Earlier this year, the Denver Broncos moved John Elway into the role of President of Football Operations. This is different from the role of the President and CEO of the Broncos, Joe Ellis, and different from the role of General Manager that Elway used to fill. The Broncos power structure now has four positions below the ownership level (President/CEO, President of Football Operations, General Manager, and Head Coach). The power structure gives Elway the ability to steer the ship in Denver without having to grind film to make player evaluations and make all of the myriad decisions required of a GM.
Speculation surrounding the future of Head Coach Matt Nagy, General Manager Ryan Pace, and President Ted Phillips dominated Chicago sports talk after their 2020 season ended with a resounding defeat and some Nickelodeon slime to clean off their jerseys. Chairman George McCaskey ultimately decided to retain the services of all three for the 2021 season but the spotlight on Phillips interested me the most.
McCaskey went out of his way to make sure everyone knew that Phillips, who has worked for the Bears since 1983 and served as President since 1999, has no input on football decisions. He’s clearly there for the business operations side of things and as long as the McCaskey family is happy with the finances, the public outcry over his role in the football side of things falls on deaf ears. While it’s undeniably good that the Bears don’t rely on Phillips for football insight, they are missing a golden opportunity to create a role to take some of the burden off the General Manager and fill a role that the current team President cannot or should not. Why not add a fourth position like the Broncos and fill that role with someone who has football credibility?
If the Chicago Bears pursued this idea, they should fill that role with someone who oozes football credibility, a figure that people will respect in the community and in the boardroom. The person should be able to articulate the vision of Chicago Bears football into the future while embracing the rich history of its past. If you search through the history of Chicago Bears players and coaches, one name stands out above the rest: Charles Peanut Tillman.
When the Bears drafted Tillman in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft, it was a full-circle moment. Tillman was born in Chicago but spent the majority of his youth following his father station to station in the US Army. After 12 seasons in Chicago, Tillman left as its greatest cornerback and one of its most impactful and beloved players in the history of the franchise. He was the Walter Payton Man of the Year for his extensive charitable work. He conducted himself with poise on and off the field. He is, in short, the best of what the Chicago Bears can offer and individuals like him need to be part of the organization moving forward.
That’s all well and good, but would Charles Tillman actually be interested in such a role? That’s not a question I can answer without talking to Tillman directly (and I’d welcome that opportunity!) but if I’m the Bears, it’s worth a try. Tillman studied Criminology at the University of Louisiana and landed a job with the FBI a few years ago. He may be living out his dream job already and who is to say a role like this would even interest him?
The answer is no if you don’t ask. The ball is in your court, Mr. McCaskey.
What do you think of the idea of President Peanut? Sound off in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter @gridironborn.