Illinois Public Media News
Mike Martz is out after two seasons as the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator.
The team has confirmed on Tuesday that Martz will not be back. Hours earlier, general manager Jerry Angelo was fired.
The changes come after the Bears finished 8-8 following a collapse marked by season-ending injuries to quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte, along with the arrest of backup receiver Sam Hurd on federal drug charges.
Chicago dropped five in a row following a 7-3 start before closing out the season with a win at Minnesota.
Martz had an expiring contract, and speculation that he might be on his way out mounted as the losses piled up. Quarterbacks coach Shane Day will not be back, either.
Jerry Angelo was fired as the Chicago Bears' general manager Tuesday following a team collapse marked by injuries to Jay Cutler and Matt Forte and a drug scandal involving receiver Sam Hurd.
Angelo had been on the job 11 years, a stretch in which the Bears reached one Super Bowl and advanced to another NFC championship game. An 8-8 record this season, a questionable draft record and an inability to fill big holes, particularly on offense, led to his ouster.
His dismissal comes after a wild season in which the Bears at one point seemed a lock to make the playoffs. A five-game losing streak, however, spoiled a 7-3 start and kept Chicago out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
Cutler broke his right thumb trying to help make a tackle following an interception during a win over San Diego on Nov. 20. The Bears didn't win again until the season-finale at Minnesota on Sunday.
It didn't help that Forte sprained a ligament in his right knee against Kansas City on Dec. 4, leaving the offense without its two best players. Those would be blows for any team, but they were crippling for Chicago. Throw in Hurd's arrest on federal drug charges in mid-December, and what looked like a promising season turned into a disaster for the team and organization.
The injuries exposed a glaring lack of depth as the Bears tumbled out of playoff contention.
The low point might have been the loss at Denver when Marion Barber ran out of bounds late in regulation. That stopped the clock, giving the Broncos enough time to tie the score. If that weren't enough, he lost a fumble in overtime, helping set up the winning field goal.
Meanwhile, backup quarterback Caleb Hanie was a bust filling in for Cutler, going 0-4 as the starter before the Bears turned to Josh McCown. Chicago claimed Kyle Orton off waivers after Cutler went down, but Kansas City had priority and got him. The Bears then brought in Josh McCown, and Angelo left himself open to second-guessing when he decided not to go after Donovan McNabb once Minnesota let him go.
The lack of a reliable backup quarterback, continuing issues on the offensive line and the inability to land a top-tier receiver increased the heat on the general manager.
Roy Williams struggled to hold onto the ball and get open in his first season with the Bears after a disappointing run in Dallas. Hurd, another Cowboys import, was quickly waived after being charged with trying to set up a drug-dealing network following his arrest with more than a pound of cocaine.
The arrest only compounded Angelo's problems. Now, Angelo's out and the Bears are picking up the pieces. For all the criticism, Angelo did have successes. The Bears won four division championships, including the 2006 team's run to the Super Bowl and last year's trip to the NFC championship game.
He traded for Cutler and signed Julius Peppers. But he also had a spotty draft record that included such high-profile disappointments as Cedric Benson and Rex Grossman.
Former first-rounder Chris Williams has mostly struggled, and first-round pick Gabe Carimi missed most of his rookie season with a right knee injury. Angelo also was unable to find a top receiver, through the draft, a trade or free agency. Chicago didn't anyone ready to step in when a solid but aging line that helped the Bears reach the playoffs in 2005 and 2006 began to go downhill.
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz called for deep drops and Cutler took repeated poundings. That changed after Cutler made his feelings clear. The Bears started getting the ball out of his hands quicker, handing the ball off more to Forte and piling up the wins. But just when it looked as if they had saved their season, everything came apart.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
A plan to cut service at the Champaign Fire Department has stalled as city officials and the local fire union try to reach an agreement to save the city nearly $420,000 in overtime costs.
The city had set a Jan. 1 deadline to reduce operations for Engine Co. 154 located on West John Street, but recent budget negotiations pushed that date to Jan. 15.
Champaign Firefighters Local 1260 President Chris Zaremba said union members are willing to make concessions to ensure that the truck is available whenever there is an emergency.
"The union is looking at doing approximately $350,000 of that, and the city would essentially match what we're doing to come up with the rest," Zaremba said. "I believe the (union) supports us making some sort of offer to try to keep that company open."
Champaign Fire Chief Doug Forsman said he is cautiously optimistic that an agreement will be reached. However, if there is not a compromise, then service to staff the fire engine would be cut by 75 percent.
While Forsman said Engine Co. 154 is the least busy out of all of the city's fire companies, he acknowledges that reducing service would have an impact on emergency response. If service is reduced for Engine Co. 154, one of the city's adjacent fire stations would have to respond.
"That causes a little bit of a time delay, and causes an area to be uncovered that would normally remain covered during that incident," Forsman said.
A call seeking comment from the city was not immediately returned.
Meanwhile, plans are still in place to stop overnight operations at the front desk of the Champaign Police Department from 7pm until 7am.
Reducing staffing overnight is expected to save the city approximately $140,000. Deputy Chief Troy Daniels said the change will take affect by the middle of January.
"The lobby is not used a lot during those times anyway." Daniels said. "Certainly, we want to keep someone at the front desk at often as possible. Right now, we're being told the cuts should come and that we should implement the cuts, but certainly the council or the city manager's office could tell us otherwise at any time."
Daniels said the department is preparing for the change by modifying the way the public can get a hold of law enforcement when the front desk is closed. Unlike the negotiations going on between the city and the fire union, he noted nothing like that is taking place to prevent the front desk from closing.
Things are looking up for the Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul.
After it looked like a bleak financial picture might cause the museum to close, the last year has seen an improved bottom line.
Nancy Kobel is president of the museum's board of directors. Kobel tells The (Champaign) News-Gazette that the museum has enough money to cover payroll until the end of January.
She said that's a lot better than in August 2010 when the museum had only enough money to cover about two weeks of payroll.
Kobel said the board's efforts to promote the museum on the former Air Force base have been effective enough to allow them to stay open on Sundays, something they couldn't afford to do last winter.
Judy Wiegand becomes the Champaign School District's next permanent superintendent this year; replacing Arthur Culver, who left Unit 4 more than six months ago. Wiegand is currently serving in that role on an interim basis. She says she wants to improve offerings in career and technical education, and further develop the STEM initiative, which seeks to boost education in science, technology, engineering and math. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers recently spoke with Wiegand about her goals for the district. She outlines a couple of areas that she wants to see added to Unit 4's strategic plan, which was developed in 2008.
(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)
UCLA players walked off the field at AT&T Park, through the tunnel and into the wrong side of the program's proud history.
With coach Rick Neuheisel already fired, interim man Mike Johnson on the sideline and successor Jim Mora watching from the stands, an already odd postseason appearance for the Pac-12's prime punchline came with low expectations.
Kevin Prince threw a costly interception that Terry Hawthorne returned for a touchdown, finishing off UCLA's forgettable season with a 20-14 loss to Illinois in the Fight Hunger Bowl on Saturday.
"This is not the way we wanted to go out, to send our seniors out," tight end Joseph Fauria said. "But at the same time, I guess there's some sort of relief for guys that have another year and looking forward to new beginnings."
The final mark this UCLA team leaves will be its record: an embarrassing 6-8 campaign for a bowl team.
All hope at a non-losing record for the Bruins ended when Nathan Scheelhaase added a 60-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Jenkins midway through the fourth quarter to seal the first victory for Illinois (7-6) since beating Indiana 12 weeks ago.
"It's extremely disappointing," Prince said. "Going for a month thinking about this game, preparing for it, spending a week here, everything leads up to this one moment. And then to fall short, it's very disappointing.
"It's upsetting that we couldn't get one for the seniors."
UCLA was held to 18 yards rushing in its third consecutive loss. Prince threw two TD passes, including one in the closing minute to Nelson Rosario after the game had been decided.
But it was an earlier pass by Prince that proved decisive and helped give Illinois its first bowl victories in consecutive seasons in school history. Three plays after Derek Dimke missed a 37-yard field goal for Illinois late in the third quarter, Prince dropped back and threw to his left looking for Shaquelle Evans.
Hawthorne read the play perfectly and stepped in front of the throw for the interception and had a clear path to the end zone for the score that gave the Illini a 10-7 lead.
"All gas, no brakes for me," Hawthorne said. "Once I catch it, I'm gone.
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