Bearing Down on a New Era

Phil Emery, Chicago’s second-year GM, on what he sees in new coach Marc Trestman
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ROBERT KLEMKO: Bottom line—Why fire Lovie Smith?

PHIL EMERY: We were in a position where if he stayed, he would be picking his fifth offensive coordinator. Part of it was because I really believe looking at a team that if you’re going to have success, the most important relationship is between the head coach and the quarterback. I like our quarterback. I think Jay Cutler is very talented. He wants to improve. I know he needed to improve for us to be a championship team. When we were looking at making a change we knew that if we were going to do it we were going to make that the focus point. We had to work from that end.

KLEMKO:What did Marc Trestman show that all of the other candidates did not?

EMERY: Marc’s got a unique blend of intelligence, thoughtfulness, and he’s incredibly competitive, which people don’t always see. He’s perceived as a very quiet, intellectual individual, which he is. But they don’t see all the competitiveness. In practice he empties his tank. He’s on his players, he’s on his coaches, he’s on the move. He spends himself, gives up every ounce of energy he has to make the team better. When he was interviewing, we sat down for five hours in a hotel room outside of Chicago, one on one, he and I, and we talked about preparation for a game, and there was a spot in there when he said a few things to me which made me think, Wow, this guy’s a football coach. [What that was] will stay between Marc and me, but it was very direct, the intent was aggressive. and it was all about winning. This isn’t just an offensive coordinator or QB guru—this is a head football coach who is extremely competitive and conveys it to his team in his own way. He’s here to win. And I see a lot of players that have bought in collectively.

KLEMKO:When the team parted ways with Brian Urlacher, you tabbed free-agent vets D.J. Williams and James Anderson to fill the void with one-year deals. What is your philosophy in terms of the draft versus free agency?

EMERY: With the current model with the cap, the college end of it, with the draft picks working out, is the way to go. The cost of the younger players is lower. So if you want to have cap flexibility to bring in key dynamic players, that allows you to. But the goal is winning. It doesn’t matter who the players are, or where they come from. Right now we’re tight against the cap. Why? Because we have a number of high-level contracts and veteran players. We have brought in high-level veterans Jermon Bushrod [at tackle] and Martellus Bennett [at tight end]. That eats up cap space. But in the end whatever it takes to assemble that talent for that year, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to plan ahead, obviously, but what’s important is right now. The goal is to win championships. Anything else would be unfair to the fans, and it would be unfair to the players.

Check out The MMQB’s ongoing 3Q Interview series.