Bears chairman George McCaskey on struggles, draft, QBs & expectations

Bears general manager Ryan Pace laid out the scenario to chairman George McCaskey on draft night: If the Browns did what the Bears thought they would and drafted pass rusher Myles Garrett, the Bears would trade up with the 49ers to draft Mitch Trubisky.

The plan made sense to McCaskey.

“I was surprised that people were surprised by the draft,” McCaskey told the Sun-Times on Thursday. “Immediately after the season, Ryan said, ‘We’re going to address the quarterback via free agency and/or the draft.’ And he did it in both.

“Ryan’s said it many times — it’s the most important position in football, far and away, especially when they draft somebody that high. Hoping for great things.”

Bears chairman George McCaskey knows his team must improve from 3-13. (AP)

McCaskey said the buzz around Trubisky isn’t unprecedented around Halas Hall. He swears that Rex Grossman, the No. 22 overall pick in 2003, generated similar attention. And he stressed, as coaches have, that free-agent signee Mike Glennon is the team’s starting quarterback.

“He’s levelheaded, he’s a leader, he’s smart, he’s experienced.” McCaskey said. “[Just] the way he went about his business the moment we acquired him.”

Coming off their fewest wins since 1969, the Bears will need Glennon, Trubisky and a whole lot more to turn their fortunes around.

McCaskey called last season a “difficult year for everybody,” from players to coaches to staffers. He pointed to ESPN’s documentary series about the Bears’ loyal fans, contrasted with the Bears’ woeful performance last year.

“Our fans deserve a winner,” he said.

• • •

McCaskey admits he might have contributed to unrealistic public expectations one year ago, when he detailed coach John Fox’s success in second seasons as coach. McCaskey believes football is a different animal than other sports, which have longer rebuilds. Turnarounds can be quick.

Only it didn’t happen last year.

“One of the things I’ve liked about John from the start is his experience,” he said. “I think in retrospect, I did him a disservice by talking up his second-season turnarounds in Carolina and Denver because every situation is different.

“There’s different dynamics, scheduling quirks. Injuries are part of the equation. Each situation needs to be evaluated on its own merits.”

Fox is 9-23 after two seasons. Asked how he’ll know whether Fox is the right coach for the job, McCaskey said the Bears “evaluate everybody at the conclusion of every season,” including the chairman’s performance.

That would seemingly rule out any midseason coaching change if the season goes sideways.

“It’s the same every year,” he said. “It’s typically an end-of-season evaluation for everybody.”

• • •

McCaskey supports Pace’s mandate to build through the draft and said the Bears are counting on their rookie class to contribute right away.

He appreciated Pace’s decisiveness in the draft and free agency. The Bears missed out on big names but signed the most free agents in the league.

It might all take a while to jell, McCaskey said.

“One of the things I’m looking for is to see them come together,” he said. “When you bring in so many players, from whatever source, every team needs time and circumstances to come together.”

The Bears want to regain a home-field advantage, he said, after winning only four times at Soldier Field the last two years combined.

To reach the postseason, the Bears have to win within the NFC North.

“That’s going to be difficult,” he said. “There are three other strong teams in our division.”

Progress, then, will be measured week-by-week.

“We want to start 1-0, get a couple more,” he said. “It’s not a number, it’s a whole host of things. Of course wins are important, but everybody’s performance, mine included, is evaluated.”

• • •

McCaskey touched on other topics, both personal and leaguewide:

  • On NFL players kneeling during the national anthem: “We encourage all our players to stand respectfully for the anthem, but we respect the right of the individual to express himself. I’m proud of our players.”
  • On former Bears quarterback Jay Cutler: “I hope he does very well. I’m a big fan of Jay’s. I’m a big fan of [Dolphins coach and former Bears coordinator Adam Gase]. I’m glad he’s back, because I think the game needs him.”
  • On his mother, owner Virginia: “Our whole family takes the approach I think that every offseason is too long. I think it’s longer when you’ve had a bad year the year before.”

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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