By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Just three weeks ago, Bears chairman George McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips took swift action, ridding team of the central figures involved in the team’s rapid demise by letting go of general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Record Warmth Possible Next 2 Days
Just three weeks later, the tone at Halas Hall has gone from bitter disappointment to brimming optimism.
At the root of the optimism are the replacements the Bears handpicked under the auspices of consultant Ernie Accorsi: general manager Ryan Pace and new coach John Fox, who was introduced Monday at Halas Hall.
“We all know that the 2014 was a disappointment on so many levels,” Phillips said. “When you decide to make the kind of changes we did, you want to feel good in having those two main pieces of the foundation — being the general manager and head coach going forward. You want to do that timely and that you bring in the right kind of people. I think the leaders we brought in in Ryan and John has the entire building excited.”
As is the case with all new beginnings, the fresh start brings along a positive outlook that permeates.
“After such a disappointing season, now we’re all full of optimism,” Phillips said. “And I think for good reason. It’s not just hope. It’s having a new general manager who’s a rising star, in my opinion. And it’s having a head coach who comes from a winning background and has brought two teams to the Super Bowl. So that’s exciting.”
For fans, it’s exciting to think about the direction the Bears are pointed now, compared to where they were just three weeks ago. This entire process had a completely different feel to it. It was so unlike the Bears.
The Bears broke their trend of crossing their fingers while promoting first-time coordinators into the most important role within the organization and hired a coach with 13 years of experience. The fact that Fox was even available came to a surprise to all the Bears’ decision-makers.READ MORE: Illinois Department Of Employment Security Admits To Monthlong Callback Wait Times; State Rep. Says Methods Must Change
“It was a game-changer,” Phillips said of Fox becoming available. “No one expected John Fox after four playoff appearances in a row to be available. So when that happened, it kind of changed the whole dynamics of our search process. And Ryan noticed it and acted quickly. And that’s what was the key.”
Pace also realized this was a rare opportunity for him, as he made his first major decision as GM and needed to act swiftly.
“When he became available, it was, ‘Whoa, OK, let’s talk about this and let’s come up with a plan,'” Pace said.
That plan materialized quickly, as just four days after parting ways with Denver, Fox was hired as the 15th head coach of the Chicago Bears. From the outset, Pace said he was seeking the best man for the job and thinks he’s found that with Fox.
“It was the best man for the job,” Pace said. “I mean, I like the fact that he has head coaching experience. You look around the league, you look at (Bill) Belichik and Pete Carroll, there’s a track record of these guys who come in and learn from these experiences and get better every step of the way.”
Even amidst the optimism, the reality is these hires are just the starting point for what is a difficult rebuild for both Pace and Fox after Chicago went 5-11 in 2014.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Phillips said. “That’s the reality. There’s so much work to be done. The bottom line is, until we start winning, there’s going to be doubters. But, we’re excited.”MORE NEWS: The United Center COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Site: An Inside Look
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.