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Did George McCaskey Finally Become the Owner of the Chicago Bears? Well, Maybe.

| February 1st, 2022

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports


About twenty days ago, George McCaskey said he was “just a fan” of the Chicago Bears and that comment was met with an array of outrages. How could this man, the Chairman of the franchise (an official, paid position), be so naive as to suggest he does not bear responsibility for the franchise’s success on the field? Why hadn’t this man, tasked with leading the organization, used all the resources at his disposal to not only be more than a fan, but to be one of the more knowledgeable football men in the league?

It was the most damning moment in his tenure and two things happened in the immediate aftermath of that press conference. Ted Phillips and McCaskey had a heated conversation, as the club’s president made clear to its oblivious owner just how bad the press conference had gone. Then, McCaskey left Halas Hall, leaving Ted alone to discuss the GM candidates with the hiring team and organize their schedules. (Ted didn’t leave the building to well after midnight. McCaskey was not in contact.)

The tension thawed. McCaskey was on the Zoom for every GM candidate, although his participation was extremely limited. One source says the questioning broke down about 70-30, with Bill Polian asking the majority of the questions and Phillips asking the Bears-specific stuff. (Ryan Poles’ comments at his introductory presser mirrored the responses from most candidates, in that Polian was an exceptional leader of these calls.) Ted encouraged George to get more actively involved. George resisted, again not believing it was his place to do so.

Then, something changed.

The Bears interviewed Ryan Poles.

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Most of What George McCaskey Said Doesn’t Matter. Except This.

| January 11th, 2022

(This following column is by my former Chicago Now colleague, Adam Oestmann.)


Let’s start here: George McCaskey is not an idiot. A graduate of the Arizona State School of Law, McCaskey once served as an assistant state’s attorney in DeKalb and Lee counties before taking a position as ticketing director with his family-owned football team, the Chicago Bears, in 1991.

George would do that job — and by all accounts do it well — for the next 20 years, before being appointed Chairman of the Board following the retirement of his older brother Michael in 2011. At the time, Michael had this to say about his little brother: “He knows a lot about tickets and interacting with fans. He needs to add to that, and he will; knowledge about the finances of an NFL team, marketing, IT, sponsorships — all of the things that go into running an NFL team today.”

We’ll come back to that.

The morning of the NFL’s Black Monday, ESPN insider Adam Schefter reported the expected; the Bears had fired head coach Matt Nagy. Shortly thereafter, Schefter reported the less expected news that the team had also parted ways with its general manager, Ryan Pace. Bears fans were elated.

And while some may have reveled in two oft-vilified men losing their jobs, most of said elation had little to do with schadenfreude and everything to do with hope for the future. Nagy and Pace, consummate professionals to the bitter end, are nothing short of respectable men who were unable to achieve desired results. A new start means maybe the next people will. It’s that simple.

And so, the Chicago Bears quickly sent out a press release, saying that George McCaskey would be available to speak to the media that afternoon. The cherry on top for Bears fans being that George’s name was the only one on the release. Just like Christmas morning, we thought. Everything we wanted and more. A fresh start, and no Ted Phillips. Ahh.

That’s where elation ended.

Approximately an hour after 1:00 PM Chicago time, and most Bears fans were left scratching their heads at best, sick to their stomachs at worst. George McCaskey had found a way fumble the ball at the goal line. Opening with what I have no doubt was a well-intentioned tribute to the late Jeff Dickerson that was somehow shoehorned into a segue intended to chastise youngsters for heckling Matt Nagy at a high school football game, to having Ted on call, to refusing to speak his young quarterback’s name or offer Justin Fields even a token vote of confidence when offered the chance to do so three or four times, to calling Olin Kreutz a liar. Complete and total dumpster fire was all I could think. You had Bears fans in the palm of your hand and managed to screw it up in less than an hour.

I said that I don’t believe George McCaskey is an idiot. I think that’s true. But he is beyond tone deaf.

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Details on the Firings of Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy

| January 10th, 2022


I have been pretty locked in on the thinking of Bears ownership over the last few months, actually working a few friends harder than I normally would for information. Here’s the fruits of those efforts.

  • Matt Nagy began to fall out of favor with ownership this summer. George McCaskey, and Ted Phillips, shared my outrage with how the quarterback position was being handled. George was physically moved to see Justin Fields receive a standing ovation at a preseason game and could not understand why Nagy, and to a lesser degree Pace, were eschewing that enthusiasm to play a journeyman quarterback.
  • Despite what has been reported, George never instructed Nagy to play Fields. But he did, almost weekly, ask WHY Fields wasn’t playing. The problem? Nagy’s answers never held water. When the coach would resort to tired phrases about the kid not being “ready”, the owner wanted to know what that actually meant. Nagy could never communicate that effectively.
  • The Bears decided to fire Nagy before Thanksgiving, but never entertained the idea of firing him in-season. Nagy never lost the locker room; the team constantly played with effort. The Bears are comfortable waiting until the season is over. Nagy was NOT told that week.
    • On the Patch report, the same source tried to leak that story to many journalists and non-journalists like me. We vetted it. It had no merit.
    • The Bears were furious about the story getting traction. And they still can’t believe they faced criticism for a bullshit story.
  • The decision to fire Ryan Pace was far more complicated and took FAR longer. Some highlights:
    • The Bears, through back channels, used a series of consultants to evaluate the whole of their football operation. Bill Polian was involved. Tony Dungy was involved. In the early stages of that process, the recommendation was veering towards only replacing Pace if they could land an
    • established GM. But at the conclusion of the process, the formal recommendation was for the Bears to move on.
    • Ozzie Newsome was approached about a formal role in the organization. He chose to remain retired.
    • The Bears put out feelers to both Kevin Colbert and John Schneider, gauging potential availability and interest. (I honestly don’t know the outcomes of those feelers, but Colbert is retiring from the Steelers after this coming draft.)
    • The Bears have been pretty definitively firing Pace for a few weeks. But it became “official” last Wednesday.
    • Polian helped compile a list of a dozen GM candidates and those meetings will begin immediately. I do not know what his involvement will be in the coming weeks.

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With Urban Meyer’s Firing, Bears Need to Expedite Decisions on Nagy, Pace

| December 17th, 2021


[Note: The game preview will be published Monday, as it seems pointless to analyze a game three days out when both teams are already in advanced Covid protocols.]

On Wednesday morning, the Las Vegas Raiders were the only team affirmatively looking for a new head for the coming season. And while there is certainly some appeal to coaching in Vegas, that job comes with an expensive question mark at quarterback and 17 road games.

On Thursday morning, after the late-night firing of Urban Meyer in Jacksonville, there is now a second team looking for a new coach. That team plays their football in Florida, a state with no income tax. That team possesses Trevor Lawrence, a quarterback that has as much talent as any player at the position in the league. While it may be the league’s worst professional football market, the job will have significant appeal because of those two elements.

On December 28th, the interview window opens for assistant coaches. And the Bears must be active in that window. That means two things:

  • George McCaskey must make his determination on Ryan Pace quickly and decide who is going to hire the next head coach.
  • Matt Nagy must be let go prior to the 28th so the Bears can begin conversations with a host of capable assistants that are likely to make a deep run into the postseason. It is conceivable the Bears could identify their man before the end of the regular season and allow that coach to begin assembling his staff prior to the end of the postseason. (Not officially, of course, but that’s how it’ll happen.)

The decision on Nagy is made. He is not going to be the coach in 2022. Jacksonville’s sacking of Meyer means the Bears will now have serious competition in the head coach market and there is another team that can match Chicago’s offer of a young, potential star quarterback.

This is the time for an historically reactive franchise to be proactive. They have to get this coaching hire right, for their future and the future of Justin Fields. That process begins December 28th.

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Short Column: For Pace, Teven Jenkins Could Hold Key to His Future in Chicago

| December 2nd, 2021


The jury is out on Justin Fields, and will remain out for the next season or so. But the Bears, and more specifically the folks who own the Bears, have been wildly impressed with the young signal caller – on and off the field – and believe the organization may have finally solved it’s most definitive, idiosyncratic dilemma. Said an individual close to ownership, “They know the situation is not ideal but he’s handling it with class.”

The debate currently raging (possibly too strong a word, but emotions are high) through the Halls of Halas is whether the acquisition of said signal caller is enough to warrant keeping the personnel man responsible for that acquisition in his job. As Ryan Pace prepares to make his case to the McCaskey family, a key piece of the argument currently resides on IR: Teven Jenkins.

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After Sunday, the Bears have five games remaining. If Jenkins can get back on the field in 2021, even for the final 2-3 games, and show glimpses of premier left tackle play, Pace can argue his 2021 draft as potentially organization defining. (Few teams come out of a single draft with franchise players at both quarterback and left tackle.) Pace has made plenty of mistakes – Mitch and Matt predominantly – but the Bears believe in his leadership and also believe he’s improving in the job. Jenkins performing at a high level might give ownership that confidence that he’s capable of the next major task: building around Justin Fields.

The merits of that confidence would be, let’s just say, debatable. But as the head coach’s fate has become clear in recent weeks, the focus of ownership has shifted almost entirely to evaluating their GM. Jenkins playing, and playing well, could alter that evaluation.

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Bump: George McCaskey Should Fire Matt Nagy.

| November 22nd, 2021

UPDATE 11/21/21. There is no reason to recap Sunday’s train wreck loss to the undermanned Baltimore Ravens. This is over for Matt Nagy. Time to make it official. Waiting no longer makes sense.

This piece originally ran after the Tampa game.


Nate Tice, son of the the legendary Mike Tice and one of the better young NFL analysts got me through Monday with a Twitter thread.

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Not having any desire to sit through Sunday’s debacle again, it was nice to see Tice confirm what I had believed in real time: that Justin Fields had zero chance to succeed in Tampa. This was Cleveland redux and the entirety of the blame falls onto the shoulders of the head coach. The game plan made no sense. The offense, now in fourth season, makes no sense. And we are now at that moment in the development of this young quarterback where the most important question has been answered. Matt Nagy is not now, and will never be, the right man to maximize the ability of Fields.

A source close to ownership texted me Monday morning that Halas Hall was “fed up” with the head coach. They should be. But being fed up is not enough. George McCaskey should fire Matt Nagy. Today, next week, on the bye, whenever. But Nagy shouldn’t make it to the end of the season. If only for the symbolism alone, a message to the fans that this simply isn’t good enough.

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McCaskey On 17th Game: No.

| April 2nd, 2021


This was apparently a near-unanimous vote. So the question becomes why didn’t George want that 17th game? Was he siding with the players? More to come…

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Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy Will Return in 2021.

| January 13th, 2021


Both men will meet the media at 10:00 AM CT Wednesday (my birthday). Stay tuned to this space for a response to that press conference.

A few notes:

  • George McCaskey made clear what many of us have known: this ownership group loves Ryan Pace and trusts him to right the ship. (Do they love Nagy? I’m not sure but they trust Ryan on him.)
  • No contract extensions for either doesn’t automatically mean next season is “win or gone” but it will increase the pressure.
  • George: “We need better production from the quarterback position to be successful.” Bingo.
  • George suggested he’s more confident in Pace selecting the next franchise QB because Nagy will be involved in that process. It is very obvious ownership wants this group to succeed and is going to give them every chance to do that.
  • Weird moment when Ted wouldn’t answer how long the Nagy/Pace contracts are. Not sure I get why that would be privileged information but it does suggest these guys might not be expiring after 2021.
  • Pace made it very clear that this entire offseason is about the quarterback position.
  • Prodded about the 2017 draft by Dan Wiederer, Pace would not take the bait and kill Trubisky. Nagy was pressed as well, and passed. There’s no reason to do it.

One thing is very clear from today: Mitch Trubisky will not be on the Chicago Bears next season.

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As Bears Sit in No Man’s Land, Three Possible Roads for George McCaskey

| December 9th, 2020


Welcome to No Man’s Land.

That’s where the Chicago Bears organization resides on December 9, 2020. They’re not a talented, aging team with a closing championship window. They’re not a young, rebuilding side with their eyes on the future. They’re nowhere. They don’t exist.

Two years ago that was not the case. Coming out of the 2018 campaign the defense was stacked. The head coach was a breath of fresh air. The quarterback had shown enough promise under the new regime to make fans believe he could be “they guy”. Now the defense is fading before our very eyes. The head coach has relinquished play-calling duties and any sense of job security. The quarterback will be looking for a job come March.

And there are only three possible roads forward. (For the sake of argument, let’s assume Ted Phillips is re-assigned away from football operations. It’ll likely happen as a symbolic gesture, if nothing else.)


Road One. Do That To Me One More Time.

Ryan Pace would be entering the final year of his contract. Matt Nagy would be entering the penultimate year of his contract; a de facto final year as coaches rarely work on a “final” year for some reason no one has ever clearly explained to me. The factors that could lead to George McCaskey bringing both back:

  • The defensive contracts. Kyle Fuller has voidable 2022-23 seasons. Akiem Hicks is off the books after next season. Per Sportrac, Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn have “outs” after next season. The guys on this defense in 2020 are likely to be the guys on this defense in 2021. But the unit could look ENTIRELY different in 2022.
  • As Andrew pointed out yesterday, Nagy could argue two things: (a) the offense is improving and (b) he needs better players, including a quarterback. (Where that quarterback would be coming from is a different matter entirely.) He could also make a needed change at defensive coordinator to reinvigorate that side of the ball.
  • The post-Covid salary cap. The new GM’s role this off-season would be a complete tear down because there’s not going to be any money to enhance the current roster. Do the Bears really want to try and send Fuller, Mack and company out of town this spring and commit to a 2-3 win 2021? Can the organization afford to have an apathetic fan base in September? (They would.)

Road Two. Go Your Own Way.

Would the Bears fire one and not the other? It’s possible.

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