Bears: McCaskey sends strongest possible 'accountability' message, again


Bears: McCaskey sends strongest possible 'accountability' message, again

The immediate focus of the past day has been Ray McDonald and the veteran defensive tackle’s third arrest in the past nine months. But the bigger spotlight has been squarely on Bears Chairman George McCaskey, and what that light has revealed is more than a little bit interesting.

McCaskey, who insiders say has something of a temper when he feels wronged, was exactly that by McDonald, and not just by McDonald.

For the second time in barely five months, the Bears chairman has paid much more than cursory lip service to the notion of “accountability.” In the process McCaskey exhibited the fortitude to acknowledge his own major mistake and to place his own ego a decided second to both doing the right thing and also doing the right thing for the Bears. This is no small matter.

[MORE: Bears release Ray McDonald in wake of arrest]

In January it was McCaskey admitting a franchise-grade mistake when he fired Phil Emery after just two years as general manager. This was McCaskey’s first big hire, he got it wrong and did not compound the mistake by staying with the error.

The Bears made a mistake on McDonald. To their credit, they did not compound the mistake by hiding behind “waiting for matter to make its way through the courts.” The absence of a criminal conviction does not mean that the criminal act never happened. Far worse than a mistake is not fixing it. McCaskey did that.

McCaskey initially opposed the signing of McDonald, understandably not keen on the risk inherent with someone with a dubious past. He had that “no” vote irrespective of what McDonald represented, a quality football player intimately familiar with the coach (Vic Fangio) and the defense he would be working with.

McCaskey did some personal vetting of McDonald, meeting one-on-one with him, and changed the no to an “OK,” but a conditional one. McDonald signed for one year and was on hand for the veteran minicamp. He projected to be a linchpin at one end of the forming 3-4 Bears defense.

But with the latest action, McDonald made saps out of McCaskey, Fangio, GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox, all of whom were called on for and gave public endorsements. And they cut their losses.

[MORE: Bears' Ray McDonald arrested on domestic violence charge]

“We believe in second chances, but when we signed Ray we were very clear what our expectations were if he was to remain a Bear,” Pace said in a statement issued Monday. “He was not able to meet the standard and the decision was made to release him.”

A point here is that McDonald has never been convicted of anything in the recent spate of incidents. And he was not some inconsequential down-the-depth-chart player. This was a starting defensive lineman.

The fault here lies with Ray McDonald, not the people who gave him one more chance.

And some credit goes to a chief executive who twice in six months has sent significant accountability messages from the highest reaches of the organization. McCaskey addressed his own mistakes promptly and decisively. That is a message that resonates beyond just Ray McDonald.

Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?


Do you realize just how many things have to break right for a Bears 2018 rebound?

Not all that long ago, back in the seemingly promising Dave Wannstedt days, something of an annual narrative began around the Bears. All too frequently since then it has been the refrain of more offseasons than not, including last year’s. And if there is a cause for very, very sobering realism in the wake of the heady wave of free-agency signings in the first days of the new league year, it lies in what has so often transpired to put the lie to that optimism.

The mantra then, and now, has been various iterations of, “If these three (or four, or six, or 12) things work out, the Bears are gonna be good this year.” Because the reality is that all those what-ifs seldom, if ever, all come to pass, whether because of injury, mis-evaluated abilities or whatever.

Look no further than this time last offseason, just considering the offense:

If Kevin White can come back from (another) injury, if Markus Wheaton flashes his Pittsburgh speed, if Dion Sims takes that next step from a promising Miami stint, if Kyle Long is back from his lower-body issues, if Cameron Meredith comes close to those 66 catches again, if Mike Glennon has the upside that led the GM to guarantee him $18.5 million, and hey, Victor Cruz, too, if… and so on.

And exactly zero of those “if’s” came to pass, with the result that John Fox and Dowell Loggains became idiots.

The point is not to a picker of nit or sayer of nay. But the fact is that a lot of the offseason moves and player development ALL need to come down in the plus-column for the Bears to be even as good as they were back in, say, 2015, when the offense had Martellus Bennett at tight end, Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver, Eddie Royal coming in at slot receiver (with 37 catches in an injury-shortened season), Kyle Long at his Pro-Bowl best, and Jay Cutler about to have the best full season of his career. And a new (proven) head coach and defensive coordinator, and an offensive coordinator with head-coaching talent.

All those things “worked” for a team that would wobble to a 6-10 year.

Now consider 2018:

The current top two wide receivers are both – both – coming off season-ending ACL injuries;

The incoming slot receiver has never had a season as reception-productive as the one (Kendall Wright) he is replacing (59) or as many as Royal had in just nine 2015 games (37);

The new tight end has never been a starter and has fewer career catches (63) than Bennett averaged (69) in three supremely disappointing Bears seasons;

The best offensive lineman (Long) is coming off missing essentially half of each of the past two seasons with injuries, and the co-best (Sitton) is gone from an offensive line that was middle of the pack last year and has high hopes for two linemen (Hroniss Grasu, Eric Kush) who’ve been largely backups, and a third (Jordan Morgan) who missed his rookie season with an injury;

And the quarterback (Trubisky) upon whom the franchise rests, who needs to overcome any so-called sophomore jinx and improve from a rookie level (77.8 passer rating) that was barely better than Cutler’s worst NFL season (76.8).

All of which sounds negative, but it really isn’t, just a perspective. Offseasons are about hope, but realism isn’t all bad, either.

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

USA Today

In moving forward with Dion Sims, the Bears will keep a mix of skillsets at tight end

When the Bears signed Trey Burton to a four-year contract worth a reported $32 million (with $18 million of it guaranteed), the natural thought was this: So long, Dion Sims. But the Bears are all but certainly going to hang on to the 27-year-old tight end after his $4 million roster bonus became fully guaranteed on Friday, barring a trade. 

“We like Dion Sims, a well-rounded tight end,” general manager Ryan Pace said on Thursday. “We’re excited we got him.”

Cynically — or, perhaps, fairly — Pace’s comments could’ve been interpreted as part of a play to trade Sims, who signed a three-year contract in 2017. The Bears saw Sims as a strong run blocker with pass-catching upside, but still gave themselves an out after one year that would’ve netted $5.666 million in cap savings. 

Sims didn’t show any of that receiving upside last year, though, catching 15 of 29 targets (51 percent) for 180 yards with one touchdown. Crucially, the Bears have the cap space to keep Sims, even with the flurry of signings they’ve announced this week -- and Kyle Fuller's reported four-year, $56 million extension -- and contract extensions looming for Eddie Goldman and possibly Adrian Amos, too. 

So hanging on to Sims means the Bears value his contributions as a run blocker and are willing to shoulder a $6.3 million cap hit for him to primarily be used in that role. The Bears expect Shaheen to be their primary in-line tight end, with Burton and Daniel Brown, who signed a one-year contract Friday, the more pass-catching-oriented “move” guys in Matt Nagy’s offense. But Sims will still have a role as the Bears look to maximize their production from the tight end position. 

“I think we can use all our tight ends,” Pace said. “I think the Super Bowl champions are a recent example of that, of using a lot of tight ends. They’re all valuable weapons. They’re all a little different. I think they all complement each other. It fits together nicely.”