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News » Angelo's audible puts heat on Orton first, then on 'D'

Angelo's audible puts heat on Orton first, then on 'D'

Angelo's audible puts heat on Orton first, then on 'D'
All over Chicago, the Bring Donovan McNabb Home project resumed Tuesday after Jerry Angelo made it clear he hopes to upgrade the Bears at quarterback.

Angelo went to great lengths to express confidence in Kyle Orton but, more than anything in a 30-minute news conference at Halas Hall, the Bears general manager established quarterback as the team's top off-season priority.

It was a stunning departure for a GM who has made a career out of prioritizing defense and a strong running game.

"I know that there's going to be a lot of talk about our No. 1 receiver [but] guys, it starts with the quarterback," Angelo said. "We have to get the quarterback position stabilized. And we're fixated on that."

Hello, Matt Cassel? Anybody for Jeff Garcia at 39? Would the Bengals trade Carson Palmer?

To many in town the development conjures up images of McNabb, who has a year left on his contract but constantly is rumored to be leaving Philadelphia. The idea is irresistible to anyone who has seen McNabb's resurgence in the second half of the season.

But understand how difficult it would be to pry McNabb out of Philadelphia. As for Cassel, a bidding war will commence and his representatives likely will demand he be handed the No. 1 job.

More realistically, Angelo's newfound commitment to quarterback competition opened the door to a mid-level veteran free agent with starting experience such as Chris Simms or J.P. Losman or a first- or second-round draft choice such as Nate Davis of Ball State.

The decision could make Orton a better overall quarterback later even if it brings Angelo a little criticism now. Criticizing Angelo for going in this direction doesn't seem fair or logical given how much heat the Bears received when they protected Rex Grossman from competition.

"If we feel [free agency] is our best option, then we have to look at it very seriously because that's what I just said," Angelo said.

Bringing in a new quarterback wouldn't seem to bode well for offensive coordinator Ron Turner, who said after Sunday's season finale Orton would enter training camp as the unchallenged starter. Continuity matters much less to an offense willing yet again to go in a different direction under center.

On the other side of the ball, Angelo didn't give Bob Babich a vote of confidence when given the chance. Babich still could retain his defensive coordinator title but have less authority in a scenario involving the addition of Rod Marinelli to the coaching staff.

The Bears have done everything but paint Marinelli's name on a parking spot to make the fired Lions head coach feel welcome, including freeing up a spot on the defensive staff Tuesday when they fired secondary coach Steve Wilks.

If the respected Marinelli returns the love, a role of assistant head coach/defensive line would assuage some of the concern Babich is overmatched for his position.

Regarding the roster, Angelo left no doubt he will pay more attention to the videotape than the payroll when determining the future of players.

"I'm not hesitant to cut anybody," Angelo said.

Angelo didn't want to name names, but the warning should have echoed loudest in the off-season homes of Nathan Vasher and Adewale Ogunleye. Both big-ticket defensive starters had disappointing seasons.

Tommie Harris' play didn't match his contract either, but Angelo identified the defensive tackle as one of the players he expects to have a bounce-back season in 2009.

That list also includes Brian Urlacher, who Angelo said "still has enough to make a Pro Bowl."

You want to believe Angelo meant every kind, eyebrow-raising word about the Bears franchise player who clearly appears to be in decline. But a cynic might wonder if Angelo's public remark about Urlacher also served a bigger purpose in trying to increase the linebacker's trade value.

Dangling Urlacher as trade bait would take the Bears down an unusual, unpredictable off-season path.

It would be almost as surprising as a defensive-minded GM of a team that gets off the bus running identifying quarterback as its most pressing need when the incumbent has 33 NFL starts. Almost.


Stay on top of the Bears: Get updates from Halas Hall when they happen from our team of reporters at chicagotribune.com/huddleup

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 31, 2008

Trent Cole Name: Trent Cole
Position: DE
Age: 25
Experience: 4 years
College: Cincinnati
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