George McCaskey knew Bears fans would hate his decision — he did it anyway

The Bears chairman’s inbox full of “hate mail” got fuller after McCaskey announced that the Bears’ three principal leaders were returning.

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Bears chairman George McCaskey and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel talk in 2016.

Bears chairman George McCaskey and former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel talk in 2016.

Kiichiro Sato/AP

With no fans allowed at Soldier Field or its adjacent tailgating lots, Bears chairman George McCaskey found a more modern way to gauge fan reaction.

“For the last several weeks,” he said Wednesday, “I’ve been faithfully responding to my hate mail.”

His email inbox got a lot fuller after McCaskey announced that the Bears’ three principal leaders — president/CEO Ted Phillips, general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy — would return for another season.

“Sometimes you have to take the route that you think is best, even when it’s not the most popular decision,” he said. “And we’re aware of that. And we’re prepared for that.”

Two things were clear after the Bears’ news conference Wednesday:

1. McCaskey knew fans would hate his -decision.

2. He didn’t care.

Maybe there’s something noble about McCaskey repeating to Bears fans that he’s doing something they don’t like. It actually would be impactful, though, if there was any reason to think McCaskey was putting his own job — and not just his reputation — on the line. McCaskey has been chairman for 10 years. The Bears have a 73-87 record over that time, with no playoff wins.

When the Bears put McCaskey through the talk-radio “car wash” Thursday, he didn’t backpedal or apologize. Instead, McCaskey doubled down.

“We knew that we weren’t going to please everybody,” he told WMVP-AM’s “Waddle and Silvy.” “Maybe the minority would be in favor of the course of action that we took. We want to be responsive to the fans. We want to hear what they have to say. But in the end, we have to make the decision we think is best for the Bears, and I think we did.”

The first question he faced from “Waddle and Silvy” and WSCR-AM’s “Danny Parkins Show” was about how poorly the news conference was received locally and nationally.

“We understand that no matter what we said, we weren’t going to please everybody,” he told WSCR-AM. “We knew it wasn’t going to be a universally popular decision, by any means.”

He argued that a “back-up-the-truck approach” — firing everybody — would have angered some fans, too. His hate-mail folder would have been much lighter for it, though.

McCaskey, who thinks of himself as a fan, knew his decision would go over this way — fart, meet church. It inflamed a percentage of the fan base convinced that McCaskey operates the franchise like a family diner, employing friends who contribute to a “culture” that, over the last 15 seasons, averages an 8-8 record.

Phillips did McCaskey no favors. When he said the Bears had everything in place but wins and a good quarterback — seriously, he said that — you could hear fans smacking their foreheads in unison.

“The popular opinion is to make a change because we’ve hit adversity,” Phillips said. “I get it. But holding people accountable is much more than just starting over.”

Holding people accountable by making changes would have been more popular.

“After one particularly dispiriting loss this season, a season-ticket holder sent me an email that read: ‘Fire somebody. We deserve better,’ ” McCaskey said. “I get it. You deserve your Bears being winners. The decisions we’re announcing [Wednesday] might not be the easiest or most popular, but we believe they’re the best decisions for the Bears.”

Even if he knows few others agree.

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