During a 60-minute Zoom call with the media Monday afternoon, Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey detailed the search process to find a new general manager and head coach to replace Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy.
Earlier in the day, McCaskey had informed Pace and Nagy that they were being relieved of their duties after a third straight non-winning season.
"We will be thorough, diligent and exhaustive," McCaskey said. "It will result in the best possible selections to lead the Bears to success."
McCaskey revealed that the new general manager will report directly to him and be responsible for the entire football operation. Previous GMs Jerry Angelo, Phil Emery and Pace had reported to team president/CEO Ted Phillips, who also participated in Monday's Zoom call with the media.
McCaskey added that in their search for a new coach, the Bears will not be limited by philosophy, scheme or financial considerations; or whether a candidate's expertise is on offense, defense or special teams, if he has head-coaching experience or his background is in the NFL or at the college level. He also said that it doesn't matter whether they have a history with the franchise.
The Bears have assembled a five-person team to hire both positions. It consists of McCaskey, Phillips, Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian, Bears vice president of player engagement LaMar "Soup" Campbell and Bears senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Tanesha Wade.
"I expect that we will reach a consensus on both positions," McCaskey said. "Ultimately, though, the decision on the next general manager and head coach will be mine."
All five members of the search team will be involved in interviewing candidates for both positions.
"We expect a candid and free-flowing conversation," McCaskey said. "Bill said that when he interviewed Tony Dungy [to become Colts head coach], he knew in the first 12 minutes that Tony was his guy, and they proceeded to talk football for another eight hours. So, we're looking forward to in-depth conversations like that."
Polian's participation in the process is key. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015, he had an illustrious 32-year NFL career with the Chiefs (1978-82), Bills (1984-92), Panthers (1995-97) and Colts (1998-2011). Polian helped guide the Bills to four straight Super Bowls, led the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game in their second year of existence and directed the Colts to eight division titles, two AFC crowns and one Super Bowl championship.
"Bill Polian is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his success as a football executive, including his hiring of two head coaches, Marv Levy and Tony Dungy, who are, themselves, in the Hall of Fame," McCaskey said. "He is well-regarded in league circles and has a lot of contacts. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have Bill assisting us in our search."
Polian and others have already been consulting with the Bears.
"We've talked to a number of people throughout the pro football world," McCaskey said. "We asked Bill to help us in evaluating our GM and head coach and helping us make a decision to return or replace—and if we moved to a replacement situation, to help us in our search to find the replacements."
Ideally, the Bears would prefer to hire a general manager before head coach, chiefly because the coach will report to the GM. But McCaskey conceded that "if we see a head-coach candidate we think is the right one, we're going to do what it takes to get him in-house."
The most important characteristic the Bears are seeking in candidates at both positions is the same.
"We'll be looking for leaders," McCaskey said. "[Polian] just wrote a book, 'Super Bowl Blueprints,' where he talks about what it takes to get to and win the Super Bowl, and he said he was even struck by 'great teams have coaches that the players respect.' They don't have to like him, they don't have to love him, but they respect him. So, the primary quality we'll be looking for in both the general manager and the head coach is leadership."
“We will be thorough, diligent and exhaustive. It will result in the best possible selections to lead the Bears to success.” Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey
McCaskey acknowledged that relieving Pace and Nagy of their duties Monday was "especially difficult because Ryan and Matt are outstanding men."
"They have high character," McCaskey said. "They have always represented the Bears with dignity and class. They gave everything they had to the Bears, and we appreciate those efforts. In a discipline dominated by outsized personalities and egos, they are remarkably down to earth and free of ego, always putting team before themselves."
It appeared that the Bears were a team on the rise in 2018 when they won the NFC North with a 12-4 record. But they followed with seasons of 8-8, 8-8 and 6-11.
"2018 was a great ride; 12 wins and a division title," McCaskey said "Ryan was executive of the year and Matt was coach of the year. We thought we were on our way. Unfortunately, it could not be sustained. Instead, we regressed. Our offense failed to show improvement. We continued to struggle at home. We did not close the gap within our division. In the end, we didn't win enough games."
McCaskey has faith that the Bears will land a general manager and coach that will win enough games. But he knows that fans won't be entirely convinced until they see positive results on the field.
"We're confident that with the experience we've gained, and with the makeup of our search team, we will find a general manager and a head coach who will lead our Bears to the success that all our Bears fans deserve," McCaskey said.
"We get that a lot of Bears fans are unhappy, and we're unhappy, too, and we're frustrated. And we understand that there's not really a whole lot that can be said today that's going to make people feel better about the situation. It may even be that once the candidates are introduced, people will say, 'Oh, you picked the wrong guy,' or 'you didn't get it right' or whatever. The only opportunity to produce results is on the field, and that won't be for some time to come. [But] we think in time it will be shown that we have chosen the right people to lead the Bears."