There were times when it was hard to tell if Bears chairman George McCaskey was firing general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy or retaining them.
Most of his defense for keeping Pace and Nagy around despite the Bears going 16-16 the last two seasons just as well could’ve been used against them.
When pelted with questions insinuating how little sense it made to keep the status quo yet expect a different result, it almost seemed as if McCaskey might change his mind.
But Wednesday morning ended the way it began, with Pace and Nagy still running the show for 2021.
It was predictable.
McCaskey said Pace — six years in — needs more time. He praised Nagy for keeping the team together through a six-game losing streak, even though he’s the one who steered them into that ditch in the first place. He positioned himself as fearless for doing nothing.
“I don’t know, frankly, that a lot of people have confidence in this course of action,” McCaskey said, quite astutely. “But sometimes you have to take the route that you think is best, even when it’s not the most popular decision.”
Does he even have confidence in this course? When pressed on whether there should be accountability for a six-game skid rather than commendation for pulling out of it, he laid out precisely the argument many would use against Nagy.
“I think we were only the third team . . . to lose six games in a row and still make the playoffs, and that was at the lowest seed in our conference when that playoff position had just been added,” McCaskey said. “As far as I’m concerned, 2020 was a losing season. And a big part of that was a six-game losing streak.”
And, now, a cameo by team president Ted Phillips.
“Have we gotten the quarterback situation completely right? No,” he said. “Have we won enough games? No. But everything else is there.”
Everything else? They should’ve kept him on mute.
Anyway, McCaskey insisted that Pace and Nagy are “learning and growing in their roles,” as if their gigs were entry-level jobs.
That’s an alarming perspective, especially when applied to Pace. He’s getting a seventh season after one winning record in the first six and no signs that the Bears are trending toward championship contention.
“As far as whether six years is the right amount of time for a general manager to grow into his position, I think it depends on the situation,” McCaskey said. “I don’t think there’s any magic number. The person’s entire body of work is considered to decide whether the employment relationship should continue.”
That, again, sounds like what he’d say if he were firing Pace, whose résumé includes the ninth-worst record in the NFL (42-54), no playoff wins and some devastatingly bad personnel errors.
How did Pace defend that work, by the way, when trying to hang on to his job? He and Nagy described it as McCaskey giving them “an opportunity” to stay, indicating they grasped how fortunate they were to survive another listless season.
“I can confidently say that I’m a lot better at this with each year of experience,” said Pace, whose most recent year included trading for Nick Foles and splurging on Robert Quinn. “I know we’ve got a lot of work ahead. I know we’ve got a lot to build on, too.
“We’ve made mistakes, yes. Are we learning and evolving? Yes. Are there some things that I would do different if I could go back on a variety of decisions? Yes, but I think that I have the humility to be able to learn from those things.”
In reality, it doesn’t look like the Bears have learned anything lately, and neither did anyone listening to their remarks Wednesday.