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George McCaskey on 2020 expectations, GM Ryan Pace and more

For Bears chairman George McCaskey, the 2020 season comes down to one question.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, and Bears chairman George McCaskey talk during an NFL Play 60 event at Grant Park in 2016.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, center, and Bears chairman George McCaskey talk during an NFL Play 60 event at Grant Park in 2016.
Kiichiro Sato/AP

For Bears chairman George McCaskey, the 2020 season comes down to one question.

“The goal every year is to win the Super Bowl,” he said. “Two years ago, we made a great run, fell short. Last year, we regressed. We need to find out which team it is. Is it the team that took the NFL by storm two years ago — or is it the team that fell back last year?”

If it’s the latter, McCaskey will have a decision to make about the fate of general manager Ryan Pace. McCaskey, who claimed everyone is evaluated every year, was asked specifically what he’ll be looking for from Pace.

“Well, with that particular position, it’s one of leadership, primarily,” McCaskey said. “He’s in charge of the entire football operation. So that’s a factor. Winning, of course, is part of the assessment. And then his personnel, his supervision of the personnel department, scouting department.”

The coronavirus won’t give him a mulligan. Rather, McCaskey said, it has afforded a glimpse into his leadership skills.

“Part of the evaluation is seeing how he responds in his role as general manager to the challenge,” McCaskey said. “I’ve been very impressed in what I’ve seen so far, and we expect that top-level performance to continue through the season.”

He also praised coach Matt Nagy during chaotic times.

“They’ve come up with a good plan; they’re executing it well,” he said.

McCaskey addressed other issues in a 33-minute Zoom news conference:

† The Bears are “optimistic” about the potential return of fans to Soldier Field this season after presenting a plan to the city, he said. The city wants to see active coronavirus cases drop first.

† He wants to talk to Brian Urlacher after Urlacher’s Instagram account supported freeing Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Antioch resident charged with killing two people in Kenosha last month. In a separate post, he belittled NBA players for a playoff strike after the Jacob Blake shooting. The Bears immediately repudiated his posts last month.

“My first thought was maybe his account had been hacked,” McCaskey said.

“Having known him for 20 years and knowing the type of person he is, I’m not going to judge him until I talk to him.’’

† McCaskey was warned early on that it would take widespread infections in only one or two teams to scuttle the season. Still, he said he’s “encouraged” that the NFL can play a full slate.

† After players questioned why the Bears didn’t sign ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick years ago, McCaskey said Pace and Nagy handle personnel. McCaskey only gets involved when there’s a question of character, and, he said, “there’s no concern or question about Colin Kaepernick’s character.” When asked if the NFL handled his 2016 protest properly, McCaskey said, “I don’t know that there’s any absolute right way to handle it.”

† He said the Bears are “encouraging our players to follow their hearts and their consciences” when it comes to protesting racial injustice and police violence Sunday.

He’s working with the Bears’ player-led social-justice committee to channel their concerns into action.

“One of the things that impresses me the most is that for our guys, it’s not just taking a knee,” he said. “They want to follow up symbolism with concrete action.”