George McCaskey

Bears end an 'especially disappointing' season with an especially disappointing press conference

Bears end an 'especially disappointing' season with an especially disappointing press conference

If you’re angry about how misguided Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace’s end-of-season press conference was, just be glad the Bears didn’t broadcast what came next. After Pace and Nagy finished trying to convince everyone that an offense that finished 25th in DVOA was only a few minor tweaks away, the Bears ushered media members into another part of Halas Hall so that Chairman George McCaskey and President Ted Phillips could properly explain to everyone how to feel after an 8-8 season. 

“We’re confident in Ryan and Matt to do what’s necessary to get us back on track,” McCaskey said. “As Ryan mentioned, the core of this team won the division with a 12-4 record in 2018. And we took a step back in 2019. And we need to figure out why that happened. I don’t think it’s just one reason. We need to look at all of the reasons. And address all of the reasons and get better.” 

There has not been a single more effective shield against 2019’s failures than 2018’s success. Where would the Nagy-era Bears be if not for the NFC North Champion hats and t-shirts that you totally see people wearing all the time? The Bears love invoking that 12-win season like Chicagoans love pretending that drinking Malorts is a personality trait. For example: Where does McCaskey stand on GM Ryan Pace, who has now gone 34-46 over six seasons at the helm? 

“In 2018, Ryan was executive of the year,” McCaskey said. “That’s part of the evaluation process. But it’s the entirety of the record. It’s not one particular decision.” 

Leaning on the crutch of nostalgia is nothing new for the organization. Half the billboards around the city feature a close-up of Brian Urlacher’s new hair, and it certainly feels like being on any Bears team with a winning record is the only qualification the city requires of its athletes-turned-pundits. At Soldier Field, the Bears hammer their history into your skull at every possible moment between Pat O’Donnell’s punts. If the Bears didn’t spend all their energy reminding you that George Halas founded, played and coached, they’d eventually have to answer for the fact that their team’s past is more in line with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers than with the NFL’s historically elite. The difference between the Bears’ one (1) Super Bowl title and the Bucs’ one (1) Super Bowl title is that the Bears had a catchy dance number to go along with it. 

So back to 2018, a season that ended with as many playoff wins as their 8-8 follow up did. How can the Bears get back to that? 

“We need more consistency from the quarterback position, but we need more consistency across the board,” McCaskey said. “The defense regressed in 2019. We need more takeaways. That happened in 2018 and it didn’t happen for the most part in 2019. The defense needs to score or put the offense on the doorstep — short field, help out the offense, help out the quarterback. That’s squad-wide.” 

On the surface, he’s right about that – the defense did regress. In 2018 the Bears had 27 interceptions, which is 9 more than in 2017 (8) and 2019 (10) combined, and scored six touchdowns – which is double the total from ‘17 and ‘19 as well. All a Bears resurgence would take, according to those in the corner offices at Halas Hall, is a defense (that’s already been asked to do too much) finding a way to be historically great at something that’s also historically arbitrary. But otherwise! 

McCaskey opened his media scrum with a statement on how, given all the expectations of the Bears’ 100th season, finishing 8-8 was “especially disappointing.” What he forgot to add was that since he took a more visible role with the team in 2011, it’s also becoming especially predictable.

George McCaskey says Bears have right structure in place to win

George McCaskey says Bears have right structure in place to win

Bears chairman George McCaskey, like GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy, spoke with reporters on Tuesday about the disappointing 2019 season and expressed frustration with the 8-8 record while maintaining confidence in the structure Chicago has in place to build a winning team.

"Every year we talk about the goal being to win the Super Bowl, and some years you feel you are better positioned to do that than others, and we certainly thought that was the case in 2019, so the 8-8 record was especially disappointing in that light," McCaskey said. "Bears fans should be relieved that I don’t get involved in the football decisions, that’s all Ryan and Matt. We’re confident in them making the right decisions for the Bears going forward."

Normally, votes of confidence would be viewed with pessimism. History tells us that when owners or chairmen express their confidence in a struggling coach or general manager, the pink slip isn't far behind. 

But that isn't the case with the Bears, especially considering how successful the Pace-Nagy duo was just one year ago. Remember: We're less than one year removed from Chicago hosting a playoff game.

"We’re confident in Ryan and Matt to do what is necessary to get us back on track," McCaskey said. "As Ryan mentioned, the core of this team won the division with a 12-4 record in 2018, and we took a step back in 2019, and we need to figure out why that happened. I don’t think it’s just one reason, we need to look at all of the reasons, and address all of the reasons, and get better.

"I’m not a patient person, that’s where it’s really helpful to have Ryan, he talks about not getting too high or too low, trying to keep an even keel, and that’s important for me to remember because I react like a fan, and that’s no way to run a football team."

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Bears leave Arizona fired up for season opener against Packers

Bears leave Arizona fired up for season opener against Packers

PHOENIX — Bears chairman George McCaskey teased a “major announcement” Tuesday at the NFL's annual meeting about the team’s uniform, which could come as early as next week. The Bears are celebrating their 100th season in 2019, so whatever that announcement is, it would seem likely to involve a nod to the team’s history. 

While we’ll have to wait to see what new threads the Bears will wear at some point in 2019, we do know this: The NFL granted the Bears the first game of the 2019 season, to be played at Soldier Field on Thursday, Sept. 5 against the Green Bay Packers. 

The NFL’s move was unconventional — usually, that Thursday night game goes to the defending Super Bowl champion. But with the NFL celebrating its centennial season concurrently with the Bears, the league had been in talks long before the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl (again) in February. 

Perhaps some in Boston will take this as another injustice thrust upon them by Roger Goodell and the NFL. Some other folks in that area of the country probably don’t care. But for the McCaskey family, it represents a special opportunity to celebrate how far their franchise, and the game of football, have come since George Halas founded the team 100 seasons ago. 

“We’re looking forward to it,” McCaskey said. “The place is going to be rocking. The 199th meeting. We’re two behind in the series. This would be a good season to even things up, I think.”

The Packers, indeed, lead the all-time series 97-95-6. Their first meeting was Nov. 27, 1921, with the Bears securing a 20-0 win. At one point in the early 90’s — before Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers came along — the Bears had a 24-game lead in the all-time series. It has been, is, and always will be a point of pride for the McCaskey family and Bears fans to beat the Packers. 

And with a team that had a worst-to-first turnaround in 2018, led by a dynamic coach, budding quarterback and dominant defense, McCaskey wouldn’t be wrong to feel the tide starting to turn in the Bears’ favor for the first time since Mike Ditka roamed the sidelines at Soldier Field. 

“We know what the Bears mean to Bears fans and we're just very grateful for that,” McCaskey said. “I’ve said this before: We put our fans through four years of hell and they stuck with us and they were rewarded to some extent last year. A lot of people have told me I can't remember when I had so much fun watching the Bears. 

“7-1 record during the regular season at home. Matt (Nagy) challenged the fans to bring back the Soldier Field home field advantage and they responded. And you could see it building as the season progressed and those late season games against the Rams and the Vikings and the Packers, that place was rocking and that's what we want. We want a distinct home field advantage. We want to be respectful, of course, of the visiting team and visiting team fans, but we want it to be a difficult place for visiting teams to play.”

The first test of that last line will come in the NFL’s first game of 2019. With the league putting on an event in Grant Park, a national spotlight on NBC and an entire city’s attention turned to the lakefront, the Bears can expect a raucous atmosphere to greet their longtime rivals in early September. 

As Nagy talked through what would happen — season opener for the league, season opener for the Bears, at Soldier Field — he perked up a bit on Tuesday morning. 

“I mean, I got goosebumps just there saying that,” Nagy said. “It's going to be special. We've got to make sure our guys understand the significance of it, but not to make it too overblown to where they don't play fast. I think it's going to be great for the league. I'm excited it's at home. Obviously, playing in Green Bay and that tough loss we had last year (in Week 1). But I'm fired up about it.”

The NFL, of course, is not without its own issues as it enters its 100th season. Those won’t be papered over because of one Thursday in Chicago in September. 

But the sport remains the most popular one in the United States, with the NFL making strong in-roads in Mexico and England, too. And decades ago, when Halas had to creatively battle to get football in front of Americans, perhaps an event with massive interest like the Bears-Packers season opener would’ve been something he could’ve envisioned. 

“I don’t know that he could have envisioned the explosive growth of our game,” McCaskey said. “But I’m convinced that he knew that professional football was something that America would come to love. And there’s a little plaque in the lobby of Halas Hall, underneath this life-size piece of art of George Halas. And the plaque is written by Bill McGrane, a pretty good writer. There’s a line in there something to the effect of ‘By sheer force of his immense will George Halas demanded that American pay attention to professional football.’ I think that’s what has happened.”

And Now, A Story

We’ll end this with a story by McCaskey about why he doesn’t wear his Super Bowl XX ring anymore. 

McCaskey estimated this story happened in the early 1990’s, though the Bears first played the Cincinnati Bengals in a preseason game after winning the Super Bowl in 2000. The Bears played at Cincinnati in 1986 and 1995 during the regular season. 

Anyways, here’s the story:

“So I think it was a preseason game in Cincinnati and I had my ring on for the trip and we flew out of the airport, which is in Kentucky, on the charter. And at some point on the return flight I realized that i didn't have my ring with me and I was sick to my stomach. 

“And Bob Laskowski who at the time was our United Airlines rep and since came to work for the Bears and has been with us for many, many years tore the plane apart for me. I was very embarrassed and our doctors were looking under their seats and the overhead bins and the seat backs and the pockets — It couldn't be found anywhere. 

“Well, the fact of the matter was it wasn't on the plane and I thought it was hopefully lost. I don't remember how much time was passed, but I got a call from a firefighter with whatever the local fire department is that services that airport and he said, 'Hey I was on a vehicle on the jet-way and we're trained to look for debris on the tarmacs that could be sucked into a jet engine, and I've got your ring.

“… He returned the ring. He didn't want any money, didn't want any reward, he wound up coming to a Bears game or going to a Bears game, I don't remember what the details were. 

“But the ring was smashed, it had gotten run over by one of the airport vehicles. So, since then (laughs) I don't wear it all the time. And I've got my dad's ring from 1963 so they're both in a safe place.”