Welcome to a new year fans. One that begins with your Chicago Bears as rightful Kings of the NFC North, and participants of the NFC playoffs. A scenario that was dismissed as wishful thinking in each of the previous 8 years. Plenty has changed in the span of just one remarkable season for this franchise starved of good fortune.
Naturally, much of the credit has gone to head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. Coach Nagy is a front runner for coach of the year, and Pace is certainly deserving of his own honors and awards. A job exceptionally well done for both of these guys.
Yet it doesn’t end there.
David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune recently wrote a story about how chairman George McCaskey is deserving of some credit for the Bears’ historic turnaround in 2018. Here is something to consider when Ryan Pace eventually earns distinction as one of the top front office execs in the NFL.
McCaskey believed in Pace when almost nobody else did, blind faith the young GM rewarded after hitting reset on his career. Instead of firing Pace, McCaskey empowered him financially. Pace hired coach Matt Nagy — as significant as any Bears decision in 2018 — and attacked free agency armed with McCaskey’s mandate to do whatever was necessary to get it right this time — cost be damned. (Haugh, David - Chicago Tribune)
George is nothing like his predecessor and brother, Michael McCaskey, when it comes to running the organization.
Not even close.
Michael seemed content with minimizing changes as much as possible. It was rare to see players contracts extended with large paydays included, and free agency generally resulted in a combination of window shopping for fans and inexpensive if not cheap additions to the actual roster. Coaching staffs had a relatively long leash regardless of their overall records. His tactics and frugality tested the patience of every Bears fan in existence.
George, on the other hand, hasn’t been hesitant whatsoever when it came time to make changes and punch out someone’s pink slip.
Since 2011, people fired under George’s leadership include: Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith, Phil Emery, Marc Trestman, and John Fox. There was even potential for Ryan Pace to be fired after his 2017 shopping spree went up in smoke along with an overall record of 14-34 while presiding as GM. It would have been justified performance-wise.
Some saw this as a possible fault for George McCaskey. Owners and chairmen perceived to have itchy trigger fingers can lead to difficulties in filling potential vacancies in the future.
As Haugh alluded to earlier, George elected to show true patience, and granted Ryan a chance at redemption. Pace was extended for two seasons in an effort to better align the timelines between him and his future head coach. He also issued a new marching order for Pace to follow: win. Win at any cost you find necessary. To that effect, Pace has accomplished that mission. George’s patience has been rewarded.
The energy shared between this franchise and the fans is completely different as well.
George has bucked off the notorious “McCheapsky” vibe despised by fans and members of the local media. Instead of closing the franchise off from the world, he has gradually opened those doors wider with each passing year. They still have one of the most strict media policies in existence, yet the interaction between their social media accounts and fans has improved dramatically. It’s not unheard of to see George joining the fans in the stadium during game days at Soldier Field.
There is one more person that should be included in all this, despite all the criticism and ire he’s drawn from the entire fanbase.
Yes, I am including team president and CEO Ted Phillips. Ted, and his expertise in accounting, has been a part of this franchise since 1983. When he was promoted to team president in 1999, it was not a move met with much fanfare. What’s more, is when Michael McCaskey eventually granted Ted Phillips more permissions for various assignments, Ted did not achieve a great deal of success.
Recent years have shown a relatively smaller amount of activity for Ted. He has kept his hands off from the roster building process of recent years while playing an administrative role in the latest coaching search which netted Matt Nagy. And that’s deserving of recognition, too.
There have been far too many team presidents across the league who dip into their respective subordinates’ business. Bruce Allen — of the Washington Redskins — is a chief example of that. So why is this important when it comes to Ted Phillips? It’s because he’s supporting Ryan Pace in every way that is needed, as he’s done an exceptional job of ensuring the team’s financial operations are in good working order.
Best of all, he’s not interfering with any of the duties assigned to Pace. Neither Ted nor George are actively seeking attention or praise for their diligence and hard work behind the scenes. They’re simply enjoying the experience like the rest of us.
If nobody else says it, then I will:
Thank you to George McCaskey and Ted Phillips, in addition to Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy along with their respective staffs, for putting together such an outstanding football team. Thank you for hearing the voices of the fans and demanding nothing but excellence for Halas Hall to achieve. And thank you for starting off the 2019 year right. As rightful Kings of the North, and the potential beginning for a new empire to emerge in the NFL.