The team hasn’t had much on-field success under Phillips’ leadership, with just six postseason appearances since 1999, when he assumed his current role, but he was an essential part of the franchise for four decades.
When asked what stood out about Phillips’ time with the Bears, team chairman George McCaskey said, “His humility. His intelligence. His consensus building. His steady hand. His refusal to get too high or too low. He’s been an outstanding leader for the Bears. Peerless is the word that comes to mind.”
Phillips has been an easy critic Bears’ fans, but his role was never a football one but a financial one.
Fans and media sometimes blamed Phillips for the Bears’ struggles, but he never made decisions about players and was not a meddler. He hired the people to make decisions about players and then discussed their choices with them.
Philips oversaw the changes to Soldier Field over the years, was involved with the Halas Hall renovations, and is currently focused on the new stadium project in Arlington Heights. Still, he understands that he’s in a results-based business.
“Winning football games is everything, and if I had one regret it’s that we haven’t had a consistently winning team under my tenure,” Phillips said via the team’s site. “I know there’s been a lot of good, and that’s what I reflect on. But working for the family and the trust they’ve shown in me has been amazing. I could have never scripted my career any better. I never planned on ever working in professional football, and I had that for 40 seasons. I’ll always be grateful and I’m always going to be part of the Bear family.”
Pompei reports that Phillips could stay on to consult as they finalize the new stadium deal. He also says that the franchise has already begun looking for his successor. A couple of in-house replacements could be senior vice president of marketing and communications Scott Hagel and senior vice president and legal counsel Cliff Stein. However, they will use the search firm Nolan Partners to assist.