This is the way it’s supposed to work: Phil Emery set a goal of competing for championships and closing the gap on the hated Packers, did neither and is gone.
That Emery got only three years was the upset Monday. The Bears usually are a little more patient than that. But with matriarch Virginia McCaskey not getting any younger at 91 and the non-playoff seasons adding up — four in a row and seven of eight since reaching the Super Bowl in 2006 — the Bears just don’t have the time to keep people just because they like them.
It’s not exactly the dawn of a new day — the Bears still have two non-football people in chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips making football decisions. But the Bears grew up a little it Monday — firing Emery as general manager and head coach Marc Trestman after two disappointing seasons, and hiring former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi as a consultant on the ensuing search for replacements.
Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who contributed to the madness of the dreadful 2014 season when he leaked disparaging comments about Jay Cutler to NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport, was the only other assistant actually fired Monday. But this is definitely expected to be a “clean-house” move.
McCaskey, who made a point of saying he still considers the Emery and Trestman families as part of the Bears familiy, did not want to go into detail on either move. Was the embarrassing 55-14 loss to the Packers, when the Bears trailed 42-0 at halftime, a tipping point? Losing two games to the Packers by 62 points? Was Emery giving Jay Cutler a seven-year, $126-million contract a factor? The Kromer fiasco? The discord in the locker room?
”It just came down to we didn’t win enough games,” McCaskey said, “and Ted and I came to the conclusion that if we continued on our present course, we wouldn’t win championships and that’s what we’re here for.”
Their impatience said it all. Three years for a general manager is short by almost any NFL standard. Trestman, who inherited a 10-6 team from Lovie Smith, only to go 8-8 in 2013 and 5-11 in 2014, became the first Bears coach to be fired after fewer than three seasons since the George Halas era.
“This decision was really hard,” Phillips said. “I don’t regret the hiring of Phil or Marc. They both brought a lot of positive attributes to Halas Hall and to our team. It didn’t work out. We didn’t win. This was Phil’s third year. We didn’t make the playoffs a single year. That was a problem.
“So when did we realize it? George and I have been talking for a while now about what’s the right decision and when you lose confidence in what the status quo is, you decide that that change is for the best for the organization.”
There is little doubt that as the Bears’ decisive losses started to add up — 38-17 to the Packers; 51-23 to the Patriots; 55-14 to the Packers; 34-17 to the Lions; 41-28 to the Cowboys; and 31-15 to the Saints — fan unhappiness and media criticism had an impact. Phillips tip-toed around that as well.
“It didn’t have a direct impact on the decision,” Phillips said. “Obviously we care deeply about what our fans think, how they react to our team’s performance. We weren’t happy with that this year.
“We listened to our fans from the standpoint of wanting to understand that they want what we want and that’s to win championships. That’s the goal of today to get us off on the right foot and back to winning championships for the Chicago Bears.”
As it turned out, Trestman’s second season was so dreadful that Emery was caught in the undertow. Emery addressed the media with a 98-second statement and quickly departed.
He thanked the players, coaches and the staff at Halas Hall. “I also want to say a public ‘thank you’ to the McCaskey family, our ownership group and to Ted Phillips. Your support, your patience and your kindness have been incredible. No employee could ask for more.
“This job was an opportunity of a lifetime. My only regret is that we didn’t win enough games for that opportunity to continue.
“Thank you to all the Bears fans that have reached out to me the last three years, who have stopped to say hello, who have extended their hand in friendship, and I’ve had an opportunity to have a conversation with. Your kindness does a lot more for the soul than people can imagine.”
“To borrow a lyric or a line from Carrie Newcomer: “We stand breathless on the clean edge of change.” So it’s time to change and to move forward. Go Bears!”