(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.
But that aside, the truth is that everything listed above, and most of what I didn’t mention from the press conference, doesn’t matter all that much. The fact remains that Pace and Nagy are out, and George now has Bill Polian, one of the best to ever do the job of football administration, in his back pocket to assist in the search for the next GM and head coach (hopefully in that order).
But there is one thing from the press conference that I can’t quite let go of. One thing that flat out pisses me off. A decade ago, George accepted a job to be the CEO of the Chicago Bears. His brother said that he had a lot to learn and that he would learn it. But yesterday, George decided to tell the world: “I’m just a fan. I’m not a football evaluator.” With all due respect, George, what have you been doing for the last 10 years?
You may have been born into this but allow me to remind you of what you said when you took the job: “We’ve got a common goal. Continue George Halas’s legacy, hold on to the Bears as long as possible, and win championships.” Legacy and championships.
A person may be born an owner, but no one is born a champion. As for legacy? What you have today, George, is not a legacy, it’s an heirloom. It was handed down and it’s yours, fair and square. But legacies are earned. You’ve had a decade to be a professional and learn the job that was given to you so you can forge that legacy. But you’d rather be a fan with a football team. That would be perfectly okay, had you not accepted the mantle of leadership in the first place.
Do your job, be a leader. Or don’t. But then get out of the way.