Five questions the Bears must ask GM candidates

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Bears president Ted Phillips, left, and chairman George McCaskey, right, will interview GM candidates

Forget the buzzwords, the “Bears Way” and the need for toughness and an identity.

And forget, even, the obvious: “Whom are you going to hire to coach?”

When the Bears’ brass — chairman George McCaskey, president Ted Phillips and adviser Ernie Accorsi — interviews four GM candidates, there are questions they’ll need answered.

Here are five big ones:

1. What’s your plan for Jay Cutler?

McCaskey said he was a big fan of his quarterback, personally and professionally, “but all of the personnel decisions are going to be up to the new general manager and the new head coach.”

It stands to reason, then, that Bears management has the stomach for parting with Cutler, be it through trade or release.

But would you?

Cutler’s $15.5 million salary in 2015 is already guaranteed. But if Cutler is on the roster on the third day of the league season — March 12 — $10 million of the $16 million owed him in 2016 becomes guaranteed, too.

Your future bosses said they have Super Bowl aspirations this upcoming season.

Are your odds better with Cutler or the oh-so-unimpressive list of free-agent quarterbacks? Brian Hoyer, anyone? Mark Sanchez? Jake Locker? Jimmy Clausen?

You have too many needs in other places to draft a quarterback early.

2. How will you deal with distractions?

The previous regime approved Brandon Marshall’s weekly trips to New York to appear on TV, and it gave Lance Briggs the day off so, whether it knew it or not, he could open a barbecue restaurant.

Would you allow that?

More important, how will you deal with Marshall? Last year alone, he signed his contract on “The View,” held a news conference to rehash an old domestic-violence charge and, on at least two instances, challenged someone to a boxing match.

His contract runs another three years, and he shows no sign of tamping down his personality. Is that OK with you?

3. Philosophically, where should the Bears go?

It’s a dicey question for a place that falls back on history so fast.

Do you want to be the Monsters of the Midway 2.0? Or was there a reason the Bears chose the offensive-minded Marc Trestman (because they realized that, in the modern NFL, explosive plays — and playmakers — are a must)?

In a division with Aaron Rodgers, must the Bears terrorize him with a pass rush (as the Lions do) or try to outscore him through the air?

How will your coach steer those concepts?

And are your future bosses, rooted in the past, on board with it?

4. A tricky one: How will you make the defense both younger and better?

In his three drafts, deposed general manager Phil Emery selected seven mostly unimpressive defensive players in the first three rounds.

Of those, cornerback Kyle Fuller and linebacker Jon Bostic can help you next year, though the verdict is still out on Shea McClellin. Defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton could be rotation players for a while.

You’ll be drafting seventh and need help at linebacker, safety and cornerback. How will you make sure your hit rate is better than the Bears’ was the last three years?

Everyone wants to draft and develop players. But you’ll desperately need to. The Bears were the third-oldest team in the NFL last season.

5. How will you handle departing vets?

Divorces are always ugly, but when Brian Urlacher walked away in a huff and later retired, his veteran defensive teammates noticed. It created a rift on the team that never truly healed.

If you decide you don’t want Briggs or Charles Tillman to return, fine.

But there’s a trick to letting them go without allowing them to influence locker-room culture for years to come.


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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