Difference between the Bears and the Packers? The McCaskeys

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We have all four major sports.

They have the Packers.

We have the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

They have the Packers.

We have the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium and the Shedd Aquarium.

They have the Packers.

We have a forest of skyscrapers.

They have the Packers.

I’m starting to think our priorities are out of whack.

Green Bay is a small city with one of the smartest and most successful organizations in the NFL. We’re the third-largest city in the United States with a football franchise that thinks a nickel back is change from a dollar. Perhaps we’ve spread ourselves too thin. Perhaps in our hurry to be bigger and better, taller and straighter, artsier and craftier, we’ve allowed ourselves to get soft where it matters. Football.

The Packers are 5-3 and the Bears are 3-5 heading into their matchup Sunday night in Green Bay. The Bears could pull an upset, but it wouldn’t change a couple of truths:

They want to be the Packers when they grow up.

They have no idea how to do it.

When George Halas died in 1983, he left the Bears to his daughter, Virginia. The Bears team that won the Super Bowl in the 1985 season had the old man’s fingerprints all over it, from the hiring of coach Mike Ditka to the amassing of talent, much of it collected by the general manager Halas had picked, Jim Finks. When those fingerprints started fading, the McCaskeys’ influence took hold. I like to think of it as a passive takeover.

There is no shortage of explanations for why Green Bay has enjoyed continued success and the Bears haven’t. Better players. Better coaches. Smarter people. But there’s also this: The Packers aren’t owned by the McCaskeys. In the past 21 seasons, the Packers have won two Super Bowls and have been to the playoffs 16 times. In the same span, the Bears haven’t won a Super Bowl and have been to the playoffs just five times.

The Packers are a publicly owned, non-profit franchise. There are more than 360,000 shareholders, none of whom have a say in company matters or a chance of making a penny from their investment. There is an executive committee overseeing the operation, a very good general manager (Ted Thompson) and a very good coach (Mike McCarthy). Good decisions and good hires seem to be the norm rather than the exception.

The Packers’ last four coaches: McCarthy, Mike Sherman, Ray Rhodes (fired after only one season and an 8-8 record!) and Mike Holmgren.

The Bears’ last four coaches: Marc Trestman, Lovie Smith, Dick Jauron, Dave Wannstedt. The three most-recent coaches especially are a reflection of the McCaskeys — safe, quiet, unremarkable. Same goes with the last two general managers, Phil Emery and Jerry Angelo. The Packers’ most-recent general managers are Thompson, Sherman and Ron Wolf, who is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2015 class.

Shall we talk quarterbacks?

In 2008, the Packers saw that franchise icon Brett Favre wasn’t the player he used to be, and, despite the shrieking protests from fans and media (including me), they decided to move forward with some guy named Aaron Rodgers.

You could give Superman’s eyesight to the Bears, and they’d still tell you they see Jay Cutler leading them to greatness. I have the hunch that if Cutler were the last quarterback available to sign on the planet, scouting-savvy Green Bay would tell a fullback to start getting his arm loose.

The Packers aren’t the only well-run franchise in the NFL, but they are the well-run franchise that regularly shows up in the Bears’ nightmares. They’re the well-run franchise that the team from Chicago would do well to emulate but can’t. The only way this rivalry evens out is if a family of well-meaning brown socks buys the Packers.

The answer is simple and about as likely to happen as a talking fish: The McCaskeys need to remove themselves from all decisions having to do with the football product and let a brilliant football czar build an organization in his image. Something like the Packers did in the 1990s with Wolf.

Again, maybe the Bears will upset the Packers on Sunday, but that won’t change history. This will remain a discussion of the haves and have-nots.

We have lively neighborhoods and a vibrant music scene.

They have the Packers.

We’re about to have a George Lucas Museum that looks like Three Mile Island.

They have the Packers.

You tell me which city is more evolved.

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