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Opinion: Chicago Bears get it right by firing coach and GM, but everything else is still wrong

·5 min read
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Not content at habitually being one of the NFL’s worst teams, the Chicago Bears are determined to establish themselves as the dumbest.

Whatever hope there was that the Bears were headed in a better direction with the firing general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy on Monday morning had evaporated by mid-afternoon. In the span of an hour, Bears chairman George McCaskey said he was a “a fan, not a football evaluator” yet didn’t see the need to have someone who is overseeing the team; said part of the new general manager’s job would be to teach him the ropes; and, in so many words, called one of the team’s best and most respected players since the '85 Bears a liar.

Clearly, the brilliance and savvy that made George Halas a titan of the NFL did not get passed on to his descendants.

“We get that a lot of Bears fans are unhappy, and we’re unhappy, too. And we’re frustrated,” McCaskey said. “And we understand there’s not really a whole lot that can be said today that is going to make people feel lot better about the situation.

The Chicago Bears just completed a 6-11 season.
The Chicago Bears just completed a 6-11 season.

“The only opportunity to produce results is on the field,” McCaskey said. “And that won’t be for some time to come.”

And that is where McCaskey – and the rest of his family – get it all wrong. Of course the NFL is a results-oriented business, and it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers to put a team back on the course of contending for a Super Bowl. Their fans understand that.

Where the McCaskeys have failed is thinking they can continue operating their franchise as if it’s still part of a league that is barnstorming around the Midwest rather than the multibillion international juggernaut that is today's NFL. Personal relationships should not take priority over knowledge and experience, yet they do with the Bears. The ability to “collaborate” should not excuse ineptitude, yet it does with the Bears. A collegial atmosphere is not more important than a winning culture, yet it is with the Bears.

The NFL is a cut-throat, what-have-you-done-for-me-now league, and McCaskey showed once again that he and his family are in over their heads.

It is a good step to remove Ted Phillips, Chicago’s longtime team president and CEO, from football operations. Nice and loyal a man as Phillips is, he is and always has been a money guy, and has no business having any say in running the team.

Yet Phillips will still have an outsized role, sitting on the search committee for the new GM and coach because, as McCaskey said, “I trust Ted implicitly.” Worse, McCaskey doesn’t see the need to hire a director of football operations, leaving everything up to the general manager and charging himself with deciding how that’s going.

Jerry Jones knows as much about football as anyone in the NFL and even he screws it up by not having a buffer between himself and the team, someone who can evaluate the day-to-day operations of the team but also anticipate the long-term moves necessary for a franchise's success. You really think McCaskey, who became chairman after a long stretch running the ticket office, will do better?

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“Organizationally, it remains to be seen how much is going to change because I haven’t had a general manager report to me,” McCaskey said. “I have a lot to learn in that regard, and I’m counting on the new general manager to help me along in this process.”

That sound you hear is the front office in Green Bay cackling, knowing the Packers’ supremacy in the NFL’s best rivalry is assured for another decade. And the howl of Bears fans, who have had their patience tested time and again since the glory days of Payton, McMahon and the Super Bowl Shuffle.

Bears fans are fiercely loyal, but they have their limits. The cold weather wasn’t the only reason for all the empty seats at Soldier Field at the end of the season, and a shiny new stadium in the suburbs won’t have much value if fans have turned their attention elsewhere.

Which brings me to McCaskey’s cheap shot at Olin Kreutz.

The offensive lineman was a Bears Bear, a gritty, no-nonsense sort for whom the team’s storied history meant something. He has maintained ties to Chicago in retirement, and his brutal honesty about the team and its shortcomings have only endeared him further to fans.

So when McCaskey was asked about Kreutz’s claim last week that the team wanted him to join the coaching staff in 2018 but had offered him just $15 an hour, he should have known to take the high road. Instead, McCaskey got snarky.

“I’ve learned over the years to take just about anything Olin says with grain of salt,” McCaskey said, his voice smug. “I look forward to hearing that story again, and hope he includes it in his Hall of Fame induction speech.”

Kreutz fired back, of course, and said he has receipts. Even if he didn’t, though, it wouldn’t matter. The Bears need a chairman who thinks big, not one who is small-minded.

No one doubts that the McCaskeys love the Bears. But with every cycle of hiring and firing, every move rooted in the past instead of the future, it's becoming more and more clear that the Bears would be better off without them.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chicago Bears destined for more futility despite firing Matt Nagy, GM