There are rights of passage to each NFL season and one is the annual Labor Day get-together with general managers immediately after the establishment of the final rosters to get their take, and for us to ask why they did what he did.
Talking about his 2013 Bears roster, GM Phil Emery actually started us off with a state of the team address before taking questions, and reminded us of his focus when he started putting this team together.
“Our No. 1 goal is we want to develop or have more offensive weapons for the quarterback. No. 2 is, in developing those weapons for a quarterback, we were going to become a quarterback-centered team and we were going to need to develop the protection of the quarterback, and those weapons that he had in terms of helping him with the protection, always having an outlet in the center of the field that he could see while he was undergoing pressure.”
Although Emery never mentioned Jay Cutler by name, he really didn’t have to, did he? It seems we all can agree the Bears will go as far as Cutler takes them this year, and Emery is comfortable tying his own future directly to Cutler’s.
But it certainly is fair to ask the question: Is it wise to bet the farm on a quarterback who can become a free agent after the season, particularly when you’ve said you won’t negotiate or extend any contracts during this season?
Perhaps it is when you throw in the occasional “never mind” on something we all thought we heard.
On the first day of training camp in Bourbonnais, Emery and coach Marc Trestman met with the media at length, and one of the things we thought Emery said was there would be no contract talk until after the season. It’s been kind of a theme around this team and preseason.
But Emery might be hedging his bets a bit now, telling us today: “I said we were inclined not to. That doesn’t mean we absolutely won’t. But the fairest thing and the right thing for us on our club right now is to concentrate on this season.”
Or maybe we all just incorrectly extrapolated something we thought we heard?
What actually was said is not a point worth debating, and I’m fine gong with Emery’s version. But what is interesting about the current interpretation is the way it magnifies how completely intertwined the fates of Emery, Cutler and Trestman appear to be.
When I asked Emery if having a franchise tag in his pocket made him more comfortable in challenging players to earn their next contract on the field, he replied, “I think every player is playing for their future each and every day. So, I guess what I’m going to say is I think every player plays as if it’s his last year, last game or last practice. I don’t know that money is a motivator for all players. If it adds to their motivation level, all the better.”
After leading with improving the offense around the quarterback, Emery talked extensively about his goals of building this team from within through the draft and signing undrafted rookie free agents.
Certainly no one could blame him for straining his arm a tad with a pat on his own back for all six of his draft choices and three undrafted rookie free agents making this year’s team.
Even more to his credit, the GM pointed out that although those numbers are all well and good, now they have to prove on the field that they deserve to be here and can play in the NFL.
Best of all for Bears fans, Emery reiterated his position that the goal for his Bears every year is to win Super Bowls.
While he wisely stopped short of predicting one this year, he does appear to feel he’s put together a roster that is capable of contending.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.