About to hire his third general manager in 11 seasons as the Bears’ chairman of the board — with two playoff appearances and no playoff victories to show for it — George McCaskey refused to consider that he might be the problem.
“My performance is reviewed by ownership, and the board of directors and ownership has informed me it wishes me to continue in this role.”
And so it goes at 1920 Football Drive. One of the most endearing qualities of the McCaskey family is that they don’t walk around Halas Hall like they own the place. There are no more down-to-earth millionaires on the planet. But on a day of seismic change, there was a stark — some might say daunting — reminder that they do own the place.
The Bears’ board of directors — which includes three of George’s brothers, three close confidants and his mother — tell him he’s doing a bang-up job, so he must be. The Bears are 79-98 (.446) in George McCaskey’s 11 seasons as chairman — ranking 24th in the NFL in that span. They have made two playoff appearances — only four teams have fewer in that span. And they are one of seven NFL teams with zero playoff victories in that span.
But on a day he fired coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace because “in the end, we didn’t win enough games,” the only standard for George McCaskey is the approval of family and friends. He’s still in charge. The big change in upper management at Halas Hall on Monday is that the new GM will report to McCaskey instead of team president Ted Phillips.
McCaskey will head a search team that includes Phillips, Hall of Fame GM Bill Polian, Bears vice president of engagement LaMar “Soup” Campbell and senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade.
“I expect that we will reach a consensus on both positions,” McCaskey said. “Ultimately, though, the decision on the next general manager and head coach will be mine.”
Yikes! That’s not what Bears fans who were giddy over the coaching and GM changes wanted to hear. The missing element Monday was a change at the top, with the Bears hiring a president of football operations — a football czar, a football guy, just somebody who grew up in the game — a little higher than director of ticket operations.
Polian, even at 79, would be an upgrade. At this point, Bears fans might settle for former Packers chairman Bob Harlan hiring former Packers GM Ron Wolf hiring his son Eliot Wolf, a once-hot GM candidate who is now a consultant with the Patriots. There’s nepotism, and then there’s nepotism.
“Different structures work for different teams in different sports,” McCaskey said. “We think this is the structure that will work best for us.”
Asked why he thinks that structure works best, McCaskey didn’t say. Asked if he gets it that Bears fans aren’t thrilled with his performance, either, McCaskey acknowledged that he feels your pain.
“We get that a lot of Bears fans are unhappy, and we’re unhappy, too,” McCaskey said, “and we’re frustrated and we understand that there’s not really a whole lot that can be said today that’s going to make people feel better about the situation.
“And it may even be that once the candidates are introduced, people will say, ‘Oh, you picked the wrong guy’ or whatever. The only opportunity to produce results is on the field, and that won’t be for some time. We think in time it will be shown that we have chosen the right people to lead the Bears.”
We’ll see about that. And it’s true that George might get this one right. And if he doesn’t, there’s nothing anybody can do about it. It’s a good bet that George Halas McCaskey will always have the board of directors on his side. They’re like family to him.