Bears Chairman George McCaskey this week laid out the broad strokes of the sales approach that he, President Ted Phillips and GM Ryan Pace will use in their interviews of candidates to replace John Fox as head coach. But it may not be the sort of message that matters in the least to candidates.
“First of all, we’re what the league refers to as a 'legacy franchise,'" McCaskey said. “We’ve been [part of the NFL] from the start. We’re approaching our centennial, as well as the league’s. Chicago’s a great city. We have a roster that has a core of talent that needs to be developed. We’ve got a passionate fan base and we will give the coach everything he needs to succeed.”
The better selling point for the Bears interviewing team arguably should be less one of selling “legacy” than selling the opportunity to build a legacy.
Even that will be challenging. If a proven turnaround architect like John Fox couldn’t effect change in three years, winning one less game in his third year than in his first, why would a first-time head coach have reason to believe that he can do what Fox couldn’t?
“Legacy franchise” is open to interpretation, and of questionable value. McCaskey’s use of it is rooted in longevity. It could be loosely based in championships except for the fact that the Bears have only one of those in the past 55 years, longer ago than most of the candidates will have been alive.
That selling point has carried next to no weight with players in the past handful of years. Players typically follow the money, but last offseason, ones such as cornerback Stephon Gilmore chose the Patriots for less money over the Bears. And what sort of recommendation are the Bears likely to get from former Bears/now Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery when Philadelphia quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo asks Jeffery about Chicago in preparation for DeFilippo’s job interview?
Indeed, an informal sampling of opinions among individuals in and around the NFL provided this consensus ranking of franchises now regarded as the current NFL “elites” for places to play:
1 – New England
2 – Pittsburgh
3 – (tie) Green Bay, Dallas (even with Jerry Jones)
DeFilippo, Josh McDaniels, Matt Nagy, Steve Wilks, (insert Bears candidate here) will all be endeavoring to sell themselves as the right guy to become the next head coach of the Bears, Cardinals, Colts, (insert coach-less NFL team here). The sales experience will be about substance as well as character, and not just the candidate’s.
At the same time, like it or not, while there are only a max of 32 of these jobs to be had, the team conducting the interview will be doing a sales job of its own, if only because the reason the particular job is open in the first place is that the quality of the team is at a low point: Only one of the six head-coaching berths (Detroit, 9-7) is with a team coming off a winning season.
McCaskey’s pro-Chicago pitch notwithstanding, the Bears have a tougher sell than the others. They are the only one of the six needing to convince candidates that a team coming off four straight seasons of double-digit losses is really a good place to be.