The annual George McCaskey State of the Chicago Bears press conference is appointment viewing in Chicago now. In the span of an hour on Monday afternoon, after firing head coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace that morning, the Bears chairman roasted current and former players, chastised high school students, referred to “ownership” in the third person, and called himself “just a fan. I’m not a football evaluator.”
Somehow, this edition was even more ridiculous than last year’s, which used the word “collaboration” nine times and centered on praising Nagy’s heroic efforts in getting the Bears out of their six-game losing streak (which he was also responsible for). Encouraging stuff.
McCaskey opened this year’s presser with a long and unnecessary statement that used the 11-year-old son of the late ESPN Bears writer Jeff Dickerson as a clunky transition to wag his finger at a bunch of teens who chanted “Fire Nagy!” at one of Nagy’s son’s high school football games this season.
Then, mercifully, McCaskey got into the important stuff: explaining all the changes that would be made to save the Bears from ruin. Except there weren’t many of those. All season, football knowers have urged the Bears to create a president of football operations role, a person who would be in charge of the hiring of the next GM and head coach, and oversee them directly. Most teams have something similar. But in Chicago the GM reports to team president Ted Phillips, whose background is business, not football, and who last year said this in defense of retaining Pace and Nagy: “Have we gotten the quarterback situation completely right? No. Have we won enough games? No. Everything else is there … We have a solid football foundation.”
McCaskey said Monday, “I don’t think there is anything magical about a so-called football czar.” So instead of hiring anyone with a football background to handle this, he put himself in charge of overseeing the new general manager, saying that Phillips would now be focused on the Bears’ Arlington Heights project. McCaskey’s own record in his 11 seasons as Bears chairman (79-97, five double-digit losing seasons, zero playoff wins) doesn’t exactly inspire confidence here.
When asked if or how he is held accountable for results or lack thereof, McCaskey declared “my performance is reviewed by ownership, and the board of directors, and ownership has informed me that it wishes me to continue in this role.”
That Board of Directors:
- Virginia McCaskey, Secretary (George’s 99-year-old mother)
- George H. McCaskey, Chairman and CEO (George)
- Ted Phillips, President and CEO (George’s pal, worked for the Bears since 1984)
- Brian J. McCaskey, Member (George’s brother)
- Patrick McCaskey, Member (George’s other brother)
- Ed McCaskey Jr., Member (Correction: George’s nephew)
- Andrew McKenna, Member (92-year-old businessman, part-owner)
- Pat Ryan, Member (84-year-old businessman, part-owner)
Mommy said George is doing a good job!
When asked about QB Justin Fields and whether his input would matter in the search for a new coach and GM, McCaskey said, “I’m just a fan. I am not a football evaluator, and as a fan what I see is a dynamic player, with a lot of potential, a lot of ability, a lot of heart and a strong work ethic. We’re looking for a GM and HC that would develop not just the QB position but the talent around him. … Justin will not be an active part of the search process. But we will be interested to hear what their plan is to get the most out of the QB position for us.”
(Related: Here’s a photo I took of McCaskey wearing a tucked-in Kevin White jersey a day after they drafted him at the 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago. He is just a fan!)
McCaskey later refused to answer three consecutive questions asking if building around Fields was a prerequisite for candidates they will interview for the HC and GM openings. “I don’t entertain hypotheticals. … I don’t want to get into a semantics debate with you, but the first word of your question is ‘if,’ that to me presents a hypothetical, and we don’t know what the candidates have had to say because we haven’t interviewed any of them yet.”
McCaskey then decided to talk shit about current and former players. Without naming the player, even though everyone knew it was safety Eddie Jackson, he volunteered pointed criticism of a single play. “On the defensive side, I would point to this season, game one, one of our defenders fails to touch down a receiver who is on the ground.”
Then he called into question the credibility of eight-time captain and six-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz, who recently told a story on Chicago sports radio station 670 The Score about being offered $15 per hour to take a part-time coaching job with the Bears. “I’ve learned over the years to take just about anything Olin says with a grain of salt,” McCaskey said. “I look forward to hearing that story again and hope he includes it in his Hall of Fame induction speech.”
(Kreutz went on The Score to defend himself after McCaskey’s presser, saying he called then-offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, who confirmed his memory of the offer.)
Since his disaster of a press conference, the Bears have put in interview requests for Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, Brian Flores, Dan Quinn, Leslie Frazier, and Doug Pederson. Those are all solid candidates for the head coach job, but it’s important to keep this in mind if expecting any to succeed: They’d be reporting to George McCaskey.