January 21, 2021

Hub Arkush: Wednesday’s presser turns into one more loss Bears fans didn’t need this season

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy will be back but we don’t really know why

The Chicago Bears held their much anticipated season-ending press conference Wednesday with George McCaskey, Ted Phillips, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy, and as near as I can tell, it satisfied absolutely no one with the possible exceptions of Pace and Nagy.

And honestly, while Pace and Nagy should be pleased since it is now official they are keeping their highly coveted general manager and head coach jobs for at least one more season, I’m not sure how pleased they were with the presser since McCaskey and Phillips did more to hang bullseyes on them than anything they might have offered to make Bears fans feel good about the decision.

There really are two very different prisms through which you have to view what we learned or didn’t learn on Wednesday.

The first is Pace and Nagy have not failed in their jobs. Their record together over the last three seasons has them well placed in the top half of the league.

But they did take a step back in 2019 and then failed to improve this season, and they took another swing at the quarterback position and missed again.

But you know what, which teams in the NFL did make significant improvement this season?

I’ve already done the research and the answer is the Browns, the Dolphins and maybe the Bills if they win Sunday.

You can throw in the Bucs, but all they did was go out and get Tom Brady.

While fans don’t want to hear it for reasons that mostly escape me, the pandemic changed the entire world this year and the NFL was no exception.

It’s not an excuse, people. It’s a reality that with no offseason, a dramatically interrupted scouting process leading into free agency and the draft, no offseason workout program, no OTAs, no minicamp, no exhibition season and a regular season in which every day they came to work was dramatically interrupted and changed by protocols and mitigations, it made it near impossible to improve.

Without getting too deep in the weeds, I was designated as Media Tier 2M at the beginning of the season, which meant I went through almost all the same daily protocols as the players, coaches and staff through the first half of the season until the league made changes.

It was exhausting and at times almost debilitating just meeting all those requirements before I even thought about doing my job.

Expecting Pace and Nagy to excel under those circumstances is unrealistic and they didn’t get worse, they just didn’t get better.

There is enough talent on the roster certain to be back next year that with the right offseason adjustments the Bears could contend in 2021 if the virus doesn’t upend another entire season, and Pace and Nagy are in a better position with all their institutional knowledge to make that happen than someone brand new.

Whether you agree with the decision to bring them back or not you have to see there is a case that can be made for it.

But it’s that second prism the majority of us are viewing this through because McCaskey and Phillips didn’t make it.

What McCaskey did do and what is causing some real consternation among his fan base is exacerbate the confusion and turmoil around Phillips.

Phillips has become the focal point of the ire of the majority of disgruntled Bears fans – quite unfairly if he is not involved in the football side of the operation.

But Phillips’ tenure as president and CEO now spans the last 21 seasons. He is responsible for the multiple disappointments of the first 15 or so of those seasons, and that is why we’ve been told over the last few seasons he has been removed from the football side of the business.

McCaskey went out of his way to tell us it is absurd that Ted or he would meddle in the football business, but then told us repeatedly that Phillips was one of his main advisors in evaluating Pace and Nagy.

You can’t have it both ways.

The Bears didn’t fail Wednesday because they didn’t fire Pace and Nagy.

They failed because they made no real effort to convince us it was the right decision, and in fact a fair amount of what they said suggested it wasn’t.