George McCaskey

Bears release statement from George McCaskey on George Floyd's death

Bears release statement from George McCaskey on George Floyd's death

On Monday evening, the Bears released a statement from George McCaskey regarding the recent death of George Floyd: 

A week ago another unarmed African-American man died at the hands of a white police officer. We are witnessing the anger and frustration play out in protests across the nation, including Chicago. We must do more than wring our hands and hope it doesn’t happen again. As an organization, we have addressed it internally by offering unconditional support to our family of staff, coaches and players, and today Ryan Pace and Coach Nagy spent the allotted two hours of team meeting time listening to and healing together with our players and the coaching staff. Through our voice, our actions and our resources, it is our obligation to lead. We will continue to work with our player-led social justice committee to provide funding and exposure to local organizations dedicated to empowering communities that have been oppressed for far too long. We’re proud to support organizations like BUILD Chicago, I Grow Chicago, My Block, My Hood, My City, and Youth Guidance, among others, who are doing great work in these communities and we encourage fans to partner with us in supporting them. Our commitment is to continue to be an active participant in change.

Though they don't use his name specifically, it's clearly a reference to Floyd's death, as they Bears joined (most) teams across the country in issuing statements condemning the abuse of power among law enforcement officials. 

Eddie Jackson's extension is latest example of why it's hard to judge Ryan Pace's tenure

Eddie Jackson's extension is latest example of why it's hard to judge Ryan Pace's tenure

Has this not been the most Ryan Pace of Ryan Pace’s weeks, maybe ever? On Sunday, the team he assembled needed 58 minutes to beat the Vikings’ backups and finish a wildly-underwhelming season at 8-8. Two days later, his end-of-year press conference with Matt Nagy was panned for being, at best, tone deaf.

Then on Thursday, details of the deftly-restructured Kyle Fuller contract emerged – another commendable example of Pace showcasing his ability to maneuver through tricky cap situations. And finally, in what may end up being the smartest move of the Bears’ offseason, the team has reportedly agreed to a 4-year, $58 million extension with Eddie Jackson. 

“I’m not a patient person,” George McCaskey said on Tuesday. “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.”

The immediate flurry of moves isn’t surprising – Pace was adamant that the moment his press conference ended, “The next four to five months are about hard decisions – the decisions that require a real, honest assessment of our roster and our entire football operations.” While a coaching shakeup was apparently the most pressing of those decisions – someone’s gotta get fired – an extension for Jackson makes sense as a next step. Maybe the biggest surprise (or maybe not?) is the Bears apparently couldn’t wait until Labor Day weekend to announce it. 

The Bears aren’t any closer to figuring out what their starting safety duo is going to look like next season, but keeping Jackson around through at least 2025 is an objectively good mark for Pace’s tenure in Chicago. The 26-year old has been elected to the Pro Bowl twice in three seasons and already has been named a first-team All-Pro. Pro Football Focus ranked him as their top safety in 2018, though he was ranked considerably lower (86) this year. 

More importantly, the signing is the latest example of why it’s so tough to confidently judge the success of Pace’s six years in charge. Jackson’s extension is another feather in the cap of Pace and his staff, who deserve credit for building a talented Bears core. He now joins a group of players who are contracted through the 2022 season: Khalil Mack, David Montgomery, Kyle Fuller, Riley Ridley, Bobby Massie, Charles Leno and Roquan Smith (team options), Cody Whitehair, Eddie Goldman and Duke Shelley are the others. Not every NFL team can say they have that much young talent under contract for that long. 

Obviously the other side of the coin is none of those players are quarterbacks, and Pace’s time in Chicago is directly tied to fixing that. He’s been on record in the past stating he’d like to draft one every year, but backpedalled from that on Tuesday, saying, “You have philosophies, but you’re also taking best player available and you don’t want to deviate from that.” He also noted that rebuilding a roster from scratch required a different approach. 

Trubisky still seems like The Guy in Halas Hall, and that decision will outweigh every single prudent extension handed to other positions. Maybe Pace is bluffing, though it was interesting to compare his answers to the ones in Tampa Bay and Indianapolis. The fact that he’s even in this position casts such a large shadow over an otherwise-good resume. It’s also starting to draw the ire of fanbase growing impatient – and at a seemingly faster rate than the owner. 

“... I react like a fan,” McCaskey added. “That’s no way to run a football team.” 

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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.