In Part 2 of Bob LeGere's exclusive interview with Jerry Angelo, the Bears' general manager weighs in on a variety of topics including personnel, coaching and expectations.
BOURBONNAIS - Jerry Angelo knows it's too soon to make any bold predictions, but he believes this team is similar to the 2005-06 teams that went 24-8 and made back-to-back playoff appearances.
"We've had good teams in the past," said the Bears' GM, "and comparing this team to those teams - this is a very good football team."
But it's a team that has missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, jeopardizing jobs from the field to the coaching staff to the front office. It's also a team that knows its window of opportunity may be sliding shut.
"We're a very hungry football team," Angelo said, "and we're working extremely hard in practice paying attention to the little things, making sure that we're taking care of those things so we don't have big things crop up on us.
"We feel real good at this point with what we can be, and there's no reason for us to think anything else."
The Bears have a roster sprinkled with Pro Bowl players who have experience but still are young enough to be near their physical peaks.
Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, defensive end Julius Peppers, defensive tackle Tommie Harris and center Olin Kreutz have 24 Pro Bowl selections among them. Their roles are crucial.
"The key for this football team is we need for our core players to play to their abilities," Angelo said. "We need to execute and get to that level of consistency that you have to have to be a championship football team."
The Bears spent far more in free agency this past off-season than ever before, adding Peppers, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna and running back Chester Taylor. In addition they are counting on healthy seasons from Urlacher, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and running back Matt Forte to provide another boost.
Urlacher and Tinoisamoa played a total of three games last season, and Forte was hampered all season by knee and hamstring injuries.
Angelo is hesitant to single out any position as the strongest on the team, and he believes it's more important that there not be any deficiencies across the board.
"I'd like to say it's going to be defensive line or offensive line, (in that order)," Angelo said while discussing areas of strength. "But what I'm looking for is that we don't have any weaknesses.
"You have to have strengths, but more importantly you can't have any real weaknesses. Right now I feel that from everything we've seen thus far we feel like we should be at the very least solid everywhere. I feel good about a lot of positions."
The Bears' coaching staff, top to bottom, is better than at any time in Lovie Smith's seven-year tenure.
In addition to Smith, three of his assistants have been head coaches in the NFL: offensive coordinator Mike Martz, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and offensive line coach Mike Tice.
Special-teams coordinator Dave Toub is widely considered one of the best in the business.
"When Mike (Tice) comes in here, he's implementing what he knows, and what he knows will make us great," Angelo said. "He has a strong resume, as does coach Martz, and we feel really good about what they're asking the players to do in terms of what the players' strengths are.
(They are) great coaches and great leaders. They're not asking guys to do things that they can't do. They're putting square pegs in square holes."
If those pegs fit, the Bears will be back in the playoffs. If not, there will be a lot of changes at Halas Hall by next season.