PHOENIX – Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said he felt pride and gratitude when Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy were named the 2018 NFL executive of the year and coach of the year, respectively.
It’s the first time the organization has claimed both awards in the same season since winning the Super Bowl in 1985.
“I think it gives us hope for the future, and I’m looking forward to getting after it in our centennial season,” McCaskey said at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.
The cohesiveness between Pace and Nagy was a significant factor in the Bears’ resurgence in their 99th season. The dynamic duo helped lead the team to the NFC North championship with a 12-4 record, completing a worst-to-first turnaround.
“The word I keep coming back to is their ‘collaboration’ seems very sound, productive, respectful,” McCaskey said. “I think they balance each other out very well.
“I told them from the beginning, ‘You guys don’t always need to agree, but the general manager/head coach relationship is as important or more important than the head coach/play-caller/quarterback relationship.’ They need to have vigorous discussion and the sounding of ideas, and when the discussion is finished and the decision is made, they need to move forward together and I think they do a great job of doing that.”
That collaboration was evident last summer when the Bears landed superstar outside linebacker Khalil Mack in a blockbuster trade with the Raiders. In his first season in Chicago, Mack was named first-team All-Pro and voted to his fourth straight Pro Bowl after leading the Bears with 12.5 sacks and a career-high six forced fumbles.
“I knew he was a dynamic player,” McCaskey said. “Ryan said it was an opportunity to get a premier player at a premier position in the prime of his career, and when you have an opportunity like that, you have to go for it.
“I think Matt has said this publicly many times: It was what he described as persistence over resistance. [Mack] transformed the team on both sides of the ball. I thought Ryan said it very well. When your best players are your hardest workers, that’s a good thing.”
Mack was one of four Pro Bowlers on a Bears defense that led the NFL in points per game (17.7), takeaways (36), interceptions (27), interception return touchdowns (5), opponent passer rating (72.9) and rushing yards per game (80.0). The other all-stars were tackle Akiem Hicks, cornerback Kyle Fuller and safety Eddie Jackson.
The defense’s success greatly benefitted a Bears offense led by quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who also was named to the Pro Bowl after passing for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushing for 421 yards and three TDs in his second NFL season.
“I think having the defense really helped Mitchell’s development,” McCaskey said. “It didn’t have to be all on him. I think that was a good thing.”
McCaskey is impressed with not only Trubisky’s ability on the field but his intangibles.
“Good solid upbringing. Good family. He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” McCaskey said. “His teammates love him. There's just something about him. It’s that intangible that makes other people want to be around him and want to play with him and play well with him. And work ethic. He gets what it means to be the starting quarterback of the Chicago Bears.”