In spite of the Bears dismal season, I have really enjoyed writing about it. There has been no shortage of material since I decided to start blogging after applying to a job at Pro Football Weekly. Whether I get the job or following, that I would like out of this, the experience has been kind of cathartic and allowed me to freely dream of being the Bears general manager in my own mind.
It’s like I’m an actual journalist without having a boss to answer to. I have taken a lot of the encouragement of my friends and family to try and craft articles that are informative and entertaining. The lack of criticism I’ve received so far, means that no real serious sports fans are reading my blog just yet, but hopefully that is coming. I would like to think that the quality of my writing and the information and opinions that I am giving are worthy of appearing in a newspaper or sports periodical of some sort. That as we move into the new year, my blog becomes a source for your sports knowledge and entertainment. Something that you will regularly check like reading a newspaper or logging on to your favorite news site. Who knows, maybe some of you will want to write as well, and we can create a brand that we can be proud of together.
Now lets talk about a brand that has been disappointing for decades. I occurred to me, while writing a response to feedback about my most recent article, that where the Bears sit right now, parallels where the Chicago Cubs were at the end of the 1970’s.
It had been over 35 years since the Cubs last won the pennant in 1945. The Bears won the Super Bowl in January of 1986, 32 years ago. The Cubs were owned by the Wrigley family, the Bears are owned by the McCaskey family.
The Wrigley’s are known to have treated their ownership of the Cubs as a hobby for P.K. Wrigley, son of the founder of Wrigley’s Chewing Gum. The McCaskey’s treat the Bears as a piggy bank and Virginia McCaskey, who sits in a small ranch house in Des Plaines, was married to an accountant.
The Cubs under P.K., had an absurd coaching structure of multiple position coaches who made slow, final decisions by commitee, until they bowed to public pressure and hired one man to coach in 1966, legendary coach Leo Durocher. The Bears have long been criticized for their front office structure, which features no one above General Manager, with football knowledge. The Bears have hired consultants for their most recent general manager and head coaching hires, until recently hiring Ryan Pace with no previous management experience, very non-threatening to the McCaskey family.
The Cubs ownership passed to William Wrigley III in 1977, when his father P.K. passed away. When William’s mother passed away in 1981, and he was faced with a massive estate tax bill, he made the choice to sell the Cubs to the Tribune Company and keep the Wrigley’s Gum Company. He made the right choice. After investing into product and marketing research, he would go on to create brands like Orbit, Freedent, Hubba Bubba and Big Red, to re-establish Wrigley as one of the largest makers of confections in the world.
Now granted, it took selling the Cubs two more times before they won the championship in 2016. But under the Tribune, the Cubs made the playoffs in 1984, 1989, 1998, 2003, 2007 and 2008. They gave their fans hope, a belief a championship would eventually arrive and did with a new ownership group committed to investing and winning, because they too were fans. They hired the best people they could find, to fulfill their management team. Money and ego was no object.
The Bears wish they had that kind of success. Since Dave Wannstedt went to the wild card game once in 1994 with holdovers from Mike Ditka’s regime. The Bears have made the playoffs 4 times since then, and none since dismissing Lovie Smith in 2010. The Bears currently have the 3rd longest playoff drought in the league, behind the absolutely terrible Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now new General Manager Ryan Pace, along with Bears Chairman George McCaskey and Team President Ted Phillips embark on, what I believe will be, their final head coaching search. The three amigos have been through this before, it’s what gave us a good experienced man in John Fox, only to waste him.
Just to give you an idea of how screwed up the Bears are, I will remind you that on draft day of last year, John Fox didn’t know Pace was planning to trade THREE draft picks to move up one spot in the first round, from third overall, to second overall, and draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Fox found out like the rest of us… when it happened!
Now the tight-lipped knuckle-head Pace will hire a new coach. And since the Bears have always managed their team by listening in on the media’s conversations, they will hire a young inexperienced offensive mind just like the Los Angeles Rams. Since the Rams are one of the top three teams in the NFC and have seemingly risen to a 12-4 record overnight with a second-year quarterback… It is inevitable that the Bears will follow their playbook, since they and the local sports media think they parallel the Rams. They do not!
The Rams have been bad and unlucky for a decade. But a decade of futility in a tough division gets you lots of high draft picks, lots. The Bears have only been bad enough to draft inside the top 7 picks once. The Rams have drafted 1st or 2nd, 5 times in the last ten drafts. Each time they drafted 1st they took a quarterback. 7 years ago they took Sam Bradford 1st overall and then flipped him, three years ago, for a draft pick they turned into all pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald (13th overall in 2014). Then last year they traded a 2018 and their 2017 first round pick to move up and draft Jared Goff, their version of Mitchell Trubisky. Just more experienced, taller and overall, more talented than the Bears Mitchell.
The Rams draft picks the last decade are filled with fast All -Pro Players on both sides of the ball who finally put it together this year, when Seattle and Arizona had too many injuries to even make the playoffs and San Francisco is in a rebuilding year.
With the Rams as their model, expect the Bears to go hard after John DeFillipo, the 39 year old quarterbacks coach for the Eagles, who is similar to Sean McVay, the 37 year old Rams head coach, who was the Washington Redskins offensive coordinator from 2014-2016. DeFillipo has gained notoriety for having coached Carson Wentz into a All Pro Quarterback. The Bears job for DeFillipo would be like TWO promotions!
The Bears biggest problems with this coaching search are going to be finding someone who shares the same enthusiasm for Mitchell Trubisky’s talents as their general manager. With Trubisky entrenched now and into the future, he could be as much of a turnoff for the Bears job, as a turn on. This is something I warned about in running Fox out of town.
And before the Bears follow the Rams path, remember this. Teams rise and fall all the time in this league, the schedule is the great equalizer. One year, like this year for the Rams, last year for the Oakland Raiders, you are playing the other last place teams in the league. Next year you are playing the first place schedule, and you go down in the standings, sometimes way down. Down far enough to fire that head coach who was a miracle worker a short time ago. Just ask Jack Del Rio and the 6-10 Raiders, who finished just like I said they would, in my AFC Preview, after winning the AFC West division title in 2016 with a 12-4 record.