Bears

Bears boss George McCaskey promised 'patience' with GM Ryan Pace, coach John Fox – but for how long?

Bears boss George McCaskey promised 'patience' with GM Ryan Pace, coach John Fox – but for how long?

After two dismal seasons under coach John Fox following two dismal seasons under coach Marc Trestman, Bears fans – and their team’s chairman – might be forgiven for a blunt question about when their football team would return to watchability:

“So how long is all this going to take?”

Best guess after Fox, GM Ryan Pace and Chairman George McCaskey all discussed their team and its situation: It had better not take too much longer.

McCaskey, who fired GM Jerry Angelo in 2011 after an 8-8 season and four playoff misses in the five seasons since the Super Bowl, who fired Trestman and GM Phil Emery in 2015 after just two catastrophic seasons, who acknowledged that his 90-plus mother Virginia was “pissed off” after the Emery-Trestman fiasco, said that he had assured Pace there would be patience with a Bears makeover.

“[Pace] talked from the beginning about how this was going to take time, about how we needed to be patient,.” McCaskey said during a media session at Halas Hall. “I told him I’m not a patient person but I promised him that I would be patient.

“With all the adversity that we’ve had, I like the steady hand that he and John have had on the team. These guys fought for each other all season. They never pointed fingers. And I think that’s a credit to the type of player that we have. And I think it’s also a credit to John and his coaching staff for keeping them together.

Like I said, I’m not a patient person. But I promised Ryan that I would be patient.”

Whether another losing season would exhaust McCaskey’s patience is something that neither Pace nor Fox are in any mood to find out. Both Pace and Fox privately said before the season that their expectations were far, far higher than both the results and the opinions of outsiders.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

And Pace, who came to the Bears from a successful New Orleans organization, was blunt in ways that were evident not only in what he said, but how he said it.

“I’m honestly extremely disappointed in this season,” Pace said. “But I’m honestly excited going forward. My message to Bears fans is simple: We’re going to get better. We WILL improve. I hear you. But I also understand this is just talk and we’ve got to show actions. We’ve got to show results. I fully get that… .

“My promise to Bears fans, and I really mean this: There’s not a moment that goes by that we’re both not consumed with getting this right. This is unacceptable. It’s painful to deal with. I get it. We’re going to get better. There’s a lot of young players that are going to improve. There’s a lot of players coming back that are going to help us. There’s a lot of things we can do this offseason to make us better.

“I knew this wasn’t an overnight fix. And I think you’ve got to be careful with that sometimes. Sometimes, hey, there’s a little bit of a panic, and oh, you start reaching for bad character guys or big contracts on wrong players. I think we’ve got to be calculated and measured why we’re going through this. And we will be. Patience is hard, and I get that, but we have to prove it on the field.”

NFL and NFLPA reportedly making progress towards new labor agreement

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USA Today

NFL and NFLPA reportedly making progress towards new labor agreement

According to a report by Mark Maske of The Washington Post, the NFL and NFLPA “have made meaningful progress towards a new labor agreement.” 

There is plenty to unpack as negotiations progress, but the most significant tidbit from this news is that there is reportedly a real possibility the eventual agreement will expand the NFL’s regular season schedule to 17 games (while eliminating games from the preseason).

Such an agreement would represent a compromise between the league and the NFLPA. According to Maske, owners had been pushing for an 18-game regular season, but the players union has remained reluctant to budge off the current 16-game schedule. Maske flagged the league’s rookie compensation scale and current marijuana policy as areas in which the owners could give ground in order to persuade the players to agree to an expanded schedule.

The report also lists a 14-team playoff field as a potential inclusion in the agreement.

The current NFL CBA — which was agreed to in 2011 — is valid through the end of the 2020 season, but Maske reports that there is “optimism” a new agreement might be reached by the end of the 2019-20 postseason.

There’s something special going on at the University of Illinois — take it from those who know head football coach Lovie Smith best

There’s something special going on at the University of Illinois — take it from those who know head football coach Lovie Smith best

For the first time in the Lovie Smith era, Illinois is bowl-eligible. 

It’s been a long, strange trip here for Lovie and the Illini. In his first three years at the helm of the program, the team failed to top four wins in a single season, amassing a combined record of 9-27 (4-23 B1G). But something about this 2019 group, which currently sits at 6-4 (4-3 B1G), feels different.

Take it from those who know Lovie best.

“They’ve bought in,” Alex Brown, who played under Smith for six years with the Bears, recently said. “Lovie is changing the culture down there, and he’s getting everybody to believe.”

That belief was on full display in the Illini’s matchup with Michigan State in East Lansing last Saturday — a comeback victory of historic proportions that clinched the program a bowl berth for the first time since 2014. At one point trailing 28-3, the visitors rode a number of big plays, turnovers and big-play turnovers to storm back and snap a 37-34 victory from the jaws of certain defeat.

“When you play for Lovie, everybody is motivated… You’re never out of [a] game,” Matt Forte, five years a student of Smith in Chicago, said. “You can be down, and he knows that one play by anybody can start the turn of events.”

Olin Kreutz was with the Bears for seven of Smith's nine years coaching the team. “It was awesome to see Coach Smith get that win, because you know how hard he works at it,” he said. “And for his team to do it in a way that’s kind of ‘Lovie Ball’... It’s just what you expect from Coach Smith because that’s what he preaches.”

Illinois turned Michigan State over four times on Saturday, including a fourth quarter pick-six that cut the Spartans’ lead to just one point with 4:53 to play. On the season, the Illini lead the FBS in total turnovers (26), defensive touchdowns (6) and are second in turnover margin (1.4). Add those gaudy figures (and a bowl appearance) to a campaign already highlighted by a last-second victory over then-No. 6 Wisconsin, and suddenly, it might be time to start thinking about a full-blown resurgence in Urbana-Champaign.

“The most dangerous thing for that whole conference is a team that has bought into the Lovie system,” Lance Briggs, who spent eight years as a linebacker under Smith in Chicago, said. “The players that are going to come and play at the University of Illinois know now that they’re walking into a team that believes in what they’re doing, and when they believe in what they’re doing, great things are going to continue to happen.”

Smith has certainly proven in the past — and to the people of Chicago, no less — that he’s capable of executing this type of turnaround.

“I’m sure you guys have heard this story about our '05 team and how we started out 1-3, and then all of a sudden. Boom. It just happened,” Brown said. “That is exactly what I see happening with U of I right now.”

All the program has accomplished in 2019 is a great step, but the hope is that even greater things are on the horizon.

“You wait ’til next year. They are going to compete, and they’re gonna beat — I’m calling that right now — they’re gonna beat either Michigan or Ohio State next year,” Brown continued. “They have the people there. More importantly, they have the belief that they can beat ’em.”

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