It probably had been awhile since most people thought about Bill Polian, given that he has been out of the NFL for a decade and retired from broadcasting almost three years ago, but he was at the forefront of Bears chairman George McCaskey’s mind as he contemplated what to do with his foundering organization.
At some point during the season, McCaskey called Polian to get his thoughts about how things were going with general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy. McCaskey claimed he couldn’t remember when the first conversation happened, but a decent guess would be sometime around the bye week in November, when the Bears were 3-6, or the week after their ensuing embarrassing loss to the Ravens.
McCaskey asked Polian to advise him about whether to keep Pace and Nagy and, if not, to assist in the search to replace them. With those two fired Monday, the Bears are proceeding with interviews. And of the five people conducting them, Polian has the strongest football résumé.
‘‘We’ll be in good hands leaning on Bill to help us make this decision,’’ McCaskey said.
McCaskey gave some mixed messaging about the necessity of Polian’s role, one filled by former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi when the Bears needed help finding Pace in 2015. McCaskey said he didn’t think ‘‘there’s anything magical about a so-called football czar,’’ yet he keeps hiring them — probably for more than $15 an hour — temporarily to guide his decisions about the Bears’ top football jobs.
Bottom line: Polian is a net positive. The Bears probably could have picked a better consultant, but this is better than McCaskey and president Ted Phillips steering the search themselves.
McCaskey seemed smitten by Polian’s status as a Hall of Famer, a six-time Executive of the Year winner and the architect of the 2006 Colts team that beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Oh, and his book. Both of his books, actually. It sounds as though Polian’s ‘‘The Game Plan’’ from 2014 and ‘‘Super Bowl Blueprints’’ will be required reading at Halas Hall. Book-club meetings will be Thursday evenings, with light snacks and finger sandwiches served in the Red Grange conference room.
McCaskey seemed less concerned about how far removed Polian is from working in the league, that he’s 79 years old or that the last time many people heard his name was in 2018, when he said Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson should switch to wide receiver. Or maybe a year later, when Jackson was voted the NFL’s most valuable player — at quarterback — and Polian left him off his All-Pro ballot.
Bringing up that last thing isn’t meant to be a ‘‘gotcha’’ move. It’s a relevant concern as the Bears plan their future around another mobile quarterback in Justin Fields.
McCaskey rebutted other objections by saying that Polian is still very much dialed into the NFL — ‘‘He was asking us detailed questions about our roster . . . [and] was very much up on the game in general and the Bears’ situation in particular’’ — and that age doesn’t invalidate a person’s judgment.
‘‘We are not exactly spring chickens, but Bill has been around the game a long time [and] knows the game very well,’’ McCaskey said. ‘‘I recall George Halas was in his 80s when he made a then-very controversial — but ultimately successful — selection for a head coach. And Bill is much younger than that.’’
McCaskey was referring to his grandfather’s hire of Mike Ditka in 1982, when he was 87. Ditka won a Super Bowl and was the most successful coach in Bears history, other than Halas.
That’s an important piece of Halas’ legacy, and now McCaskey gets another shot at two hallmark hires he hopes will outshine the Bears’ missteps with coaches Marc Trestman, John Fox and Nagy, as well as GMs Phil Emery and Pace.
McCaskey’s reputation is on the line far more than Polian’s. Most people will forget Polian even was involved, but McCaskey’s record is certain to endure.