If Ryan Pace had wanted to leave Halas Hall and rejoice after being named the Bears’ general manager and achieving his life’s dream, chairman George McCaskey would’ve been cool with that.
Then again, that’s not the type of man McCaskey hired, and he knew it.
Pace went right to work, leading Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles into Halas Hall’s Bronko Nagurski Room for his interview just moments after signing his five-year contract to run the Bears.
“You would think it would be natural for somebody to want to celebrate a little bit after reaching this point in his career,” McCaskey said. “But he got right down to business [on Thursday night].
“I was very impressed with the way he conducted the interview, the questions he was asking and the rapport he developed immediately with the [coach] candidate.”
All of it felt right for McCaskey, who made the very un-Bears-like decision of firing GM Phil Emery after three seasons and coach Marc Trestman after only two.
This is George McCaskey’s era in Bears history. It’s his sinking ship to rescue.
“You don’t have to talk to the [GM] candidates to know that we have a lot of work to do,” McCaskey said. “Our goal is to return the Bears to greatness, and we took an important first step [with Pace]. But there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Getting right to work is what Pace and the new Bears have to do because McCaskey remains adamant in his goals.
Let’s be clear: McCaskey’s Bears aren’t the Cubs. Pace might have time and the power to enact an overhaul of the roster, but the goal, as stated by McCaskey, will never change.
“The goal every year is to compete to win the Super Bowl,” McCaskey said. “But I also told Ryan that we want to establish a foundation for sustained success. . We’re looking forward to giving him all the support and all the resources he needs to do that.”
Would that mean accepting a rebuilding year or two?
“The goal every year is to win the Super Bowl,” McCaskey emphasized.
The introduction of Pace felt different than the arrival of Emery in 2012, and that includes McCaskey, who has seemingly learned from the Bears’ past mistakes during his tenure, which started in 2011.
Pace wasn’t hired after Senior Bowl week, and the Bears don’t feel immediately behind the rest of the league. There also isn’t a beloved coach a la Lovie Smith hanging over Pace’s head from Day 1.
And then there’s consultant Ernie Accorsi, whose input and gregarious storytelling have McCaskey and president Ted Phillips glowing whenever they’re asked about him.
The willingness to add Accorsi’s voice is not only a sign of McCaskey’s determination to fix his team, but also that he was humble enough to realize that some extra, more experienced help would facilitate that.
McCaskey said Accorsi has been in every GM and coach interview after making all the recommendations.
“I had the benefit of experience in this being the second time [for a GM hire],” McCaskey said, “so that was helpful, and Ernie has been terrific.”
The Bears’ power structure will remain as it has — “It’s a structure that we think works,” McCaskey said — but the most important thing is that Pace said he feels empowered.
Pace grew through the ranks of the Saints’ organization, and he should continue to grow at Halas Hall if he’s not impeded.
And that starts with McCaskey’s support.
McCaskey isn’t concerned with Pace’s age or his limited experience with the salary cap, coaching searches or other areas. He knew immediately after interviewing Pace on Wednesday that he was the Bears’ future.
“He’s a very charismatic individual himself,” McCaskey said. “And we’re looking forward to him, as he says, leading the charge.”