When the Bears and Falcons linked up last year, one of the storylines was the ex-Bear factor that permeated throughout the Atlanta organization. It was noticeable on the field and on the Falcons coaching staff, but also in the front office where former general managers Phil Emery and Ryan Pace held executive gigs.
But when the two teams get together later this season at Soldier Field, there won’t be an Emery reunion. That is because the former Bears GM is retiring from his post in Atlanta:
These types of changes happen this time of year around the NFL. When the dust settles after the NFL Draft, teams shake up their front offices because those contracts tend to run through the draft. The Bears went through this last year with several long-time staffers leaving shortly after the draft’s conclusion. But when it comes to Emery, his departure is a bit different. Firstly, because he is a former Bears general manager. But also because Emery has been around the block. Emery has 23 years of NFL experience that included a run as a scouting director in Atlanta (2004-08) and Kansas City (2009-11) before landing in Chicago as the general manager from 2012-14. That is quite the résumé
Emery’s time isn’t remembered fondly in these parts. The Bears had a winning record in his first year, but the team got worse in the two seasons after. Emery’s tenure in Chicago began with a 10-win season that had the Bears a Week 17 Packers win against the Vikings from making the playoffs. But it spiraled shortly after that year came to an end. It began with his firing of Lovie Smith, hiring Marc Trestman (instead of Bruce Arians), and followed with a slew of questionable transactions along the way.
OK, so Emery drafted Kyle Long (stud offensive lineman), Charles Leno Jr. (solid left tackle), Alshon Jeffrey (Pro Bowl receiver), and Kyle Fuller (All-Pro cornerback). He deserves a tip of the cap for those efforts. However, it wasn’t enough to undo the mistakes. The Trestman hire sunk the team, broke the locker room, and made the Bears look like a clown show. And the Jay Cutler extension handcuffed Ryan Pace when he took over in 2015. I bet that made for some interesting conversations at Falcons HQ.
Nevertheless, Emery retires after eight years in Atlanta. Sometimes, guys like him pop up with a consultant job in another front office. Other times, they slide into media gigs. But so long as he doesn’t end up in Chicago, I’m OK with wherever he lands. Because after spending more than two decades working in NFL front offices, I feel as if you deserve a breather.