Bears fans rejoiced when it was announced coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace were “relieved of their roles” this morning.
No more hearing about “The Whys” or about the “collaboration” and “conviction.” Those days are gone. Now the organization has another opportunity to fix the wrongs that were left by Nagy and Pace.
However, it will all come down to chairman George McCaskey to ensure the right moves can be made. But after McCaskey and president Ted Phillips’ roughly 59-minute end-of-season press conference, there is plenty of pessimism surrounding the direction of this team.
Here are two factors McCaskey must consider as the Bears venture into hiring their next general manager and head coach.
General Manager: Too Close and Personal
It was well documented how the Bears’ organization viewed Pace – no doubt making today’s decision a hard one for the McCaskey family. It’s great to have a good rapport with the people you work with, but there absolutely needs to be boundaries.
“Ryan and Matt weren’t hired because they are nice guys and we are not looking for a particular personality type,” McCaskey said. “It’s who can best lead the Bears to success.”
Well, Pace’s bond with the McCaskeys said otherwise and the relationship went further than it needed to be. That can’t happen again with whoever becomes the next general manager of the team.
There were legitimate reasons for Pace and Nagy to be fired following the 2020 season. Instead, McCaskey and Phillips highlighted how the team handled a six-game losing streak among other forgettable topics in that end-of-the-year press conference.
Personal relationships can’t interfere with business decisions. As a result, Pace and Nagy were kept one season too long to run a team that would eventually finish 6-11.
I’m not saying McCaskey and the next general manager shouldn’t collaborate. McCaskey mentioned the next general manager will report to just him and not Phillips – something new for the Bears.
McCaskey just needs to remember he is the chairman of the organization and will be responsible for hiring two of the most important people to have his team function. He isn’t going out and hiring best friends.
The Bears may actually be on to something if he can figure that out.
Head Coach: Keeping Fields in Mind
McCaskey was asked in today’s press conference about his belief in quarterback Justin Fields and whether the quarterback would be involved in getting to know some of the potential head coaching candidates before a decision is made.
“I’m just a fan. I’m not a football evaluator,” is how McCaskey started to answer the question, which is alarming to say the least. He then went on to say that “Justin will not be an active part of the search process.”
Look, that sounds bad, but it’s not the most uncommon thing. There are several instances of organizations throughout the NFL not including players in these important decisions. Green Bay reportedly didn’t tell Aaron Rodgers about the Jordan Love pick. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was also upset and felt left out when the Texans hired general manager Nick Caserio. Again, not exactly the same situation the Bears are in but slightly similar.
Regardless, the Bears should be searching for a coach that will have Fields’ best interest in mind. Not for a coach that has a specific offensive system that only operates a certain way. But instead, a person that can put his quarterback and current players in positions to succeed while also finding ways to adequately adapt to certain situations.
For reference, the Week 3 game against Cleveland is exactly why the Bears need to value a coach that has those attributes.
McCaskey was also asked if a potential coach or general manager doesn’t like Fields or wants to move on from him, would that “automatically disqualify them from the position of GM or coach?”
“Well, as I’ve said before, I don’t entertain hypotheticals,” McCaskey said. “We’re interested in hearing what the candidates have to say about the development of the entire football organization and especially the quarterback position. We want to know what their plan is to develop that position for us.”
Another reporter followed up by asking again if a candidate has “reservations about his (Fields’) potential, does that potentially disqualify that person from getting a job with you?”
“Well, I don’t want to get into a semantics debate with you, but the first word of your question was ‘if,’” McCaskey said. “That to me presents a hypothetical, and we don’t know what the candidates have had to say because we haven’t interviewed any of them yet. We want to know what their plan is for that position for the Bears.”
Take that response however you want, but McCaskey along with Phillips, Bill Polian, LaMar Campbell and Tanesha Wade just need to remember what is important when going into these coach and general manager interviews.
If the interview questions to the candidates don’t involve Fields right from the start, then the Bears’ process is doomed to fail.
The ensuing days and weeks will be crucial for the organization moving forward. Let’s see if McCaskey has learned anything new since taking over as chairman in 2011.