Why Bears fans deserve better than Ted Phillips and Ryan Pace originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
It took maybe 45 minutes of living here to realize what the Bears mean to Chicago.
After filling an 18-foot truck to the brim and hauling it 700 miles over two days, I arrived in Chicago for the very first time on a warm Friday afternoon back in 2018. I had barely gotten out of the truck before my neighbor pulled out of his alleyway garage, rolled the window of his Land Rover down (Wrigleyville!) and told me that if I didn’t move my truck in the next five minutes, he’d call the cops and have me arrested.
Grumpy, sore, and already fed up with moving to such a big city built with such tiny roads, I barely had time to lay down some half-assed snark before one of the movers – who I owe an eternal debt of gratitude – jumped out of the truck, turned his Bears hat around and got right up in the face of the slightly-inconvenienced Cubs season ticket holder (I’m assuming), detailing *exactly* what would happen if the cops were called. More neighbors, watching from their windows high above the alley (Wrigleyville!) eventually came down to introduce themselves, each one of them finding a way to dominate the small talk with Bears discussion in a different way.
I think 95% of the people that I’ve met here are actively Bears fans. I’ve met just as many Cubs fans that Bears fans as White Sox fans that are Bears fans, and I’ve even seen them interact. Amicably! On purpose! On any given day I have a dozen Bears fans telling me I’m right and four dozen telling I’m wrong, and also that I’m an idiot. In three years on the beat I’ve learned, more than anything, that the conversation only stops for that brief 5-week stretch of summer when the weather is simply too nice for sports to matter.
It’s a devotion that, frankly, the Bears don’t deserve. As long as Ted Phillips and Ryan Pace are in charge, any trust, time, or money put in their hands is deeply misplaced. Celebrating an 8-9 season because they beat the Texans to snap a six-game losing streak was nonsensical – repeatedly declining to answer how many years both Nagy and Pace have left on their contracts, because it “was a non-factor” in the team’s success, was downright insulting. It’s hard to tell which aspect of Wednesday’s season-ending press conference was more condescending: the tone, the excuses, or the expectation that fans would believe them.
“When you sit back, and you look at what makes a successful organization besides wins and losses, it’s the people that you have,” Phillips said. “It’s whether or not they can put their egos down. It’s whether or not they can look at situations, self-reflect, admit to their mistakes and try to find learnings from not just their mistakes, but the successes that they’ve had and build off of those. Has it happened as fast as we’d like it to? No. It hasn’t. That’s why we’re sitting here now saying we do trust Ryan and Matt. We need to see improvement.”
Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that those in charge of the Bears’ direction are focused on things besides wins and losses. Maybe that’s been clear this whole time. If not, the nebulous job security of a President who’s overseen 10+ seasons of subpar football and a GM who’s directly responsible for close to half of them clears things right up. Fans relentlessly mocked all four guys for falling back on cliches about collaboration, but the Bears were right! Show me another NFL team that’s more in lockstep about accepting mediocrity than the one in Lake Forest. Far be it from me to tell you how to spend your Sunday afternoons next fall, but you should know how George, Ted, Ryan, and Matt plan to win your trust back.
“We think that’s something that needs to be worked for and earned on a daily basis,” McCaskey said. “... we understand that that support is earned and we need to do everything we can to earn that support. We also understand that, as both Ted and I referenced in our opening remarks, it’s quick to say, ‘Well, what is needed here is a major overhaul,’ and sometimes that’s the right answer and other times it isn’t. We think the right answer at this time is continuity.”
“I do believe that when you lose, as we’ve read many times over the last few weeks, there’s a desire to fire everyone,” Phillips added. “When you don’t win enough games, fire everyone. That is not a recipe for success in our opinion.”
And they would know, right?