Former Bears GM Jerry Angelo is on Twitter, and he’s an interesting follow thanks to his openness with regards to thoughts on current teams and players. Last night he answered a few questions from followers, and it turned into a sort of Best and Worst of Jerry.
In one answer, he outlined (in my opinion, accurately) why the Bears paid what they paid to secure the services of Jay Cutler. The Cutler trade was one of Angelo’s high points; it was an aggressive move to upgrade at the most important position, and it might have ensured his employment longer had he surrounded Cutler with competent offensive talent. (Drafting Matt Forte was his only contribution on that front; another great move, for sure, but not nearly enough.) His point with the Cutler deal was that the going rate for talented quarterbacks is a pricey one, but it’s what the Bears had to pay to avoid scrounging for scraps.
The “Worst” portion was this answer, which was in response to a question regarding the Bears defense falling off. If you want to feel a whole lot better about Phil Emery, continue reading:
“Their offense was great by Bear standards, but the bottom line is to win enough games and get into the playoffs. If you fall short of that, you didn’t accomplish your primary goal. You can’t win a championship unless you get into the playoffs. Stats are for baseball people. Football is measured in wins.”
That’s just…I can’t even…wow. First of all, that’s an incredibly reductive view of things, and just two years removed from being in charge, Jerry himself still bears some blame for the roster’s inefficiency. (The offensive cupboard was so bare when Emery took over, he couldn’t afford to do much defensively until he stabilized the offense.) The defense Angelo left behind was talented, for sure, but it was also aging and expensive. So any backhanded swipe Jerry was trying to make (both the stats element and the offense comment struck me as shots; maybe Angelo isn’t too happy that Emery has done for the offense two offseasons what Angelo failed to do his entire career in Chicago) is actually a partial shot at himself.
But beyond that, the final sentence is just plain bad. It’s endemic of an out of date view of the sport, and it’s exactly why I’m so excited that Phil Emery is in charge. That goes beyond Emery’s open-minded attitude toward the evolving world of football analytics, although I certainly appreciate Phil’s blend of analytics and scouting. I’ve praised Emery for his focus on process over results, (memorably detailed in this great Bill Barnwell profile of Emery) and the “Football is measured in wins” statement is totally and completely at odds with process-oriented thinking. It leads to very poor decisions. This isn’t an uncommon football attitude; listen for how many times the “he just wins games” or “it won’t matter if they don’t win” cliches get tossed around during the playoffs. It’s an outdated, unsophisticated way to view sports in general, not just football. (Heck, it’s an outdated way to view anything.)
And again, that’s to say nothing of the “Stats are for baseball people” side of the quote; that’s ignorance in its own fashion, and if I were looking for a GM in 2014 and saw that quote from a candidate, I’d laugh out loud. Of course, I’m not in that position, and the saddest element may be that executives, scouts, and coaches around the league might actually see that quote and nod in agreement.
The good news for the Bears, though, is that Phil Emery wouldn’t be one of them. Emery has made some questionable moves, to be sure. No executive is perfect. But I’m so happy to have someone in charge who gets it, because it sets the Bears apart for now. Look how quickly baseball thinking changed, post-Moneyball. The NBA is experiencing their own sea change, and through their SportVU camera system they’re actually doing some of the coolest stuff around. (If you’re interested in sports analytics in general, these Zach Lowe long read pieces for Grantland on the SportVU system are a must read, especially that first one.)
In a very short amount of time, there won’t be a GM around who wouldn’t shake their head upon seeing that quote from Angelo. For once the Bears are ahead of the curve, and we’re all the better for it.