Bears chairman George McCaskey got his GM — just don’t ask him for how long
McCaskey refused to detail the length of the contracts he gave GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus.
A week before he gave a news conference explaining his decision to hire general manager Ryan Poles, Bears chairman George McCaskey pulled into the daily lot at O’Hare International Airport.
He drove around Level 1, which is labeled the Cubs floor to help travelers remember where they parked. Level 2 is the Bears floor. McCaskey didn’t park there, either.
He settled on Level 3.
‘‘Parked in the White Sox level,’’ he said Monday. ‘‘Three bucks to the city.’’
He went to baggage claim to pick up Poles, who had flown in from Kansas City.
‘‘I wanted to show him that we care,’’ McCaskey said. ‘‘I wanted he and I to have the opportunity to speak one-on-one. And I wanted him to have the opportunity to see Halas Hall if he wanted, which he did.’’
McCaskey drove Poles to Lake Forest.
‘‘I still can’t get over the fact that you met me at baggage claim and gave me a ride to the facility to get to know me at a deeper level,’’ Poles said Monday, addressing his new boss. ‘‘As you know now, I value people and relationships, and that told me everything I need to know about you and this franchise.’’
The story was vintage McCaskey. His supporters find it charming, while his detractors call it small-time: What, the Bears couldn’t have sprung for a limo?
But it proved to be effective. The Bears hired Poles less than 18 hours after McCaskey picked him up, keeping him from returning to the airport to fly to Minneapolis to interview as a finalist for the Vikings’ GM job. Poles hasn’t been home since and still is living out of the bag he packed a week ago.
Publicly, McCaskey rarely tries to be someone he’s not, even though a bit of bluster probably would help his image. That frustrates fans. Exactly three weeks ago, McCaskey said he was a fan, not a football expert, then proceeded to say he would be making the GM hire and have that person report directly to him.
On Monday, McCaskey seemed to avoid the gaffes that plagued him three weeks ago — and the previous time he spoke publicly before that, a full year ago — except for one head-scratching decision. Like he had done with former GM Ryan Pace and former coach Matt Nagy at the end-of-season news conference in January 2021, McCaskey refused to detail the length of the contracts he had given to Poles and new head coach Matt Eberflus.
‘‘We talked about it and talked to Matt and Ryan about what their preference was,’’ he said. ‘‘And their preference was that it not be disclosed, and we’re honoring that preference.’’
In the past — before McCaskey refused to say whether Nagy and Pace were on the same timeline — the Bears didn’t have issues disclosing contract lengths. In the past, they had issued four-year deals with a fifth-year option. Now McCaskey won’t say.
‘‘If the individual wishes to make it public, they’re welcome to,’’ he said. ‘‘But I don’t think that’s the Bears’ place.’’
Eberflus declined to say how long his contract was.
McCaskey and the rest of the Bears’ five-person interview group — which included consultant Bill Polian — interviewed 13 GM candidates and 10 head-coaching hopefuls. One noticeably missing name was Michigan coach and former Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who met with the Vikings during the weekend. Under the terms of Harbaugh’s contract, the Bears would have had to inform Michigan of any formal interview.
Asked about Harbaugh, McCaskey said he was not going to ‘‘engage in speculation about what other candidates could have been interviewed.’’
McCaskey picked Poles after Polian recommended the Bears interview him. He said he let Poles pick the coach.
‘‘It was kind of a whirlwind for us,’’ McCaskey said. ‘‘Bill brought back two-a-days; I think one day we had three interviews in a day. That was a bit of a slog. But the important thing was to get as much information as possible as quickly as possible. Because once we saw the people we wanted, we had to move quickly.’’