Prior to the Bears impressive draft, things were looking quite bleak for the franchise. Coming off of a second straight unimpressive 8-8 season, Chicago had no clear direction. The talent on the defense seemed to be wasted by poor play calling and assembling of an offense. In general manager Ryan Pace’s five years with the team, Chicago only had one winning season and had yet to make the right quarterback move.
The general consensus around the NFL, whether it be insiders, fans or the media, was Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy were on the hot seat. As understandable as this consensus is, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy were never truly on the hot seat. Here is why.
Backing of Ownership
One common misconception prior to the draft was Bears chairman George McCaskey would not give Pace or Nagy any leeway in sacrificing future assets. Many believed that they might be gone within a year, and therefore the Bears organization did want to lock themselves into whatever moves Pace or Nagy might make. Chicago’s draft proved this theory wrong.
Pace moved up nine spots in the first round to draft the quarterback of the future in Justin Fields. He proceeded to trade up once again in the second round to build the offensive line with tackle Teven Jenkins. In total, the Bears sacrificed a first rounder and fourth rounder next year and downgraded on multiple draft picks to get Fields and Jenkins. If Pace and Nagy had a short leash like many believed, George McCaskey would have stopped them from trading away important assets.
Chicago’s ownership has also shown support to Matt Nagy in his development plan. He has repeatedly emphasized his plan to sit Justin Field behind Andy Dalton, as was his strategy with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes during his time in Kansas City.
Nagy would not be so set on benching Fields if his job was on the line. Fields is more talented than Dalton, and even though he could stand to learn a few things from the 10-year veteran, he might give the Bears a better chance to win now. However, Nagy is willing to potentially sacrifice a few wins in the upcoming season in order to develop Fields. Nagy’s insistence on preparing for the future instead of winning now demonstrates that he is not on the hot seat.
The McCaskey Family
The Chicago Bears franchise has been passed through the family ever since George S. Halas founded it in 1920. After Halas’ death in 1983, the franchise was inherited by daughter Virginia Halas McCaskey. Although Virginia is number one in command, she has taken a hands off approach since the 1990s. Therefore, the chairman of the franchise ultimately has the final say in most decisions.
At the moment, Virginia’s son George is the Bears chairman. Since he took the role in 2011, Chicago has not experienced much success. This is largely due to the McCaskey’s inability to diagnose the problems with the organization. George McCaskey, and ultimately the McCaskey family, has a pattern of not prioritizing winning, whether they realize it or not.
A clear example of this pattern is Bears president Ted Phillips. Phillips started with the Bears in 1983 and became team president in 1999, becoming the first president in Chicago history to not be a descendant of George Halas. In his 38 years in Chicago, Phillips has basically become part of the McCaskey family.
George McCaskey claims that Phillips is his “football guy” and turns to him for such decisions. If this is the case, why is Phillips still around despite Chicago’s constant mediocrity through the past few decades? Because the McCaskey’s like him.
It is no coincidence that the McCaskey family has kept Pace and Nagy around. They prioritize loyalty to those close to them. George McCaskey likes Pace and Nagy. Therefore, he would not fire them unless he considers it absolutely necessary.
The End of Season Press Conference
George McCaskey, Ted Phillips, Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy hosted a press conference on January 13th, shortly following the Bears embarrassing playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints. In the conference, they had the opportunity to share their thoughts and answer questions on the season and the future of the Bears franchise.
McCaskey cleared up Chicago’s plans with Pace and Nagy. He repeatedly emphasized his confidence in the two, despite coming off as vague and unprepared. McCaskey claimed that he understood fan frustrations, but still praised Pace and Nagy, saying “Ryan and Matt are men of character… I’ve been most impressed with how well they collaborate. I was impressed with both of them this past season, especially during the six-game losing streak.”
It does not matter whether they are “men of character” if they lose six straight games. However, McCaskey is once again displaying his tendency to praise and reward those he likes no matter the track record.
He proceeded to tell the media “My approach to an evaluation process is to take an individual’s body of work – not on any one decision or any one game or any one season – does that merit continuing with that person. And in the case of both Ryan and Matt, we decided that the answer to that question was yes.” This quote is all-telling. McCaskey clearly still believes in Pace and Nagy to lead this team.
The rumors that Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy were on the hot seat are untrue. Although it is perfectly logical to assume they would be, their jobs were never in jeopardy. George McCaskey and his family are too fond of the duo and truly believe they can still lead the Bears to the promised land.
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