s Brian Costello, who believes 2013 will prove to be “an aberration and not a sign of decline.” However, Costello does caution: “Ferguson has the highest salary cap figure on the team at $11.7 million. After a few restructurings to help the team gain salary cap space in 2012 and ’13, the bill is now coming due for the Jets. Ferguson’s cap numbers are huge for the next four years. If Ferguson’s play slips, the Jets might have to consider releasing him before the 2016 season, when they could save $9 million in cap space by cutting him.”
  • Branden Albert of the Dolphins and Jairus Byrd of the Saints topped ESPN’s list of free agents who will transform teams. The last three seasons, Albert has allowed just 4.6 pressures per 100 pass blocks, good enough for third in the league over that span. As for Byrd, he allowed a paltry 0.23 yards per coverage snap last season, third-best in the league.
  • Answering questions about the Eagles’ projected roster, PhillyMag.com’s Tim McManus said he doesn’t expect many “curveballs,” i.e. surprises, when the team’s 53-man is finalized. McManus expects LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles and Chris Polk to serve as the running back trio, and he expects Brad Smith to stick as the fifth receiver. The one mild surprise could be Travis Long forcing veteran Brandon Graham out, though that would mean employing two backups at defensive end (Long and first-rounder Marcus Smith) with no NFL experience.
  • Entering training camp, 49 Patriots players are “sure-fire locks” or “near locks,” in the estimation of ESPN New England’s Mike Reiss, who breaks down the projected roster.

Extra Points: Rice, Russell, Daniels, Manziel

  • Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report (on Twitter) hears that a multi-game suspension for Ravens running back Ray Rice is likely, and one source says that the punishment will be “extremely significant.”
  • Broncos director of player personnel Matt Russell was sentenced to seven months in jail after pleading guilty to DUI, among other charges (Denver Post story here). Russell, who was arrested last July, served a suspension and returned to his job in September.
  • Pro Football Focus tabbed defensive lineman Mike Daniels as the Packers’ “Secret Superstar.”
  • In an “Offseason Notebook” piece, Adam Hoge of 670 AM/CBSChicago.com referenced an interview Bears GM Phil Emery did on the station in which he said former Canadian League star Chris Williams was the frontrunner for the team’s open kick returner job. Williams was signed late last season off the Saints practice squad, and Bears special teams coach Joe DeCamillis said he heard from members of the New Orleans staff who were disappointed to lose Williams, whom Emery believes has talent commensurate with mid-round draft picks.
  • An anonymous executive envisions Browns rookie QB Johnny Manziel developing into a Jeff Garcia type whose mobility fits well in a West Coast, zone-blocking system, shares Dan Hanzus on NFL.com.
  • Lions 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Williams is converting from tight end to offensive tackle, writes Dave Birkett in the Detroit Free Press. Williams (6-6, 270) was drafted as a blocking tight end and missed last season because of a broken hand.
  • The agent for Dolphins fourth-round cornerback Walt Aikens, Daniel Frid, tweeted out a picture of the Liberty product signing his contract. Aikens had interest from a number of clubs prior to the draft. He met with the Colts, Packers, Bengals, Chiefs, and Buccaneers and worked out for Cowboys and Jaguars.
  • The Dolphins brought in 36 tryout players for their rookie minicamp, tweets Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

Zach Links contributed to this post.