By Dan Bernstein
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) — Why was it so important to go through all they did to add Ray McDonald to the team in the first place?
That’s what Bears chairman George McCaskey, general manager Ryan Pace, head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio have to be asking themselves right now, in the wake of McDonald’s arrest on yet another domestic violence charge and his subsequent release Monday.
Was it worth it, guys? Really?
This is bad for the Bears, casting a pall of doubt and distrust over every level of ownership and management, just at the time new energy from the very top spurred the kind of regime change that inspired fans to embrace some hope.
Remember when McCaskey said his mother Virginia was “pissed off” by the team losing games? It would be nice to know she’s even more angry about this – a royal screw-up any way you look at it.
It was weird from the start, the intensity of this desire to add a 30-year-old player already released from his former team for a pattern of bad behavior, especially at the beginning of a full rebuild. But the Bears dove in hard for this cretin – way too hard, in fact – with everyone involved calculatedly diffusing responsibility while ignoring facts right in front of their faces during a laughable process of confirmation bias disguised as due diligence.
McCaskey said he was impressed that McDonald bought his own plane ticket to fly in to make his case, said he got good reports from McDonald’s parents and then dismissed testimony from his alleged victim with a terrible statement he’ll always have to own: “The alleged victim, I think – much like anybody else who has a bias in this situation – there’s a certain amount of discounting in what they have to say.”
In a squirrelly move of his own, Pace hid behind the fact that Fangio and defensive backs coach Ed Donatell vouched so hard for the guy’s character, saying their support for him “helped me feel good about this.” He didn’t take charge of the decision without making sure two other guys underneath him had their names attached, which is evidence enough that Pace feared this day would come and was aware he might need some cover.
This from the same guy who announced at his introductory press conference that in all his personnel decisions, “There will be a major emphasis on character.”
Either he and the Bears are plainly lying to our faces about the extent to which they care about such things or they are dumb enough across the board to be so easily conned by somebody desperate to convince some saps to keep rewarding him with opportunities for fat game checks.
Neither possibility is good, but the truth is that it’s a clear combination of the two. We all go through the charade of caring whether or not we’re rooting for upstanding citizens to maul another city’s representative gladiators for our brief distraction and amusement each week, and all teams play their part by declaring that it matters to them.
What’s shocking here is the risk calculation by the Bears and how easily they wanted to think what they wanted to think about McDonald. The 49ers launched him for reasons solid enough for everyone else to see, but not a Bears team blinded by misplaced determination and apparent naiveté.
McCaskey looks stupid for trumpeting his personal involvement in the vetting, describing how he overcame his initial misgivings by hearing from Pace and talking to McDonald. He apparently peered into his soul to learn that his alleged victim was just a crazy woman to be dismissed and that these wacky coincidences that kept resulting in McDonald getting arrested were no worry. He then put it on Pace, saying “It’s Ryan’s decision once he has permission.”
So Pace also wears it, and we’re left to wonder if he’s an idiot, too. He went ahead and did it, only after making sure we know the he allowed assistant coaches to so heavily influence a decision that has now exploded like a stink bomb all over Halas Hall.
And a needless, completely avoidable decision it was, too.
The Bears went out of their way to sign Ray McDonald, and they’ll need to find their way back somehow to convince us to believe in their judgment.