Bears chairman George McCaskey advises patience on potential Arlington Heights stadium

McCaskey spoke about that property and gave several other updates on the organization in a rare media availability Tuesday.

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McCaskey took over as Bears chairman in 2011.

Sun-Times Media

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Last time Bears chairman George McCaskey attended the NFL’s annual meeting — three years ago because of coronavirus-related cancellations — he was on top of the world. His team had skyrocketed to an NFC North title and thought it would be competing for a championship.

It’s quite different this week at The Breakers after he rebooted the organization by firing general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy and replacing them with Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus.

The rebuild is off to a fairly quiet start, with more talent exiting Halas Hall than entering it. And McCaskey, who calls himself a fan, is doing his best to be patient. He has delegated football operations to Poles, who reports only to him and often tells him things that are prudent but far from exhilarating.

‘‘You have to balance your reactions emotionally . . . with what is necessary from a football perspective and as an executive of the team,’’ McCaskey said Tuesday. ‘‘Striking that balance is important, and Ryan’s been very patient with me.’’

He credited Poles for showing fiscal ‘‘discipline’’ this offseason by resisting irresponsible spending.

Speaking of patience, McCaskey advises it when it comes to the frenzied talk of building a new stadium in Arlington Heights. He values tradition and hasn’t gotten ahead of himself on reckoning with the possibility of taking the Bears out of Soldier Field. He had little to say, other than that the closing process on the 326-acre property might stretch into 2023.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell agreed it’s too early to have a serious discussion about relocating, but he saw the merit in that option.

‘‘They’ve got a lot of work still to even complete the purchase of the property, [and] they have a pretty lengthy lease still with the city of Chicago,’’ Goodell said. ‘‘But it’s important for teams to look long-term. How are they gonna solve these issues? They don’t get solved overnight.

‘‘The team’s looking to the long term: What’s best for the franchise? What’s best for the fan base? Stadiums are really important to that. What’s the condition [of Soldier Field] gonna be in 10 years? All of that’s important, and it’s important to continue that dialogue with the city of Chicago, also, at some point.’’

The Bears’ lease at Soldier Field runs through 2033. McCaskey has left open the possibility of working something out to stay there, but president Ted Phillips said in January: ‘‘Our focus for long-term development is exclusively on that property at Arlington Park.’’

Here are some other highlights from McCaskey’s seaside chat:

• When asked how long it’ll take the Bears to become a contender, he said, ‘‘The goal every year is to win a Super Bowl,’’ and pointed to the Bengals’ surprising run last season as cause for optimism.

• He was on board with trading star outside linebacker Khalil Mack for draft picks.

‘‘Khalil is a great player and showed on many occasions for us how he can take over a game,’’ McCaskey said. ‘‘[Poles] explained to me the reasons why he thought the Bears should do it, and it made sense to me.’’

• McCaskey said coach Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the league and three teams for racial discrimination didn’t influence the Bears’ decision to pass on him.

‘‘We had a Zoom interview with Brian; we thought it went very well,’’ McCaskey said. ‘‘In the end, Ryan decided to go with another candidate.’’

• His mother, Bears owner Virginia McCaskey, didn’t travel to Palm Beach but is doing well after a medical issue in January that he described as ‘‘resolved.’’

‘‘We’re all very grateful that she’s back to her regular routine, but she didn’t feel up to making the trip,’’ McCaskey said. ‘‘She really feels bad about it, No. 1, because she really likes this place and, No. 2, didn’t have the opportunity to get to know Ryan and Katie [Poles] and Matt and Kelly [Eberflus] and their families a little bit better.’’

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