After 11 seasons as the Chicago Bears' general manager, Jerry Angelo was fired in January of 2012 and subsequently replaced by Phil Emery.
Emery had the pedigree of former strength and conditioning coach at the college level, was once a scout with the Bears organization from 1998-2004 and was the director of college scouting for the Atlanta Falcons from 2004-08 and the Kansas City Chiefs from 2009-2011.
In his short two-year tenure in Chicago, he has proven that just when you think you know what he is going to do, he may end up going in a completely different direction. He has taken many nontraditional routes in building his team and may do so again this offseason in one or more of these different ways.
Marshall was viewed as a bit of a liability at the time, considering he had recently disclosed having borderline personality disorder while ESPN.com reported that he had sparred at times with quarterback Chad Henne and once claimed that his goal was to get ejected from a game before halftime.
Emery was not afraid to bring in Marshall and was willing to stake his early reputation on Marshall's ability to control himself.
The unexpected trade ended up paying off, as Marshall has been one of the most dominant wide receivers of the past two seasons in Chicago and has been a model citizen off the field—most notably by speaking out about his personality disorder.
In Free Agency
During the 2013 offseason, Emery faced a tough decision on whether or not to re-sign veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher. Urlacher had been the face of the franchise since being drafted ninth overall in 2000 NFL draft, but Emery only offered him a one-year, $2 million offer, which he declined.
Fans were in an uproar over the team not bringing him back, yet Emery never wavered on the deal that was offered and the team moved on.
When pressed on the issue later, Emery told Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com that he had no regrets over how the situation was handled:
We've committed more resources to Brian than any Bears [player] in the history of the organization. We were willing to commit more. In the end, we just could not agree on what that amount was. It's no more than that.
Despite the overwhelming sentiment from Chicago fans in favor of bringing Urlacher back, Emery was steadfast in his belief that the money could be better spent on numerous free agents than just on one.
The team ended up signing guys like Matt Slauson, D.J. Williams and James Anderson to one-year deals because of the money saved by not signing the former "face of the franchise" to money that he simply was not worth.
Through the Draft
One area in which Emery has made some of his most unexpected moves has been through the draft.
In 2012, with his first selection as general manager of the Bears, he selected Shea McClellin with the 19th overall pick.
It was curious that Emery would draft a player like McClellin, who was better suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker than a 4-3 defensive end—considering the team was still utilizing head coach Lovie Smith's Cover 2 base scheme on defense.
Here's how NFL.com described him prior to the draft: "He is an undersized DE who 3-4 teams will value at the OLB position. At just under 260 pounds, he can struggle at times against bigger linemen."
McClellin has struggled in his first two seasons in Chicago, and in a press conference earlier this year, head coach Marc Trestman suggested that McClellin might be moved to another position. "We'll look hard at Shea doing other things besides being lined up at defensive end. If that means moving him to a linebacker position as we move forward, that will be under consideration as well," he said.
While it may still be a bit premature to call McClellin a bust, New England's Chandler Jones—selected two picks after McClellin—has been a force for the Patriots over the past two seasons and may be the ultimate proof that going the unexpected route is not always the best in the NFL.
Many were convinced that Emery made the same mistake in 2013 when he selected Kyle Long 20th overall.
Long was tabbed as a player with immense talent, but his lack of experience saw CBSSports.com's Dane Brugler give him a second-round grade, even projecting Long to the Bears in his final mock draft as the team's second-round pick.
Despite groaning from the fanbase on another wasted first-round pick, Long helped prove Emery's unexpected move as a good one, starting all 16 games and ending up going to the Pro Bowl after an injury to San Francisco's Mike Iupati.
Emery has proven during his tenure that his unexpected moves can be for the better and worse, but considering how his short tenure has been thus far, fans should once again expect the unexpected this offseason.
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