George H. McCaskey is not a patient person, but like everyone with a New Year's resolution, the Chicago Bears chairman is trying his best to improve in that department.
In 2015, when Ryan Pace interviewed for the job of Bears general manager, he told McCaskey it would take some time to rebuild the team, both from an on-field talent perspective, but also to change the off-field culture of the organization; Pace, however, had a plan for how to do both of those things.
The chairman admitted his issues with patience, but promised to Pace he'd try his best to not rush to judgment and be understanding of the long-term strategy the GM had in mind. That commitment was put to the test this season, when the team finished 3-13, the franchise's worst record since the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978.
Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey speaks with media at Halas Hall.
At a Wednesday morning press conference at Halas Hall, McCaskey called the recently completed campaign "disappointing," but also re-stated that his belief in the general manager has only grown since the day Pace was hired.
"I'm pleased with the job [Pace] has done," McCaskey said. "He talked from the beginning about how this was going to take time, about how we needed to be patient. With all the adversity that we've had, I like the steady hand that he and [coach] John [Fox] have had on the team. These guys fought for each other all season. They never pointed fingers. And I think that's a credit to the type of player that we have. And I think it's also a credit to John and his coaching staff for keeping them together."
However, despite his encouragement for both Pace and Fox, the team chairman didn't mince words when discussing the team's on-field performance and overall record. There are obvious areas of improvement the organization must address, and the general manager himself said earlier in the day the Bears are well positioned to improve their roster in the coming months, thanks to a wealth of salary cap space and high selections in the upcoming NFL Draft. McCaskey echoed Pace's thoughts, saying that changes must take place over the next few months to improve the team. The 2016 season marked the ninth time in the past 10 years the Bears have failed to reach the postseason, a trend the organization is eager to halt as soon as possible.
But while reaching the playoffs would be a start, the main goal McCaskey, Pace, Fox and the entire franchise have is to be hoisting the Super Bowl Trophy when it's all said and done. After the season finale last Sunday, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery told reporters that he guaranteed the Bears would win the Super Bowl next season. McCaskey said that he loves hearing that kind of talk from players, because it shows that the culture change Pace said would need time to develop is taking charge.
"The goal everywhere, every year is to win the Super Bowl," McCaskey said. "I think what Alshon said was great. I think he was trying to put his teammates on notice, that winning the Super Bowl begins in the offseason, and that they should get away from the game, rest, heal up, but then get after it in their offseason programs and be ready to go when we start minicamp."
Despite rumors of changes in the front office or major overhauls of the coaching staff, the Bears have opted to stay the course. McCaskey said that Pace has every resource needed to improve the team in the coming months, with a focus of on-field talent and off-field culture still in mind. The GM came in with a detailed plan, one that the entire organization has signed onto, and the chairman believes that path will be followed again this year. That means taking a measured approach and doing what is best for the long-term. It may be difficult for McCaskey to be patient, but with smart people in place and a well-thought-out strategy in action, he knows that doing so will be beneficial to the Bears.
"It's been very challenging," said McCaskey. "I've said many times, our entire family is huge fans. And we live and die with our Bears, just like everyone else does. And it has been very difficult. And that's where I think the important responsibility for me is to show the same kind of discipline with myself that Ryan is demonstrating in the draft and in free agency. You know, sometimes the best thing to do is to keep your mouth shut."