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updated: 8/13/2012 8:21 PM

Angelo still might determine Bears' destiny

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The Bears' most important person this season has become obvious.

Brian Urlacher? Not even if he can't play. Jay Cutler? Not even as the franchise quarterback. Phil Emery? Not the new general manager, but close.

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The Bears' most important person is Jerry Angelo, Emery's predecessor as GM.

As much as Emery's acquisitions have improved the skill positions on offense, success depends on the line.

So whose guys are these guys, anyway? Emery's? Head coach Lovie Smith's? Offensive coordinator Mike Tice's?

No, no and no.

The five players who started on the line in the preseason opener are leftovers from Angelo's tenure.

Tice, the line coach before being promoted to coordinator this season, didn't sound impressed Monday, and it's hard for the rest of us to be optimistic.

Expressing displeasure with the players' competitiveness, Tice was like the honest cop to Smith's deceptive cop.

"We certainly have to win more individual battles than we won the other night," Tice said in reference to the preseason opener.

Tice was disappointed in how the Bears ran -- or didn't run -- the ball against the Broncos. He said of the pass blocking, "I have trouble sleeping at night until I know our quarterback is protected."

He's probably lying awake counting sacks.

OK, so the run blocking wasn't good, the pass protection keeps Tice tossing and turning, and this week he switched left tackles from enigmatic J'Marcus Webb to puzzling Chris Williams.

Meanwhile, Angelo is off somewhere after being fired for acquiring the players Tice is trying to turn into an NFL offensive line.

Acknowledging Angelo's presence hovering over the Bears' 2012 season probably isn't comforting for most fans. The locals clamored for change at Halas Hall after last season and he took the fall for Smith.

Despite the local perception, Angelo wasn't the NFL's worst or best general manager. He was somewhere in the middle, which not coincidentally happened to be where the Bears were the past few years.

Mediocrity made it difficult to argue against Angelo's departure. He was here a long time, just as Ozzie Guillen was with the White Sox, and his time was up, just as Guillen's was.

Left behind in Lake Forest were the offensive linemen Angelo acquired and Tice is trying to mold into a legitimate NFL unit.

Webb and Williams are competing, if that's the right word, at left tackle; Chris Spencer is at left guard; Roberto Garza is at center; Lance Louis is at right guard; and Gabe Carimi is at right tackle.

"You saw the same thing I saw," Tice said. "Physically we got our butts kicked."

Emery must think more of this group than analysts in the media and the stands do because it's considered a potential disaster for the Bears.

The new GM, counting on improvement from within, did little to fortify the old GM's offensive line with high-profile reinforcements.

Translated that means the Bears are expecting Tice to make something of, well, you know, of whatever.

Right now there are visions of Cutler on his back, Matt Forte on crutches and Brandon Marshall being wasted if the not-so-fab five doesn't at least start resembling a fab five.

That won't depend as much on how well Tice's staff coaches them as how well Angelo's staff scouted them.

Like it or not, the O-line is the Angelo-line.

For that reason the Bears don't belong to Jerry Angelo anymore, but their destiny just might.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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