OPINION – The Fish Rots From the Head: The Quagmire That is the Chicago Bears
When will Bears fans grow tired of mediocrity and, instead of simply voicing their displeasure, actually do something about it?
35 years. It’s been 35 years since the Chicago Bears have been able to produce the necessary combination of competent personnel needed for prolonged and sustainable success:
- General Manager
- Head Coach
35 years. Let that sink in for a minute. Then take a deep breath and attempt to not take out your rage on the closest remote control. Being a Bears fan, especially as of late, has been hard, even more so when you consider that teams like Buffalo, Los Angeles (Chargers), Cincinnati, Arizona, *gulp* Kansas City, and Houston have all successfully secured their franchise signal-callers. Sure, it would be easy to direct your ire at Mitchell Trubisky, and there’s plenty not to like when you break down the tape (throwing into triple/double coverage, an inability to scan the field, poor footwork etc.), but it’s hard to be mad at someone who simply doesn’t possess the talent to be a starter in the NFL.
It’s not his fault the Bears traded up to draft him second overall when his collegiate career did nothing to warrant such a move and there were better options still on the board. Not to mention, since being handed the keys to the offense, his supporting cast has been less than stellar. His protection has been spotty, to say the least, and a lack of weapons at the skill positions has been a consistent calling card for the organization, not only during the Trubisky era, but for as long as I can remember watching Bears games.
In other words, it’s not all on Mitch. No, instead we need to take a closer look at those who put Trubisky in that position to begin with — the ones in the ivory tower looking down on Halas Hall — and first understand that in order for this organization to finally take the next step, major changes need to be made at the top. I’m talking to you, McCaskey family. I’m talking to you, Ted Phillips.
Let’s start with the latter. Before joining the Bears as the team’s Controller in 1983, Phillips worked as an auditor and tax accountant. In 1987 he was promoted to the Director of Finance, which, given his background, was a completely sensible choice. Then, in 1993, the team charted a course that would bring all progress to a standstill. Despite having no football-related experience, Phillips was named the Vice President of Operations. Six years later, he was promoted to CEO and President, the first individual to hold this title for the Bears without being born/marrying into the McCaskey family. Since being promoted he’s hired three general managers, Jerry Angelo, Phil Emery, and Ryan Pace.
And if those names weren’t enough to make you cringe, here’s the best part;
in his 21 years as President, the Bears have been to the playoffs only five times.
No, that’s not a typo and it’s absolutely unacceptable for the President of a team in a major market. Therefore, it’s more than reasonable to wonder how in the world this man is still employed by the Bears. Either he has blackmail on the McCaskey’s or ownership cares more about turning a profit than they do, you know, winning. Either way, it’s not good.
Phillips’ most recent hire, Ryan Pace, has essentially followed the script for all Chicago Bears general managers; load up on defense, sign/draft an explosive kick returner, and whiff on almost everything related to the offensive side of the ball. At some point, the cycle of ineptitude must be broken and the antiquated way this organization operates needs to catch up with the modern-day evolution of the NFL which now puts an emphasis on offense. But just like Trubisky not being at fault for getting thrown into the deep end without knowing how to swim, the same applies to Pace who was hired for a job he’s clearly not qualified to handle.
At the end of the day, all of it falls on Phillips as well as the McCaskeys who, in turn, are responsible for ultimately promoting Phillips to VP and then President. A numbers cruncher was asked to hire the general manager of a professional football team and got it wrong three times. Who could have predicted that?
So, where do we go from here? It certainly appears as if Bears ownership has created a situation similar to the one with the Chicago Tribune when they had control of the Cubs. In other words, the McCaskeys are perfectly happy with the status quo so long as it doesn’t affect their very deep pockets (the Bears are currently valued at $3.5 billion). When Cubs fans had enough of the losing and started boycotting the games, it no longer made sense, financially speaking, for the Tribune to maintain ownership of the team. They sold to the Ricketts family who then brought in Crane Kenney as president who then hired Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer who drafted and signed a championship-quality core and then hired Joe Maddon as manager. The rest is history.
So, why not apply the same concept here? When is enough, enough? When will Bears fans grow tired of mediocrity and, instead of simply voicing their displeasure, actually do something about it? The time is now. When the team allows fans back into the stadium, don’t go. When the team asks if you want to continue buying season tickets, say no. When DirecTV emails you to renew your Sunday Ticket subscription, decline. You get the idea. Hit ’em where it hurts (pun intended considering what I just saw Philly’s QB do yesterday in Arizona) and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get to see the Bears win another Super Bowl.
It’s been 35 years…