Saturday, March 15, 2003

Coach's call helped Stewart choose Bears

Rockford Register Star

LAKE FOREST, Ill. - In a perfect world, you believe Kordell Stewart when he says coach Dick Jauron is the reason he decided to become the Chicago Bears' quarterback for half the money he could have earned elsewhere.

"It starts with him," Stewart said Friday after he signed a two-year, $5-million deal with the Bears.

In the sporting world, though, the words of Stewart's agent, Leigh Steinberg, are more likely to ring true.

"If you can establish yourself and play well, the quarterback position is handsomely compensated," Steinberg said. "This was the premier job available."

And if Stewart leads the Bears deep into the playoffs the next two years, it could be the most lucrative job available, too.

Chicago is the mecca of player endorsements, an art form Bears players and coaches took to new levels during and after the 1985 Super Bowl season. It may be in the third largest market in the country, but New York, the No. 1 market, is a baseball city with two football teams, and Los Angeles doesn't have a football team.

"It's no secret I've been trying to get a quarterback client in here for years," Steinberg said. "My thesis has always been that Chicago is the best football city.

"I used to count all the radio and TV shows players had. It's nirvana. You don't pass it up."

After Jake Plummer signed a $40-million deal with the Denver Broncos, Jauron zeroed in on Stewart.

"We decided that we would proceed in a very optimistic fashion as a coaching staff," Jauron said. "So every morning the past 10 days, (offensive coordinator) John (Shoop) has looked at at least two tapes of Kordell, and I've been in there for a number of them."

Jauron even called Stewart during the negotiation process.

"That's what it's all about, being able to sit down and talk to someone," Stewart said.

"We're human beings. We try to act like we're barbarians, but we're not."

Jauron and Stewart sat between general manager Jerry Angelo and Steinberg, during Friday's introductory news conference.

Jauron, who generally looks uncomfortable in these circumstances, was supremely at ease.

And while Angelo and Steinberg nervously leaned forward most of the time, Jauron and Stewart sat back in their chairs, joking and backslapping during the 30-minute session.

"Just him calling when he did to make sure everything was OK and cool through the process, I mean, that's big," Stewart said. "Not too many coaches would do that. There are a lot of egos out there that are in front of the person, and that's something that he didn't present to me."

After eight years in Pittsburgh under Bill Cowher, it's not to hard to figure out whose "ego" Stewart spoke of.

"It meant a lot to have a supportive coach, given what Kordell's come out of," Steinberg said.

Stewart lost his starting job three times and played under five different offensive coordinators in his eight-year career in Pittsburgh. He was cut after Cowher decided to go with former XFL player Tommy Maddox instead of paying Stewart $6.3 million for 2003.

"Deep down in my heart, way back in that coffin corner, there'll be a little black and gold in there because that's where I started," Stewart said. "But that's the nature of thebeast, especially at this position. If you're not mentally tough, it can break you. It didn'tbreak me. It made me a little stronger."

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