BY DAN McGRATH
For the Sun-Times
The next person who asks me, ‘‘Dave, what’s your take on this Bears business?’’ … well, he’ll be the first.
I don’t claim to be one of the big brains in terms of analyzing Chicago’s No. 1 sports franchise. Never have. For the life of me, though, I can’t figure out what this bumbling organization has done to command such unassailable loyalty from so large a segment of an otherwise-normal city’s fan base.
I wasn’t much of a Bears fan growing up and was spoiled by being around the 49ers, so I come at this as an outsider. My father and his brothers and buddies were tribalist South Siders, convinced that George Halas’ sinister machinations drove the football Cardinals off to St. Louis, leaving the vast Chicago market to Halas’ Bears.
Probably not true, but it made for a good conspiracy theory.
Rather than embrace the Bears, some South Siders extended their Notre Dame allegiance northward to Green Bay, where Irish icon Paul Hornung was emerging as the face of the Packers’ dynasty after Vince Lombardi converted him from a clueless quarterback into a triple-threat halfback.
I liked Hornung, but the NFL guy I lived and died with was Johnny Unitas, whose cool-hand, charismatic stewardship of the Colts gave hope to scrawny, stoop-shouldered adolescents everywhere.
The Bears didn’t have anybody like Johnny U. Neither did the old American Football League, really, but I was a follower, enamored with the nicknames — Paul ‘‘Paydirt’’ Lowe, Elbert ‘‘Golden Wheels’’ Dubenion, the Raiders’ ‘‘11 Angry Men’’ defense — and with a wide-open style of play that made late-Sunday-afternoon games must-see TV, with Jack Buck and George Ratterman on the call.
I didn’t question the conventional wisdom that the NFL offered a superior product, but along came Joe Namath to validate our belief that what we had been watching was pretty good football. Better than the Bears’ version, anyway.
Oh, there was the magical Gale Sayers for a few minutes, and we were privileged to watch him until a tackle by Kermit Alexander in the mud of Wrigley Field in 1968 changed everything.
And there was Dick Butkus, whose unique talent and ferocious commitment almost seemed wasted on such inept teams.
They finally got it right for a while under Jim Finks, and 1985 always and forever will remind Bears fans of what a great team looks like.
But it hasn’t been 1985 since 1985. Only once has it been close. And when I see the same two brains responsible for Phil Emery and Marc Trestman smugly insisting that Ernie Accorsi’s expertise will make a difference this time . please.
Accorsi is an accomplished ‘‘football man,’’ but if George McCaskey and Ted Phillips really value his wisdom, they should find a way to hire him. Yes, he’s closer in age to Virginia McCaskey than he is to Jay Cutler, so make it a short-term deal and charge him with overseeing a rebuilding project while he finds and grooms his successor.
Otherwise, it’s more on-the-job training, which is useless unless it’s capably supervised, and that has been the Bears’ problem since Jerry Vainisi was fired. No one above the ‘‘football guys’’ in the chain of command knows anything about football, so Cedric Benson and Shea McClellin are drafted in the first round, the lower rounds yield nothing and the roster is stocked with other teams’ discards.
A head coach and four coordinators have been hired to address the inadequacies of a petulant, underachieving quarterback who nonetheless is signed to a payroll-crippling contract, and nobody at Halas Hall can figure out why the Bears stink.
Now they’re talking to another group of assistant personnel chiefs of scouting protocol and offensive quality-control-coordinating psychotherapists. And if it’s McCaskey and McPhillips’ call, who’s to say they don’t wind up with another dynamic duo such as Emery and Trestman?
Why do the Bears insist on being an NFL test kitchen? Why don’t they ever hire top people whose qualifications include success in the position for which they’re being hired?
Rex Ryan might be a blowhard, but he has coached in two conference championship games and survived the New York media maelstrom. He’s a football coach, so he won’t converse in business-school buzz words about ‘‘peer-to-peer accountability’’ or obfuscate about the locker room ‘‘being in a good place’’ after back-to-back 50-point humiliations.
He’s out there, but the Bears will talk to a half-dozen ‘‘hot’’ coordinators before they get to him, if they ever do.
Trust them at your peril. This is getting old.