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Ted Phillips is Not the Villain he’s made out to be

Greg Gabriel, who knows the inner workings of the Bears’ franchise, has some thoughts on team president Ted Phillips.

Packers-Bears Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

I have been in Chicago for 21 years. I came here in June of 2001 to work for the Chicago Bears as Director of College Scouting under General Manager Jerry Angelo. During that time, I also worked closely with team President and CEO Ted Phillips. In all the time I have been in Chicago, I have never seen anyone vilified as much as Ted, and I have always wondered why?

Ted is not only an outstanding President and CEO of the Bears, but he's also a very good person. He gets a bad rap from both media and fans when the fact is very few people know what Ted Phillips does.

Several believe that the Bears' football team is Phillips' main responsibility when in reality, football is a small part of it. As a flagship franchise in the National Football League, the Chicago Bears are a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

When Ted Phillips took over as Team President in 1999, the Chicago Bears were worth less than $400 Million. Today, according to Forbes Magazine, the Bears have a worth of approximately $5.8 Billion. Much of that has to do with the work of Phillips.

As President and CEO of the Bears, Ted Phillips oversees the entire organization. That includes the football team and all business ventures, sponsorships, sales, and charitable foundations. It was Ted Phillips who led the way with the rebuilding of Soldier Field. That was no easy task as the City of Chicago insisted that the old Soldier Field be included in the new Stadium. Working with then-Mayor Richard Daley and other Chicago Politicians was a difficult task, yet Phillips was able to complete the project.

While the City owns the Stadium, it is Phillips who makes sure that the Stadium continually meets NFL standards.

It was recently announced that the Chicago Bears have offered to buy the former Arlington Park Raceway in suburban Arlington Heights, where they intend to build a new state-of-the-art stadium and a huge entertainment complex on the 326-acre parcel. When that project is completed, it will make the Chicago Bears one of the wealthiest clubs in the entire National Football League, if not the wealthiest. Again, it was Phillips who had the vision and saw the value of this lucrative project.

When I came here in 2001, Halas Hall, the Bears' main facility, was already too small for the ever-growing size of the organization. Under Phillips' leadership, Hallas Hall has undergone two separate expansions and is now considered one of the finest team facilities in the National Football League.

Several fans want to blame Phillips for Chicago's dismal showing on the football field in recent years. The Bears haven't been consistent contenders since Jerry Angelo was the General Manager from 2001 through 2010. It was Phillips who hired Angelo when many felt the front runner was Tom Modrak, who was the GM of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Angelo had a vision of how he could get the Bears back to their winning ways, and he succeeded with the Bears going to the Playoff four times and winning an NFC Championship in 2006, and Phillips bought into those ideas. Following Angelo's reign, Phillips hired Phil Emery to replace Angelo, which turned out to be a disaster. Emery didn't last long, and when it came time to hire another General Manager, he enlisted the help of former Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi to oversee the search. Accorsi came with the recommendation of the League and had been involved in several other GM searches, including the Atlanta Falcons' hiring of Thomas Dimitroff. It was Accorsi who recommended to both Phillips and the McCaskey family the hiring of Ryan Pace as GM and John Fox as Head Coach. When those hires were made, it was looked at as a home run for the Bears, although it didn't turn out that way.

When Fox was let go after three seasons, it was Pace, Phillips, and Bears Chairman George McCaskey who decided to hire Chiefs Offensive Coordinator Matt Nagy as Head Coach. After their first season, that also looked like a great hire, but things fell apart quickly in the following seasons. As soon as the 2021 season was completed, Phillips dismissed Nagy and Pace.

To ensure that the next hires would bring back the Bears to prominence, Phillips brought in Hall of Fame General Manager Bill Polian to oversee the search. It was Polian who recommended New GM Ryan Poles to both Phillips and the McCaskey's. Time will tell if that hiring and the hiring of Matt Eberflus as Head Coach will bring winning back to Chicago. With the new season starting in five days, the hires look excellent.

While some of those previous hires that went wrong are on Phillips, his handling of the Bears organization as a whole has been a success.

One thing I know firsthand about Ted is that he lets his Department Directors handle their departments as they see fit. The General Manager oversees football operations, and despite false public feelings, he does not interfere with their decision-making. He meets with his managers, lets them sell their vision, and gives them the blessing to do as they see fit. At the same time, he holds them accountable for what that vision was.

At no time during my time with the Bears did Phillips prevent us from doing what we felt was best for the organization. He realizes he is not a "football guy" and lets the football people do their work.

What I do know about Ted Phillips is that he is a very bright and astute businessman with exceptional instincts. He knows the Chicago market and has done many things to keep the Bears as a very valuable franchise.

Last week, it was announced that Phillips would retire as President and CEO of the Bears next February. While he could stay on as a consultant to oversee the new Stadium project, his shoes will be tough to fill. As I see it, if the Bears stay in-house for the position, the most deserving and desirable candidate is Bears General Council, Cliff Stein. Stein has been with the club for 20 years and has worked very closely with Phillips on many of the Bears' projects over the years.

Despite the public narrative, Ted Phillips has been an excellent leader for the Bears. Yes, he has made some mistakes, but his overall job performance has been outstanding based on his job description.