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MORRISSEY: Bears looking for coach who can walk the walk, and talk too

Phil Emery might conclude his search for new coach sooner than later perhaps time for East-West Shrine Game next Saturday.

Phil Emery might conclude his search for a new coach sooner than later, perhaps in time for the East-West Shrine Game next Saturday. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 5, 2013 6:36AM



If you have some time on your hands, go back and watch Phil Emery’s news conference from Tuesday. The video is available on chicagobears.com, and in it, you’ll see a reasonable person answering questions without sounding like a parent who says, “Because I said so.’’

The Bears’ general manager has been lauded for his openness during that gathering and, well, OK. Good for him. But all of us — fans, media, collaterally damaged bystanders — are so beaten down from listening to Lovie Smith all these years that we treat any acknowledgment of our existence by a Bears representative as nothing short of a miracle.

The GM talking? And laying out a plan to find the next coach? And being specific about what a good coach should be?

Amazing.

But substance matters, and what Emery actually said proved that we weren’t idiots for thinking that life under Smith was not the way life is supposed to be in the NFL. We lost sight of that with the non-answers and the deadpan face waiting for a joke that never came.

This might strike some of you as peripheral, beside-the-point stuff — the grumping of a sports columnist who prefers a bigger-than-life personality in a coach. Trust me, any personality would suffice. I’ll take Jon Gruden, even if he turns out to be insufferable.

How a coach carries himself is important. He represents an entire corporate entity. What board of directors would want vacant looks out of its leader, especially when other, better brands are beating him on a consistent basis?

As Emery said, the coach sets the tone for the franchise. Smith was as warm as something forgotten in the freezer, and that spread throughout Halas Hall.

“I want somebody that has high energy,’’ Emery said. “Somebody that pulls people together in the building. Whatever his personality subset is, or however he approaches it, I want somebody that has some warmth that pulls everybody together and that we have synergy, not only with our players but with everybody in the building to work toward our common goal. Upbeat and positive. Everybody has a different personality. Everybody represents themselves in a different way. But those qualities are paramount. We all want to work together in a positive environment toward winning championships.

“I want somebody that’s good on their feet. I think working with the media, not only in Chicago but in a national sense, is very important. I want this person to stand up and represent us well.’’

Smith’s defenders love to point to New England’s Bill Belichick as an example of a coach who is as tight-lipped as a Secret Service agent. Two things about that: One, Belichick has Super Bowl rings, plural. Lovie doesn’t have one, singular. Two, when Belichick coached the Browns in the 1990s, he got run out of town for not winning and for having the personality of a beat-up wingtip.

Smith’s defenders say his players play hard for him. I didn’t realize that was such an unusual accomplishment in the NFL.

In a column earlier in the week, colleague Rick Telander told a wonderful story about Smith that he had heard through back channels. It seems Smith had overcome a fear and learned how to swim, in secret, at the pool inside Halas Hall. I wanted to cry. How much more human would Lovie have been to us had he shared that publicly? Why the need to keep everything under lock and key?

I’ll never understand it. If you come back at me again with Belichick or Tom Landry, I’ll point again to Super Bowl titles. You can get away with anything, even antisocial behavior, if you win. Smith didn’t win championships. By the way, Belichick has opened up enough to say he’s a big Bon Jovi fan. Come to think of it, points off for that.

Emery is in the middle of an intense coaching search. Names of candidates are leaking out, though probably not from him. Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians is the latest on the list. There’s the strangest vibe around Chicago that anyone who cares about the Bears is in on the search process. Cool, even if it’s not real.

Be careful what you wish for —isn’t that what people are saying as the Bears move in a new direction? No worries. I’ll take the chance they’ll find a coach who can speak and win at the same time. I had forgotten that was physically possible.



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