Any team would like to have outside linebacker Khalil Mack running roughshod through the line of scrimmage, but it takes more than that to become beloved in an organization.
Not that the Bears needed any further confirmation that their daring trade for Mack a year ago was the right move, but he has continued to reveal himself to be an ideal superstar. He’s not here to count statistics and stack up awards.
‘‘You could care about statistics, but statistics for me are stacking wins,’’ he said Friday. ‘‘You want to build and stack wins, do anything you can to put the team in position to win the ballgame. That’s what I’m all about.’’
Mack’s season opened with a meager five tackles and no other statistics of note, but he’s beyond getting validation from numbers. He played well enough that he could have come away with at least a couple of sacks, but his efforts cleared the way for Leonard Floyd and others instead.
His position coach, Ted Monachino, said Mack had a major impact on 90 percent of his snaps and said he played ‘‘as well as I’ve ever had a guy play in a game.’’ Floyd deflected credit for one of his sacks, saying, ‘‘Khalil gave it to me, honestly,’’ after Mack came within inches of getting his hand on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
‘‘You want to be in position to make plays, but ultimately it’s about the team and about winning,’’ Mack said. ‘‘If another guy makes the play, I’m happy he made a good play. Because I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if [Rodgers] got away and made a big play.’’
That’s going to happen a lot with someone as prominent as Mack.
‘‘They have to scheme for No. 52,’’ coach Matt Nagy said. ‘‘They have to. Every team does. It’s no secret. So when you scheme for a guy, there’s an advantage somewhere else.’’
It feels naive to fawn over an athlete’s selflessness when many eventually show themselves to be the opposite, but Mack is so believable.
And consistent. It was clear from that first day in Bourbonnais that he was in the right mindset for the Bears’ season of astronomical expectations.
The organization is desperate after 33 seasons without a championship and 12 without reaching the Super Bowl. That resonates with Mack. He strung together five exceptional seasons to start his career but won zero playoff games. He’s grounded enough to be realistic and acknowledge he has no idea how long his prime will last.
Those great individual seasons seem somewhat empty to him at 28, and he senses he might never get as good an opportunity to win big as he has now.
So he has no interest in checking his stats, nor does he bother wading into a potential blame game with the offense after the Bears squandered a sterling defensive effort in their 10-3 loss to the Packers.
‘‘Our job is to not allow the other team to score,’’ Mack said. ‘‘I feel like we’ve been talking about [the Bears’ offense struggling], and I don’t really care about that part. Our part is to shut offenses out, and we’re capable of doing that.’’
With this much talent, it’s not crazy for the Bears’ defensive standard to be perfection. Near-perfect doesn’t cut it for Mack. He doesn’t want an off-night by quarterback Mitch Trubisky or anyone else to derail him.
It’s clearer than ever that not only did the Bears acquire a rare talent, but they acquired him at exactly the right point in his career.
They might need some shutouts to win — that’s what it would’ve taken last week — and Mack is willing to demand that out of his half of the locker room. He remains, just as he was last season, the top reason this team can call itself a contender.