Chairman George McCaskey delegates, waits as Bears strive to build winner, stadium

He seems content to hand control over football operations and the Arlington Park stadium project to incoming president Kevin Warren. And as far as the likelihood of the Bears leaving Chicago, he says, “Change is necessary at times.”

SHARE Chairman George McCaskey delegates, waits as Bears strive to build winner, stadium
Bears chairman Geroge McCaskey

Bears chairman Geroge McCaskey is upbeat about where GM Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus are taking the team.


PHOENIX — The Bears are taking on concurrent construction projects that require something difficult from chairman George McCaskey.


The wait continues for the organization to build a winner and a stadium, and progress has been deliberate on both fronts. General manager Ryan Poles spent his first season cleaning up the messes, and McCaskey said, ‘‘We haven’t really kicked the ball off yet,’’ on the Arlington Heights project, despite the Bears closing on the property last month.

On the football side, the Bears are fresh off a league-worst 3-14 finish, and Poles has urged restraint on expectations. He was careful in his offseason moves, preserving salary-cap space and draft assets for 2024 in what he has cast as a multiyear rebuild.

‘‘I’m not a patient person, and we’re not asking Bears fans to be unusually patient,’’ McCaskey said Tuesday at the NFL’s annual meetings. ‘‘But Ryan has done the background work. He has the thoughtful, measured approach, which we believe is ultimately gonna be successful.’’

Waiting long has been the essence of Bears fandom, and the championship drought is approaching four decades.

McCaskey was upbeat, however, about where Poles and coach Matt Eberflus are headed. And when Kevin Warren officially starts as team president next month, he’ll take full oversight of the football side in addition to leading the stadium project.

When asked whether it’s difficult to step back and let someone else supervise football operations, McCaskey burst out laughing with an emphatic, ‘‘No.’’

‘‘Quite frankly, in terms of working with the general manager, I think we’ve made an improvement at the position,’’ he joked.

Poles will continue reporting to McCaskey until Warren’s first day, April 17, but he already has been working with Warren during the transition period. McCaskey said Warren and Poles developed ‘‘immediate rapport’’ and added: ‘‘I’ve been very impressed with the questions Kevin’s been asking. He’s asking better questions than I was asking.’’

Nonetheless, McCaskey was pleased with the haul Poles got from the Panthers when trading down from No. 1 to No. 9, a deal that landed the Bears an extra first-round pick next year and a second-rounder this year.

‘‘But now we’ve gotta make hay with the picks,’’ he said.

That deal also signaled a commitment to Justin Fields as the starting quarterback. Fields was the best runner at his position last season but finished last in yards passing. Poles and Eberflus anticipate him making a substantial stride as a passer as they upgrade his offensive line and receivers.

‘‘You saw it so many times where he looked like he was hopelessly trapped, and . . . 60 yards later he’s in the end zone,’’ McCaskey raved. ‘‘Very exciting player. Somebody who worries defenses and is an accomplished passer, also. So you put all those together, you give him some help and hope for continued development.’’

McCaskey has one eye on that project and the other on Arlington Park, which he drives past regularly on his way to and from Halas Hall. He gave no new details about the potential stadium, declining even to mention aspects of other venues he would want to incorporate. Developing the site tops Warren’s to-do list, and McCaskey said outgoing president Ted Phillips has agreed to stay on as a consultant after he leaves his position April 14.

That will include ongoing conversations with the city of Chicago once Paul Vallas or Brandon Johnson becomes mayor in May. The Bears have continued to downplay the option of staying in Chicago — Warren reiterated Arlington Heights as their focus Monday — and McCaskey said they weren’t part of any discussions as the city circulated plans to convert Soldier Field to an indoor facility.

It might be hard for McCaskey because he values tradition and nostalgia, but he seems to be at peace with the idea of the Bears leaving the city.

‘‘Change is difficult at times,’’ he said. ‘‘But change is necessary at times.’’

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