From 1977 – my first year on the Chicago Bears beat – through 1994, the Bears were one of the best organizations in football, making 10 trips to the playoffs, three trips to the NFC title game and, of course, winning the ‘85 Super Bowl.
In the 27 seasons since, the franchise has mostly wandered in the dessert with only 2001, ‘05, ‘06, ‘10 and ‘18 to celebrate.
The Super Bowl in 2006 was the best. But with the surprise of the 12-4 campaign and the celebration of the Bears’ 100th season that immediately followed, 2018 was the Bears’ second-best season of the past 27.
It was delivered by Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy and for that we should always be grateful, as we should be for the class and dignity with which they carried themselves and represented the city we love.
For all that has happened in the three seasons since they deserved to be replaced. They were Monday.
While others seem to feel the need to belabor their failures, I just don’t see the point.
They were fired, and I know it stings more than enough.
In facing the media with fans watching several hours after the dismissals, team chairman George McCaskey had an open field and a clear shot at a fresh start.
His first couple of play calls were solid starting with, “He (Ted Phillips) has persuaded me that with the pending acquisition of the Arlington Park property, and its evaluation as the possible future Bears stadium occupying much of his time and attention, the general manager should report to me.
“This modified organizational structure, the general manager will continue to oversee the entire football operation, including the head coach. The GM will report to ownership.”
On second-and-short near midfield we got, “Bill Polian is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his success as a football executive, including his hiring of two head coaches, Marv Levy and Tony Dungy, who are themselves in the Hall of Fame.
“He is well regarded in league circles and has a lot of contacts. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have Bill assisting us in our search.”
At this point it was first-and-goal at the 1-yard line and spirits were high. Then McCaskey told us, “Our search team will consist of myself, Ted Phillips, Hall of Famer Bill Polian, our vice president of player engagement [LaMar] “Soup” Campbell, and our senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade.”
It was a fumble in the end zone that leaves us to wonder if the Bears will ever score again?
The addition of Polian to the selection process is an absolute home run. He is a Hall of Fame executive with six NFL Executive of the Year honors along with the building of six Super Bowl teams and a string of outstanding coach hirings to his credit.
But the stunning declaration that Phillips had to tell McCaskey what everyone knows – that his involvement in any more football moves is poison based on how you got here in the first place – knocked us sideways.
After you had him out for a minute or two, why would you drag him right back in?
On top of that, I’m sure Campbell and Wade are wonderful people, maybe the best in the business at their jobs, but what do they know about head coaches or general managers?
Common sense suggests not nearly enough. Most all of them can do is be a distraction to Polian.
McCaskey is a good guy who loves and cares about the Bears as much or more than anyone in town, but he is he is unable and unwilling to go it alone when charged with finding the right people to make the Bears winners.
Give him points for admitting that. Had he announced Polian as his new President of Football Operations and told everybody else to get out of Polian’s way, most fans would be celebrating.
Instead he gave us a new strange brew of amateurs to create more doubts than hopes that this time they’ll get it right.
It’s not to me to say they won’t. It’s just so much less than Bears fans and hoped for, dropping back to throw on fourth-and-1 again.