“Hand me a hammer Ted.” “Hang on let me finish drilling a hole to put this beam into place, George.”
That is probably what fans are imagining after news broke late Wednesday evening that the moribund NFL franchise better known as the Chicago Bears reached an agreement with Churchill Downs Inc. to sell the 326-acre property that is home to Arlington International Racecourse to the McCaskey family.
However, I believe today is one of the great days in the history of the franchise. Sept. 29, 2021 is the day when the Chicago Bears took a huge step toward acting like a major-market NFL franchise.
I know there are many fans who are skeptical that the family that owns and operates the Bears has the ability to pull a deal of this magnitude off. They fear that a quest to build a state-of-the-art stadium is much too ambitious of an agenda for a regime that has failed miserably to build a consistent winning team over the past 30+ seasons.
Well, I’m here to tell you they can’t screw this up. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a crown jewel of a home that could make the Bears one of the most valuable franchises in American professional sports. The Chicago market is massive, and the NFL knows it. They want the Bears to be a winner and they will do everything in their power to make sure that happens. Because when the Bears are good it means increased TV ratings, increased interest in the NFL and it means big money.
The Bears have been given a golden opportunity to set their franchise up for incredible success both on and off the field and the NFL will do all they can to help them succeed. Because the Bears are that important to the NFL.
The league kicked in 500 million dollars to help the Rams/Chargers build their state-of-the-art home (Sofi Stadium) and they will absolutely do whatever they can to help the Bears get a new stadium deal done. But, with their assistance comes oversight that the stadium will be designed and built properly.
This opportunity to build a new stadium is not like the drafting of a franchise quarterback which the Bears have failed at in spectacular fashion time and time again.
It is not like hiring of a new general manager or head coach which the Bears have struggled to get right many times over. Those decisions can be done repeatedly until you finally get it right.
However, a new stadium is a onetime deal. If you screw this process up there are no do overs. You can’t trade up in the next draft to pick another stadium. You have to get this right. And I truly believe they will because the league will make sure that they do it right.
For fans, this is a home run. Imagine parking your car on a snowy winter day in a heated garage outside the Bears new stadium. You leave your coat in the car, and you walk inside the entire way into a climate-controlled stadium.
You stop at a gorgeous new food emporium and have a pregame meal. You shop for gifts at a massive new team store that has every type of shirt, jacket and hat with the Bears logo, and the Super Bowls they have won in their new home. You even stop at the new sportsbook on the grounds and place a wager on your team, knowing yours is among the best in the league.
The McCaskey family has no clue how to build a consistent winner on the football field. But, they do know how to make money and they know that the right stadium deal could turn their $4 billion asset into a $6-10 billion asset.
With that type of money at stake the Bears cannot screw this up. They can’t and they won’t because the NFL will make sure they don’t. And, all of that money should make it easier to attract the best talent to build a better football team. That’s what it is all about and that is why I believe the next home of the Chicago Bears will be a huge home run.
Oh, and don’t worry. There is no shot George McCaskey and Ted Phillips will be hammering nails, drilling holes and driving a crane. The league knows how fortunate the Bears are to have had this opportunity fall into their laps and they won’t let a mom-and-pop operation screw it up.
Take your current president, Ted Phillips and put him in charge of business operations. Let him oversee the stadium deal. Keep him away from any part of football operations and the hiring of any football executives and coaches.
Then, if George and Co. are smart, they go make a run at a president of football operations with cache and empower him to fix all that is wrong with the on-field product. Peyton Manning sounds good to me. But Bears fans don’t care who it is. Just hire the right person and get the hell out of his way. Who cares what the cost is. You are the stewards of a franchise that is worth billions. Don’t tell us you can’t afford it.
The truth of the matter is you can’t afford not to.