By Tim Baffoe
(CBS) — He ain’t your daddy’s McCaskey family member. George is frustrated, and George isn’t going to take it anymore.
For all the bad local reputation the McCaskeys have had for decades as the family owning the Chicago Bears, a charter franchise of the NFL, current chairman George isn’t about that noise. While much of the familial stereotype has been unfair (the team spends money and always has since George Halas died, former chairman Michael McCaskey was a dork but was also vilified more than he deserved just because he dared to stand up to his subordinate, the demigod Mike Ditka, and the McCaskeys very much want to win Super Bowls) it’s looking more and more like George McCaskey isn’t going to fit that label.
On Monday he fired head coach Marc Trestman & Co. and general manager Phil Emery. The former had been fairly obvious for about the past month, but the latter move is as surprising as it is cold but necessary. Many presumed that Emery would be given another chance, a shot a redemption for the tremendously bad choice of a guy who is obviously not capable of being an NFL head coach, but nope. And that’s because George is pissed and not going to stand for the wasted two years he and the rest of us had to endure.
Bad football is one thing, but the embarrassment the 2014 Bears brought to their fans and their owners is unforgivable. Charles Tillman, likely along with Lance Briggs having been on the Bears sidelines for the last time Sunday, admitted it as so.
“It was just too much,” he said. “We were front-page news too many times. In the past we haven’t been there. That wasn’t how we operated. This year there was a lot of trust broken.
“I don’t care who you are or what you are, you’ll always have conflict. It’s how you resolve that conflict. When you do have conflict, you need to let that conflict stay in-house and then resolve and work through it. This year we didn’t have that.
“I think we need to get back to our roots, or they need to get back to their roots. There was a way things were done and things were handled. Everybody wants to get things back to the way they used to be as far as winning and having team unity and when things go wrong keeping it in-house.”
That is the most respected veteran on the team coming as close to bus-tossing the clown college that ran this sad joke of a team as possible while still being professional. It is also a succinct explanation of why serious house cleaning was needed, and why on Monday George McCaskey began that process with a blowtorch.
There is still much work to do. While there is cause for celebration near the guillotine, the reality needs to be confronted that the Bears are bad right now. Whoever is in charge of the 2015 draft and offseason that has already begun has the task of plugging gaping holes that outnumber the amount of picks the Bears have.
For all the head shrinking and mechanical analysis, it must be accepted that Jay Cutler is what he is and the next head coach and offensive coordinator won’t change that. If a trade can be worked out, so be it, but that seems unrealistic given Cutler’s reputation and contract. But George McCaskey is showing that maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to assume.
Ted Phillips, current CEO of the Bears, needs to be moved, whether it be to a pure number-crunching position or to a desert island. Either way, Phillips should not be allowed to be part of football decisions as he has proven incapable of selecting competent GMs. Reports unfortunately suggest otherwise, though.
“At a time when even long-time team president Ted Phillips couldn’t escape the scuttlebutt of a potential termination,” wrote Mike Florio on Sunday, “the current thinking is that Phillips won’t be fired — and that his Hail Mary pass will consist of bringing back Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard as the team’s new General Manager.”
That’s former-underling-to-Jerry-Angelo-and-Emery Chris Ballard, by the way, which would suggest the new boss would be the same as the old boss. If George McCaskey is to be taken seriously, this cannot be allowed to happen. No Phillips moves can be anymore. A new and strictly football person needs to be in charge of all personnel decisions. Otherwise the feast day of St. George and his slaying of those responsible for the epic disaster of a so-called football team we endured is all for naught. And yet…
If Dan Bernstein’s report proves true, it would strip this franchise of a lot of its bad rap in how it’s blindly loyal and a bunch of clueless figureheads. George McCaskey would not only be changing a front office, he’d be changing minds in and outside of Halas Hall.
Today is about George. Plenty of tomorrows are, too. And the future of the Bears rests in the choices of a McCaskey, which used to be something no Bears fan ever wanted to hear. But George is showing that maybe he shouldn’t be judged by his last name alone just yet.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @TimBaffoe.