What can Bears GM candidates expect from Ernie Accorsi?
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This week, the Bears’ search for their next general manager finally means action. Questions will be asked, answers given, opinions formed and decisions reached.
And at the center of the Bears’ decision-making process will be 73-year-old consultant Ernie Accorsi, whom president and chief executive officer Ted Phillips described as a ‘‘huge difference.’’
‘‘He understands coaches,’’ Phillips said last week. ‘‘He understands general managers.’’
So what does that mean for Chris Ballard (Chiefs), Brian Gaine (Texans), Lake Dawson (Titans) and Ryan Pace (Saints), the Bears’ GM candidates? According to multiple sources, the Bears are expected to name their next GM by the end of the week. After that, they’ll expand their coaching search.
‘‘The one thing about [Accorsi] is that there is no [bleep] to him,’’ said an NFL executive who has known Accorsi for more than 20 years and has been interviewed by him. ‘‘It is the NFL at the highest mentality.’’
According to the executive, who requested anonymity because of his high-ranking position, Accorsi considers a prospective GM’s philosophy to be crucial. In the past, Accorsi also has expressed a preference for GMs who primarily stay in-house and manage rather than for those who spend the bulk of their time on the road scouting.
Candidates must be able to mesh with Phillips and chairman George McCaskey, but Accorsi also has quite the personality. A journalism major at Wake Forest who started his sports career as a writer, Accorsi can be a flamboyant storyteller.
‘‘Ernie can talk,’’ the executive said. ‘‘If you’re just quiet as a mouse sitting in the corner, I don’t think you’re getting the job. I don’t think Ernie is going to call on you.’’
Time will tell how much influence Accorsi, a former Colts, Browns and Giants GM, will have with Phillips and McCaskey.
Ballard, who worked for the Bears for 12 years before leaving to become the Chiefs’ director of player personnel for two seasons, is considered the favorite, sources said. But the executive said Gaine might be Accorsi’s top recommendation, considering his connections with longtime NFL coach and GM Bill Parcells.
‘‘[Accorsi] is old-school,’’ the executive said.
Gaine has considerably more front-office experience than Ballard, having worked with Parcells with the Jets, Cowboys and Dolphins.
It also shouldn’t be a surprise that the Bears’ search appears more restricted than the wide-ranging one by the Jets. Accorsi is invested in his recommendations.
‘‘Ernie is not going to put his [butt] on the line unless he trusts [the candidate],’’ the executive said. ‘‘He has very limited people that he would suggest.’’
John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that links minority candidates with NFL jobs, has known Accorsi for decades. Wooten, who worked in NFL front offices from 1975 to 2002, recently called Accorsi a fair man who operates the right way.
‘‘We have had a very strong relationship with Ernie over the years,’’ he said, ’’going all the way back forever.’’
Accorsi was most recently a consultant for the Panthers during their GM search in 2012. Dave Gettleman, who spent nine years with Accorsi and the Giants, was hired, and the Panthers have won two NFC South titles since.
Accorsi has had his hand in other GM searches since leaving the Giants in 2007, too. He recommended Thomas Dimitroff to the Falcons in 2008, and they have made the playoffs four times since then.
It will be essential for any candidate — GM or coach — to win over Accorsi. But Phillips and McCaskey have said they will make the final decisions.
‘‘The owner will decide,’’ the executive said. ‘‘It’s just having Ernie’s advice and suggestions to kind of guide it.’’