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Bears have ‘complete faith’ in Ted Phillips, who gets to help pick another GM

Phillips will take part in interviewing and helping George McCaskey pick the next GM. He’ll even negotiate the contract with him. And once that’s done, Phillips still will be McCaskey’s most trusted adviser, holding the same position he has had since 1999. The Bears have won three playoff games — three! – during that time.

FILE - Chicago Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips talks to media after a news conference in Lake Forest, Ill., Jan. 9, 2015.
FILE - Chicago Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips talks to media after a news conference in Lake Forest, Ill., Jan. 9, 2015.
Nam Y. Huh, AP Photos

Before chairman George McCaskey said the words ‘‘Ryan Pace,’’ ‘‘Matt Nagy’’ or even ‘‘Bears’’ on Monday, he mentioned Ted Phillips. In fact, it was his first significant order of business after a polite greeting and before launching into his prepared comments.

‘‘Good afternoon, everyone,’’ he said. ‘‘Thank you for being on the call. I’m sorry that we can’t meet in person. Ted Phillips is also on the call . . . ’’

Close your eyes and imagine what it will sound like to be in a Zoom meeting for the Bears’ general-manager opening. Phillips, the once-and-future president/CEO, was on the call — of course, he was — even as McCaskey tried to sell a ‘‘modified organizational structure’’ as real change.

It’s not, of course. The Bears’ next GM will report directly to McCaskey instead of to Phillips, who will be preoccupied with the team’s Arlington Heights stadium site.

The next seven days, however, will be no different than it was seven years ago: Phillips will take part in interviewing and helping McCaskey pick the next GM. He even will negotiate the contract with him. And once that’s done, Phillips still will be McCaskey’s most trusted adviser, holding the same position he has had since 1999. The Bears have won three playoff games — three — during that time.

‘‘I have great respect for his judgment, his analytical skills, his instincts when it comes to the people that we’re interviewing,’’ McCaskey said.

McCaskey said Phillips has done ‘‘an outstanding job as president and CEO.’’ Also, for good measure: ‘‘Our family has complete faith in him.’’

Bears fans grimaced. Those who hoped for a dramatically different structure — the hiring of a president of football operations, who then would pick the GM — will have to keep waiting.

The Bears ‘‘did talk about what was the best path forward,’’ McCaskey conceded, but preferred to stick with the idea of the GM being the highest-ranking ‘‘football guy’’ at Halas Hall.

‘‘I don’t think there’s anything magical about a so-called football czar,’’ McCaskey said. ‘‘At some point, the football person — whether it’s the general manager or an executive vice president or a president of football operations — has to report to ownership. We think with the modification that we’ve made, we’ve got the right structure for the Bears going forward.’’

How exactly that plays out, McCaskey couldn’t say.

‘‘I haven’t had a general manager report to me, so I’ve got a lot to learn in that regard,’’ he said. ‘‘And I am counting on the new general manager to help me along in that process.’’

Not exactly encouraging.

Phillips is a competent businessman, but his presence in end-of-season news conferences — as a surrogate for McCaskey — has made him a symbol of stagnation to many Bears fans. It doesn’t help when he says things like he did last year.

‘‘Have we gotten the quarterback situation completely right? No,’’ he said then. ‘‘Have we won enough games? No. Everything else is there.’’

Is it still?

‘‘Well, clearly we weren’t happy with the results,’’ Phillips said Monday. ‘‘So we need to get better. And I think as George pointed out . . . the fact that the general manager is going to report to him is a big change.’’

It’s not. Not in terms of hiring.

It’s no different than the end of the 2014 season, when McCaskey, Phillips and 73-year-old adviser Ernie Accorsi interviewed coach and GM candidates before picking Pace to be the latter. This year, it will be McCaskey, Phillips, 79-year-old adviser Bill Polian, vice president of player engagement ‘‘Soup’’ Campbell and senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade doing the interviewing.

‘‘The change in the interview room is that we’ve got three new people in the room,’’ McCaskey said, ’’so we’ve got the benefit of their perspective.’’

There are two constants from the Bears’ last GM search. One is McCaskey, the grandson of team founder George Halas and the appointed leader of the NFL’s first family.

The other is Phillips. Still.