September 25, 2021


Hub Arkush: With the pandemic raging, is now the time to be firing, hiring top executives?

Bears have more than a few questions to answer so we asked an expert

For those of you who care, I will take a position on whether Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace and/or coach Matt Nagy should be retained or fired before the end of the season and Black Monday.

At the moment, I’m continuing to weigh all the pros and cons.

The only pro is being able to find someone better.

But there are multiple cons, and the biggest is there is nothing normal about the times in which the Bears would have to conduct their search(es).

I’ve done my best to point out how different and difficult general managers' and coaches’ jobs have been already this year because of all the intrusions of the pandemic and how unfair and potentially unwise it could be to judge key people under these circumstances.

Let's say the Bears do decide to make changes. Our current state of affairs got me thinking: How exactly does this process play out?

Will the Bears be able to conduct live, in-person interviews? Will all the top candidates be willing to travel and/or pick up their families and move? Do you want someone new in a scouting process that will be the most difficult in decades?

To get some answers, I sought some expertise.

Around Chicago, Ernie Accorsi is best known as the guy who helped the Bears hire Pace. But across the NFL, he is renowned for his work as the general manager of the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, hiring Bill Belichick for his first head coaching job, hiring Tom Coughlin in New York, and building the core of Coughlin’s two Super Bowl teams.

I asked Accorsi how difficult it would be to hire a GM or coach if he couldn’t meet with them in person?

“As far as the GM and coach search, it’s not ideal," Accorsi said. "I would be uncomfortable with it, but I think people have become so accustomed to Zoom stuff, conducting business, doing all the stuff that they need to – coaches are coaching their teams virtually – I think they’ll be OK.”

OK, so it’s not ideal, but it can be done.

What about hiring brand-new top football people to oversee your draft and free agency?

“That’s a bigger factor," he said. “They’re going to have to scout by tape. They haven’t been able to do it in person, I assume. They haven’t been able to go to the games, and I never wanted to draft a guy high I didn’t see in person, but they’re going to have to.”

I asked Accorsi if face-to-face interviews would be more important with draft prospects than potential coaches and GMs.

“Yeah, the interviews themselves are going to be tough. You’re right," he said. “Say you’re talking to assistant coaches or have been a head coach. They’re going to be accustomed to having done a lot of work on Zoom, where the kids may have done it with their friends and all but not really when the chips are down when you’re going to get drafted.

“It’s going to be hard.”

At the moment, the Bears' 2020 draft is looking pretty strong. So are they better off with Pace and his staff, who’ve been working on the next one since the last draft ended, or someone new starting from scratch, severely restricted by the pandemic in how he can do the job and working with Pace’s staff, most or all of whom he may have never met?

“There are going to be a lot of challenges for that, no question,” Accorsi said. “You can evaluate players off game tape and interviews on Zoom or whatever, but it’s going to be a challenge and not business as usual, that’s for sure.

“I remember when George [Young] got the general manager job – I was already here [with the Giants] – he couldn’t even hire a personnel director, and he had to run that [first] draft himself. He had been the pro personnel director in Miami, so he hadn’t been scouting.

“When you go in there, you’re not going to be able to bring any people with you or hire scouts until after the draft.”

Knowing how unusual everything about the world is right now, are the Bears really ready for this?

Then there is this one other tidbit Accorsi shared from his days hiring his own personnel directors and head coaches.

“I always kept alive a 10-man list of coaches, general managers and personnel directors [candidates], I always kept that and I always went through it and asked myself a million times if things are going bad who’s going to be at the top of your list," he said. "I always kept a live, updated list.”

That could help overcome a lot of the special challenges teams making new hires after this season will face, but what are the odds Bears Chairman George McCaskey or anyone who might assist him has such a starting point?

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media