Jan 11, 2022

1/11/22: New era. Same George.

1/11/22: New era. Same George.

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How's everyone doing this morning? Did the firings of Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace not leave you with the confidence for the future you thought it might?

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Monday's scores
No games

Today's schedule
Pistons at Bulls (7, NBCSCH)
Hawks at Blue Jackets (6, NBCSCH)
DePaul at Marquette (6, FS1)
Illinois at Nebraska (7:30, BTN)
Valpo at Loyola (8, CBS Network)

Note to George McCaskey: Be better

George McCaskey began Monday's news conference in bizarre fashion.

After paying tribute to the late ESPN reporter Jeff Dickerson, the Bears chairman made an awkward and inappropriate segue. McCaskey spent the next few moments scolding the handful of high school students and fans at Cary-Grove who changed "Fire Nagy!" during a football game that one of Matt Nagy's sons was playing in.

Why bring this up at an event held just hours after McCaskey did just that?

Only the Halas heir who said he still has the support of ownership (his mother and a board dominated by his family members) can say for sure.  

But it was out of place and I thought it also illustrated how McCaskey doesn't quite understand the disappointment his family has heaped on fans the past 36 years.

Oh, he might respond to angry letter writers with hand-written assurances of his own. And he probably wants to win much more than the average fan will admit.

But George said on Monday that the McCaskey family is just as upset over the team's performance and, I'm sorry, that can't possibly be true.

If it were, McCaskey would realize the chants at that day's game were just a continuation of the "Fire Nagy!" chorus that popped up wherever any large crowd gathered this fall. Right or wrong, it was a bunch of kids parroting what their parents were chanting at the United Center and Soldier Field.

While some of that ire might be rooted in a dislike of Nagy's game plan, I think the fad was more symptomatic of the frustration that's built as the Bears continue to flounder.

Those "Fire Nagy!" chants were more about George H. McCaskey and the institution he leads than he realizes.

And the only one deserving of a scolding on Monday sports "Halas" for a middle name.

So what now?

One of the things that stood out about Monday's session was just how alone McCaskey looked.

Nagy and Ryan Pace had been fired earlier in the day, so they were no longer available as whipping boys or bulletproof vests.

CEO-for-life Ted Phillips was in another corner of the Zoom, popping in occasionally to answer a question about Arlington Heights but otherwise looking like a guy who wants to be known for boning up on suburban zoning regulations and not GM resumes.

That left McCaskey trying to explain the process that will end with another new GM and coach. McCaskey said they'll be hired in that order, too. Well, unless they find a coach they really like first — in which case ignore that first thing he said. It won't be an easy dual search to orchestrate. As Monday wore on, the names of coaches and GMs the Bears are requesting permission to speak with started popping up on Twitter.

McCaskey's performance during the news conference got less than stellar reviews on social media, but his actions will end up speaking louder than his words. The good news is that he only needs to nail these hires once. If the Bears find the right GM/coach combo, George can fade into the background and maybe even become a beloved figure in the city. There's no doubt he's a nice guy and a good son. Throw in putting the Bears back on top and it'd make him a saint in the city.

The bad news is that you shouldn't have confidence in that happening. This is McCaskey's third swing at a new GM and fourth at a new head coach. The Bears have yet to win a playoff game under his chairmanship, yet the process he's used hasn't changed.

Well, not entirely. Here are the five people charged with ushering in the new football leadership for the Bears.

  1. George McCaskey, Bears chairman: Yes, the guy who said on Monday that he was "just a fan, not a football evaluator." Wha? I don't think any of us want George to go full Jerry Jones or Mike Brown, but it'd be nice if at some point he'd consider himself as a guy more involved in the process than a family member whose mother pulled him out of the ticket office in 2011.
  2. Ted Phillips, CEO-for-life: Apparently just there to negotiate the contracts and provide the candidates with Euclid Avenue traffic studies if requested.
  3. Bill Polian, consultant: Playing the role of Ernie Accorsi this time around and the only proper front-office type involved in the process. Six-time NFL exec of the year and the only GM to beat the Bears in the Super Bowl. Has forgotten more about football than anyone reading this has known, but biggest achievement over the past decade has been publicly saying that Lamar Jackson should be a wide receiver coming out of the draft. He's 79, which to me is less a problem than the fact he doesn't have real skin in the game. Once he gives his recommendation it's somebody else's problem.
  4. Lamar "Soup" Campbell, director of player engagement: He played for UW when I was in Madison, so this has to be a good thing. Kidding. I'm not sure how his presence affects the process positively or negatively. He's basically an ombudsman for the locker room, the majority of which might not even be around when this next administration fully vests.
  5. Tanesha Wade, senior VP of diversity, equity and inclusion: The one committee member that comes to the search with a fresh perspective. McCaskey is a member of the NFL's Diversity Committee and Wade's inclusion shows that McCaskey is willing to admit he knows what he doesn't know — at least about one aspect of the hiring process.

I don't think there are enough football voices in that group. In a better scenario, Polian is aided by a younger counterpart. The rub is that most competent player personnel are either a) already employed by other teams or b) under consideration for the job.

So Bears fans are left hoping that Polian can guide McCaskey and the committee members on payroll and help them make the best-informed gamble they can.

The Bears should get several good candidates for both jobs. There are only 32 of each and of course not all of the positions are open. The Vikings are the only other team currently looking for a GM and there are currently only four other teams — Jacksonville, Denver, Minnesota and Miami — looking for a head coach. (The Raiders could become a fifth if they decide not to stick with interim coach Rich Bisaccia after leading them into the playoffs.)

And if it doesn't work out this time around?

Or should I say, when it doesn't work this time around?

Well, I don't know. The frustration and apathy felt through those "Fire Nagy!" chants seems like it should be something akin to Blackhawks fans checking out on the final years of the Bill Wirtz era or Bulls fans forcing Michael Reinsdorf to put an end to the GarPax era.

Chicago isn't wired to completely bail on the Bears. They're too much of a civic institution, perhaps to the detriment of the onfield product. Maybe things would change if there were a chance Chicago had the heart to leave.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Recent Chicago sports history is full of turnarounds once ownership admitted there was a problem with the fans' loyalty being rewarded with a better product and someone else was better equipped to fix it.

George McCaskey thinks he's the person to again try to find that someone for better or worse. While his job doesn't depend on succeeding, it'd be nice if he could conduct the search like it does.

Five coaches I'd like for the Bears

  1. Brian Flores: The Dolphins' mistake on Monday could be the Bears' gain. He's only 40, a defensive-minded coach and knows what mistakes not to repeat on his second time around.
  2. Brian Daboll: I want some previous head coaching experience, but if it's sacrificed, it should be for an offensive mind.  The Bills OC turned Josh Allen into a star; I'm OK seeing if he can do it with Justin Fields.
  3. Byron Leftwich: Daboll's experience with Allen gives him the edge over the Bucs OC, but I wouldn't mind seeing what Leftwich could do here.
  4. Josh McDaniels: If we're going to bark up the Belichick tree with Flores, we might also consider the best coordinator he's produced. He'd be the complete opposite of Nagy in demeanor, but I love the idea of having someone the McCaskeys are scared of. The catch is that Polian's involvement probably precludes this from even being considered given McDaniels' famous abandonment of the Colts a few years back.
  5. Jim Harbaugh: The football CEO with prior NFL head coaching success. But there are already rumblings that Michigan is lining up a raise, which means last week's rumors may have already done their job.

Five coaches I wouldn't

  1. Sean Payton: In a perfect world, the Naperville native and spare Bear is at the top of the previous list. But we just got rid of Ryan Pace. Let's take a break from giving up draft capital to clean up other messes.
  2. Eric Bienemy: Another swing at a Chiefs OC after what we just went through? No thanks.
  3. Doug Pederson: Not only another Reid guy, but a former Eagles coach, which we've also had enough of. Oh, and he wears a visor. Next.
  4. Leslie Frazier: Like Pederson, the Bears have also requested permission to talk with Frazier, who is Buffalo's defensive coordinator. Hard to see how the former Bear translates into an exciting hire.
  5. Ryan Day: He's familiar with Justin Fields but the learning curve everywhere else is too steep. Not a gamble the Bears can afford.

1. Olin Kreutz wasn't happy with McCaskey inexplicably calling him a liar on Monday. OnTap Sports

2. Rick Morrissey is begging Bears fans to quit the team and save themselves. Sun-Times

3. Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy released statements after being fired. NBC Sports Chicago

4. One more look at the Nagy era. Where did it go wrong? Windy City Gridiron

5. Cam Ellis says that McCaskey's press conference is what privilege looks like. 670 The Score

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