McCaskey on coach, GM search: 'Decision on hiring is mine'

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Bears coach Matt Nagy heads for the locker room after Sunday's loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis. Nagy was fired Monday morning.

    Bears coach Matt Nagy heads for the locker room after Sunday's loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis. Nagy was fired Monday morning. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/10/2022 4:09 PM

The Bears are heading in a new direction.

The 101-year-old franchise fired both general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy Monday morning.

 

Nagy had a 34-31 regular season record and took the team to the postseason twice. In his first year as coach in 2018, the Bears went 12-4 and won the NFC North. Nagy earned Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year honors.

Over Pace's seven seasons, the Bears went 48-65 during the regular season. He presided over two playoff appearances, both with Nagy as head coach. Pace earned NFL Executive of the Year honors following the 2018 season, when the Bears won their only division title during his tenure.

The Bears will begin their search for a new general manager and for their 17th head coach in franchise history.

Bears chairman George McCaskey will again be looking for new top football decision-makers. Some wondered if the Bears would consider a change to their organizational structure and hire a president of football operations to oversee the general manager, whether Pace stayed or not. Team president and CEO Ted Phillips has been in his position since 1999.

In an hourlong news conference Monday, McCaskey announced a five-person hiring panel that will vet candidates. The new GM will report to McCaskey, whereas previously the GM reported to Phillips. Otherwise, no major structural changes will happen within the organization.

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"The general manager will report to the chairman and the decision on the hiring ultimately is mine," McCaskey said.

McCaskey also said the GM will oversee the entire football operation, as was the case when Pace was in the position.

Phillips and McCaskey have swung and missed at the head coach and general manager positions numerous times over the years. Since McCaskey took over as chairman in 2011, the Bears have hired two GMs (Phil Emery and Pace) and three head coaches (Marc Trestman, John Fox and Nagy). During that time, the team has made only two playoff appearances and has never won a playoff game.

The hiring panel consists of McCaskey, Phillips, former Colts GM and team president Bill Polian, Bears vice president of player engagement LaMar "Soup" Campbell, and Bears senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade.

"Frustrated Bears (fans) may be thinking, 'What makes him think he's going to get it right this time?' " McCaskey said. "We're confident that with the experience we've gained, and with the makeup of our search team, we will find a general manager and a head coach who will lead our Bears to the success that all our Bears fans deserve."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

For prospective candidates, there is a lot to like about the Bears, despite the lack of recent success. Quarterback Justin Fields is on his rookie contract for three more seasons, giving the team salary cap flexibility.

The Bears are still a charter NFL franchise with a ton of influence in the Chicago region. The organization is on its way to purchasing land in Arlington Heights for a new stadium, bringing with it near endless possibilities.

A new era is on the horizon. The Bears just need the right people to lead them there.

McCaskey said the five-person panel will look for a coach and a GM simultaneously. If the right coach is available, they could make a coaching hire before hiring the GM.

McCaskey wished Pace and Nagy well. But ultimately, in McCaskey's words, they were hired to win football games, they "weren't hired because they're nice guys."

The Bears hired Pace Jan. 8, 2015. He was a 37-year-old director of player personnel with the New Orleans Saints. He became the youngest GM in the league at the time.

Bears fans had hoped the division title in 2018 was only the beginning, but it proved to be the peak of Pace's tenure. Pace will always be known for a few critical moves, most notably drafting quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky and Justin Fields, and hiring Nagy as head coach in 2018.

"We thought we were on our way," McCaskey said of 2018. "Unfortunately, it could not be sustained. We regressed. Our offense failed to show improvement. We continued to struggle at home. We did not close the gap within our division. In the end, we didn't win enough games."

Nagy's teams struggled for many reasons, none bigger than the lack of offensive production. After two seasons as the Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017, the expectation was that he would bring a similar high-powered offense to Chicago. Nagy's Bears could never quite replicate what the Chiefs produced.

Now, the Bears will begin anew again.

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