Emma: Bears putting faith in same failed hiring process while hoping for different outcome


(670 The Score) Hours before kickoff of Bears home games, chairman George McCaskey has been known to walk the Soldier Field parking lots and visit with fans at their tailgates. He’s proudly the everyman’s owner.

“I’m just a fan,” McCaskey said during an hour-long press conference Monday. “I’m not a football evaluator.”

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At his core, McCaskey desperately wants the Bears to win. It’s his greatest motivation since taking over as chairman in 2011 -- more than the money, material or fame that comes with his position. But McCaskey just doesn't know how to build and lead a winner. He doesn’t know what success looks like, because it’s an outlier for his franchise.

The Bears fired general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy on Monday morning after a 6-11 season in 2021 marked continued regression. McCaskey will now lead a search for the fourth general manager and fifth head coach whom he'll employ since becoming chairman in 2011.

The process to make these hires will be similar to the unsuccessful ventures before it. Once again, McCaskey will lean on team president Ted Phillips. He has brought in another outside consultant in Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian, a 79-year-old who hasn’t worked in the NFL since 2011. McCaskey will also listen to Bears director of player engagement LaMar “Soup” Campbell along with director of diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade.

“Ultimately, though, the decision on the next general manager and head coach will be mine,” McCaskey said.

That’s why Chicago is lacking confidence. McCaskey admits he isn't a football evaluator, but he’s leading the search for his top football minds despite failing many times before. He believes it will be different this time despite the process remains largely the same.

After firing Lovie Smith as head coach after a 10-6 season in 2012, the Bears brought in Bruce Arians for an interview weeks before he was named the AP Coach of the Year for his work as Colts interim coach. McCaskey and the Bears forced Arians to conduct a mock press conference as part of the interview and allowed him leave Halas Hall without an offer. The Bears later hired Marc Trestman from the Canadian Football League, a decision that proved to be a disastrous mistake as he was fired after two seasons. Arians went on to lead the Cardinals to success before bringing the Buccaneers to a Super Bowl title last season.

“I’m just happy they said no,” Arians said of the Bears two years after he interviewed with them.

In 2015, McCaskey turned to a consultant in former league executive Ernie Accorsi to help guide his search the same way he’s now trusting Polian. It was Accorsi who helped create the tandem of first-year general manager Pace and longtime head coach John Fox. The arranged pairing proved to be a poor fit as Pace prioritized a roster rebuild while Fox appeared checked out over three losing seasons.

After Pace oversaw a Bears organization that went 14-34 in his first three seasons, McCaskey doubled down on his belief in him by offering him a second contract and another chance to hire a coach. McCaskey and Phillips joined Pace in a coaching search that led to Nagy, who ultimately failed to develop Mitchell Trubisky into a franchise quarterback and faltered in his quest to create a productive offense for Chicago.

Now, McCaskey is starting over once again. Perhaps he manages to find the right general manager and coach who oversee sustained success. If McCaskey were to hit on these hires, nothing he could say or do as chairman would hinder that success so long as he stays out of football operations.

The trouble is it’s difficult to envision McCaskey bringing the Bears great leaders because he has proved incapable of identifying what it takes to win previously.

After all, McCaskey isn't a football evaluator. He said so himself.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.