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posted: 1/5/2013 8:12 PM

Credit King George with Bears' new direction

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  • Bears general manager Phil Emery, bottom, and team chairman George McCaskey enter the room for Monday's news conference announcing the end of the Lovie Smith era as coach of the team.

    Bears general manager Phil Emery, bottom, and team chairman George McCaskey enter the room for Monday's news conference announcing the end of the Lovie Smith era as coach of the team.
    Associated Press


Over the last three decades, it's been very easy to criticize the McCaskey family for disastrous decisions on, off and anywhere near a football field.

All of it deserved.

But credit where it's due, George McCaskey is different.

I had been told that by a Bears employee in December 2011, and, of course, was highly skeptical.

Not long after hearing it, however, McCaskey dumped GM Jerry Angelo, brought in Phil Emery and gave Emery the power to fire and hire a coach -- after living through one more year of Lovie Smith.

Call it due diligence, call it pragmatic, call it a $5 million salary, but McCaskey wanted Emery to see a year of Smith close up before making a decision on the head coach.

Or, maybe it was something much smarter than that. Maybe George McCaskey didn't want to start the clock on Emery, knowing the window was shutting on this team's ability to win, and Emery would need time to rebuild.

So now Emery is doing with Jay Cutler what McCaskey did with Smith, and that's giving it another year to see if Cutler really is the guy who can lead the Bears back to the Super Bowl, asking the next coach to try to make it work with Cutler.

It's tricky, because Emery needs so many parts to make this thing whole again, but he will try to do it on the fly while giving Cutler better coaching and better skill around him.

It won't be easy as Cutler gets his sixth offensive coordinator in seven years, and it may be why Emery tries to find someone more familiar with Cutler.

The flip side is that some coaches familiar with Cutler might not want anything to do with this. If that sounds harsh, maybe it is, but that's life in the NFL, where Cutler's reputation is far from sterling.

It's too easy to say it's all Cutler's fault, not with the mess that's been around him, but he also has earned some of that reputation.

Cutler will be 30 and starting his eighth NFL season in 2013, and you have to wonder if his performance will ever match his talent. But Emery is willing to give that a try, especially given how hard it has been for the Bears to find a No. 1 QB.

"I am convinced of Jay's talents as a franchise quarterback," Emery said last week, "but we must build around Jay."

If it doesn't work for Cutler next season with yet another new coordinator, and with -- presumably -- a brilliant offensive mind as head coach, that will almost certainly end the Cutler era in Chicago, which means starting over at the quarterback position.

That's why the Bears will look to draft a QB in April, and it will be a crucial pick for Emery, even though this year's QB crop doesn't appear to be as deep as 2012.

And then it will be just as crucial that the new staff begins to develop a young quarterback as they also try to get everything they can from Cutler's amazing skills.

Of course, that is on Emery, his new coach and offensive coordinator. It is their responsibility to make certain Cutler is his best in 2013, as Smith and his wacky succession of offensive minds will no longer be here to take the blame.

The new regime will be charged with getting better personnel and better quarterback play, and Emery insists he will be able to do that.

It remains, certainly, to be seen.

In the meantime, full credit to Emery for seeing the disaster that was the offense, and making the huge decision to move on from Smith. The alternative would have meant Emery's credibility gone forever in Chicago.

At the same time, all hail the king -- George McCaskey -- for wanting to win and for his willingness to be different.

He has brought honor back to the family name by making difficult decisions, and charging those he has hired with the power to do the same.

Make no mistake about what has occurred in the last year, and understand those changes would not have occurred without this McCaskey stepping into the void.

Someday, for the love of John Skibinski and all that's holy, you may look back on the moment George McCaskey took over as the day the Bears began building toward something great again.

•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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