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Next problem for Bears: What to do with president Ted Phillips?

Bears chairman George McCaskey said Monday he would shift the team’s management structure to keep Phillips focused on the new stadium project. The incoming general manager will report directly to ownership, but — confusingly — Phillips will still be part of the hiring process.

Phillips has been part of the Bears since 1983 and became president of the franchise in 1999.
Mark Black

About a year ago, as the Bears sat 8-8 for the second consecutive season and had little reason to believe things would get better soon, team president Ted Phillips tried to convey that, generally, everything was fine under the direction of general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy.

It was an impossible argument to make and it did not go well.

“This is a people business,” Phillips said. “When we step back and look at what are the qualities of a successful general manager and a head coach, we feel that Ryan and Matt check off lots of those boxes.

“Have we gotten the quarterback situation completely right? No. Have we won enough games? No. Everything else is there... We have a solid football foundation. We have a solid football culture. We truly believe that because we’ve delved into all the different issues that make up a solid football culture and we feel confident that that will lead us and lead Matt and Ryan to make the right decisions and correct some of the mistakes in the past.”

Everything but the quarterback. And the winning. Other than that, all good.

Bears chairman George McCaskey decided Monday that type of thinking is unsuitable for someone overseeing the football department. While Phillips will still be involved, the Bears changed their power structure to have the incoming general manager report directly to McCaskey. Phillips, who will focus almost exclusively on the potential new stadium in Arlington Heights, called it “a big change.”

It’s hard to assess how big of a change it is, though, when Phillips will still be on the five-person committee evaluating general manager and coach candidates. It’ll be McCaskey, Phillips, Bill Polian, Soup Campbell and Tanesha Wade.

Why allow Phillips that much input when he’s supposedly being separated from the football side of the Bears?

“I trust Ted implicitly,” McCaskey said. “I have great respect for his judgment, his analytical skills and his instincts in evaluating the people we’re interviewing. And in the end, he’ll be negotiating the contracts with the new general manager and new coach.”

Regardless of what the Bears say about Phillips’ minimal or limited influence on football-related decisions, he is part of the leadership core and had a hand in the team going 48-65 under Pace’s watch.

Since Phillips took the job as president in 1999, the Bears have gone 177-192. It’s the 17th-best record in the NFL.