CHICAGO BEARS CHAIRMAN GEORGE MCCASKEY AND PRESIDENT TED PHILLIPS
At Halas Hall we take the notion of the Bears family seriously. That’s why it’s especially difficult to take the action we’ve taken today. Phil and Marc are good football men and good men. They both have served the Bears honorably. At all times, they have put the Bears first, and my family is grateful for their efforts. Phil’s work ethic is second to none, and the values Marc emphasized — respect, integrity, selflessness — have resonated at the Bears since 1920.
Cindy, Sarahanne and Chloe Trestman and Beth and April Emery are part of the Bears family, and we thank them for the sacrifices they have made in support of Marc, Phil and the Bears.
Halas Hall is a better place for Phil and Marc having been here. These are difficult decisions. They affect lives and livelihoods. In the end, we didn’t win enough games. And Ted and I came to the conclusion that continuing on our present course would not result in our ultimate goal, which is to win championships. All our decisions revolve around that goal and we feel that it’s time to move forward with new leadership to help us get there.
The search for a new general manager and a new head coach is underway. We have spoken to a number of people around the league whose opinions we respect, including members of the NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel, and we’ve hired Ernie Accorsi as a consultant to assist in the hiring of both positions. Ernie has a wide variety of experience and has been successful, and we feel he will provide a critical voice to our search process.
We do not have a timetable. We will act quickly if necessary to get the people we want, and we are prepared to wait if necessary to get the people we want. Ted will explain more about the selection process.
Thanks. The process is beginning now. As George mentioned, we’ve hired Ernie Accorsi. He’s a member of the Career Development Advisory Panel with the league. There’s a number of very esteemed people with great football knowledge and experience on that panel. We’ve already consulted with several of them and felt that Ernie was a really good fit for us, understanding what the Chicago Bears are about, both from our tradition and what we need going forward. We have a plan in place. And after this press conference we’re going to be ready to go. We’ve already received numerous inquiries from a number of people. I don’t think it’s appropriate or fair to any candidates to start talking about any individual candidates today. That’ll unfold as the process moves along.
We’re going to proceed with a sense of urgency. There is no timeline, as George mentioned, but we do have a sense of urgency and we will be prepared to act when we get the right candidates in place.
With that, I think we’ll open it up to questions.
THE FINAL STRAW, GEORGE?
GM: There wasn’t a final straw. It was an evaluation of the body of work, and as I said, the fact of the matter is we just didn’t win enough games.
WILL YOU CONTINUE WITH SAME POWER STRUCTURE?
GM: We feel that the structure we have is a good one, with the head coach reporting to the general manager, the general manager reporting to the president, and the president reporting to the chairman, but if that needed adjustment in order to get the right person, we wouldn't foreclose that possibility.
WHEN DID U MAKE UP YOUR MIND FIRE PHIL AND MARC?
GM: We finalized our decision last night.
WILL YOU HIRE THE GM BEFORE THE COACH?
GM: The conventional timeline is to hire the general manager first, but Ernie has already advised us that if we see the right guy out there as a head coach we need to be prepared to move quickly to get him.
ARE YOU LOOKING FOR CANDIDATES WITH EXPERIENCE AT THE POSITION?
GM: We're not going to foreclose any possibilities. If we find the right person at each position and that person either has experience in that position previously or doesn't, that would be a factor in the decision but wouldn't be the only factor by any means.
WHY SHOULD FANS TRUST THAT YOU WILL GET IT RIGHT THIS TIME?
GM: We understand the magnitude of this decision and we understand that Bears fans are counting on us to get it right. We think that the experience that we bring over the last three years, having been through the process before and talking to various people around the league and adding Ernie as a consultant will help us in the process and get us the right people to lead the Bears.
THOUGHT PROCESS IN DECIDING TO GET A CONSULTANT?
GM: Well, the NFL started this panel a couple years ago and has some pretty distinguished names on it. WE talked to a number of the panel members, thought we had a good fit with Ernie. He's excited to be joining us and we're looking forward to getting down to business with him.
TP: Let me add that I think you can never have enough expert football opinions. He's been through numerous regimes in New York, he understands coaches, he understands general managers, he was the one that hired Tom Coughlin, so between hiring Ernie and still being able to consult with other members of that panel, we think we've got a good amount of football experience that will be really important to us as we make this decision.
ARE YOU OPEN TO A HEAD COACH THAT HAS THE FINAL SAY ON THE 53-MAN ROSTER?
TP: I think the preference is to have a general manager that has final say on the 53, and then the coach traditionally has a say on who plays, but we're not going to foreclose the possibilities for the right person.
WHY DID YOU FIRE BOTH MARC AND PHIL AND NOT JUST ONE OF THEM?
TP: It was a really tough decision as George said. They added a lot of value. It wasn't as if we don't have any talent at all on this team. We think we're in a building phase, we want to build off of what we have. It came down to this that in the ultimate end, if you lose confidence in what the status quo is, then you realize in your heart that it's time to make a change. That's what happened.
WHAT’S THE STATUS OF AARON KROMER?
TP: Aaron Kromer’s contract was terminated today. George and I met with Aaron and told him that.
TP: All the other coaches we met with, and the personnel folks, and they’ve all been kept under contract. I believe the only individual who doesn’t have a contract for next year is Matt Cavanaugh. We have indicated to all of those folks that in the event that the new head coach or general manager wants to interview them, we’d like to give them that opportunity. However, we’re not going to stand in their way if they have another opportunity elsewhere, then they will go through the proper protocol and those organizations that want to hire or interview one of our coaches or scouts, they will go through the proper protocol and notify me.
TP: Only Aaron Kromer had his contract terminated today other than Marc and Phil.
WILL THE NEW GUYS HAVE AUTHORITY OVER THE QB SITUATION?
TP: I would say that the head coach and general manager have the discretion to decide who fits on our club, whether it’s quarterback or any other position.
SO IS CUTLER YOUR QB?
TP: Look, nobody played to the levels we had expected this year. We’re 5-11. That’s what we are. We need to be better and the ultimate end, whoever the coach and GM are, they’re going to have the decisions to make as to who best fits our team at any position.
DOES JAY’S CONTRACT AND PLAY INHIBIT YOUR EFFORT TO FILL THE JOB?
GM: No. We feel this is a prestigious position. We’ve already had inquiries from people who want to be involved with the Chicago Bears and we think this is a prime destination.
DO YOU REGRET GIVING CUTLER THE LARGE CONTRACT?
GM: No. That was a decision that Phil made with our approval. It was considered at the time to be the best decision and we’re going to go forward from there.
ANY FINANCIAL SACRIFICES IN THESE MOVES?
GM: The balance swung overwhelmingly in favor of doing the right thing. The money wasn’t a factor. We decided to do was in the best interest of the Chicago Bears regardless of the money situation.
IMPETUS BEHIND FIRING MARC AND PHIL SO QUICKLY?
GM: It just came down to we didn’t win enough games and Ted and I came to the conclusion that if we continued on our present course, we wouldn’t win championships and that’s what we’re here for.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE MISTAKE OF HIRING EMERY?
One of the things that I think is going to be really helpful to me in this process is that I’ve been able to develop relationships with people around the league. So when I go to them for advice, there’s a confidence level and trust factor that people I think will be more willing to share their opinions with me than they were three years ago.
WILL CUTLER BE INVOLVED IN THE COACHING SEARCH LIKE HE WAS LAST TIME?
TP: I don’t see any players playing a role in that decision. Ultimately, as the process winds down, if a candidate wants to meet with whoever on the club, we’ll obviously consider that at that point.
TIMELINE FOR COMPETING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP
TP: 2015. We always believe that. I think in the NFL it’s been shown that a team can go from four or five wins and get into a Super Bowl the following year. We’ve got the right leadership. We’ve got the right toughness on all phases of the ball. And have the right amount of personnel that are high quality folks. And we think we have at least the foundation ready. So we’re looking forward to winning right away.
DID YOU CONSIDER FIRING TRESTMAN EARLIER IN THE SEASON?
DO YOU WANT A DEFENSIVE- OR OFFENSIVE-MINDED HEAD COACH?
TP: We don’t want to box ourselves in by saying that we want a coach or a general manager who has to be a coach with expertise on one side of the ball. Obviously the most successful head coaches have that expertise one way or the other. But they also know how to hire that opposite side. So that’s going to be important. Attention to detail. Being able to make strong decisions. Being able to understand and create an identity for our team on all three phases of the ball. That’s going to be very important. Being able to create a vision and articulate that vision to the team and to our fan base of what we’re all about. And being able to analyze what it is our team needs. What are they? How are we going to fix them? Have a clear cut plan and be able to follow through on that plan. Not just state it but follow through on it through the course of the year.
ANY BENEFIT TO HAVING A GM OR COACH WHO HAS WORKED WITH BEARS BEFORE?
GM: Like I said, I wouldn’t foreclose any possibilities. Somebody who has worked here before isn’t automatically considered over somebody else. And somebody who hasn’t been here before isn’t automatically eliminated from consideration.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE ACCORSI IN THE FRONT OFFICE TO WORK ABOVE THE GM?
TP: No. Ernie’s going to be hired just as a consultant to get us through this entire process in finding the right head coach and general manager.
WAS THERE ONE GAME THIS YEAR THAT STOOD OUT AS THE MOST EMBARRASSING?
GM: Every loss is dispiriting. But there wasn’t one particular spot. We wanted to consider the entire body of work in making an important decision like this. Our family, first and foremost, are fans, so we take the losses hard. But we thought it would be a disservice to both Phil and Marc to make an emotional decision based on the result of just one game.
HOW PAINFUL WAS THIS SEASON?
GM: I don’t know if I can establish a hierarchy of pain. This was a painful season.
WHAT IMPACT DID THE IRE OF THE FANS HAVE IN MAKING THIS DECISION?
GM: Well our fans are passionate — you know that, Fred. And they let their feelings be known. You can’t make decisions to appeal to the masses. A lot of times in the history of the NFL what started out as unpopular decisions turn out to be wildly popular decisions when they’re successful. We didn’t want to make decisions to appease the masses, but we wanted to be mindful of what the fans are saying and be responsive to what they’re saying.
HOW MUCH DID THE BAD LOCKER ROOM IMPACT YOUR DECISION?
GM: There was an evaluation of the body of work. It wasn’t one game. It wasn’t one particular incident in both Phil’s and Mark’s case. It was an evaluation of the body of work.
YOU’VE FIRED TWO GMS IN THREE YEARS — DOES THAT MEAN YOU HAVE HIGH STANDARDS OR VERY IMPATIENT?
I think the standards of the Bears have been high since 1920. We expect excellence. It’s not a question of being impatient so much as a evaluating your situation as objectively as you can and making decisions that you think are in the best interests of the Bears.
WHY DO YOU THINK THIS REGIME DIDN’T WIN MORE?
GM: Boy, I’m going to leave that to you folks, because you’re the experts, right?
TED DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON THAT?
TP: Well, you know we wouldn’t be sitting here today if it wasn’t probably a combination of personnel decisions and coaching decisions, so it’s really a mix of the two. Without talking specifically about any one point.
YOU WANTED TO CLOSE THE TALENT GAP THE LAST TIME YOU MADE THIS DECISION — IS IT WIDER NOW?
TP: Well, it’s not where we want to be. It’s not where we want to be or we wouldn’t be here today, so we’re expecting that gap, however large it is, it’s hard to define that, Brad, to close and close rapidly.
GM: However you define it, Brad, we have to do better in our division. You have to be successful in your division if you want to win the Super Bowl. To make the playoffs, you have to control your division, so that’ll be a priority going forward.
YOU GUYS ARE THE ONES WHO HIRED EMERY AND TRESTMAN — IN YOUR EVALUATIONS, DID TED’S NAME COME UP AS WELL?
GM: Everybody at Halas Hall is evaluated every day. Our family has complete faith in Ted. He has our support. And we’re confident that in making the changes that we’re making today and going out and finding a new general manager and a new head coach, we can return the Bears to greatness.
BRANDON MARSHALL CHALLENGED SOMEBODY ELSE TO A BOXING MATCH; WILL WHOEVER YOU BRING IN HAVE A SAY IN WHETHER Marshall STAYS OR GOES? AND SAME FOR JAY CUTLER
GM: All personnel decisions will be the responsibility of the general manager and the head coach.
TED WHAT IS YOUR SENSE OF WHAT THE ORGANIZATION NEEDS FROM THE NEXT GM?
TP: We need obviously good decisions, strong drafts. We need smart decisions in free agency. We need someone, a general manager since you’re asking specifically about that position, who can work with our head coach collaboratively and come up with the right mix of players. And make those right to analyze our needs the right way and ultimately have a plan in place to get us back to winning championships.
WHEN DID YOU LOSE CONFIDENCE IN PHIL AND MARC?
TP: This decision was really hard. I don’t regret the hiring of Phil or the hiring of Marc. They both brought a lot of positive attributes to Halas Hall and to our team. It didn’t work out. We didn’t win. This was Phil’s third year. We didn’t make the playoffs a single year. That was a problem. So when did we realize it? George and I have been talking for a while now about what’s the right decision and like I said earlier when you lose confidence in what the status quo is, you decide that that change is for the best for the organization moving forward.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM LAST SEARCH? WHAT WILL BE DIFFERENT?
TP: Bringing in an expert consultant like Ernie Accorsi I think is a huge difference. The prior process was a thorough search. We talked to a lot of people throughout the league both current personnel folks and coaches and ex-coaches and GMs. I think what we have now with Ernie coming in is someone consistent who is giving us a voice on a daily basis who’s on our side and doesn’t have any other agenda to try to push their own people. Ernie is a longtime football man. He understands the tradition, the importance of football in Chicago and I think that alone is going to be a very valuable addition.
HOW WILL IT WORK: WILL ERNIE INTERVIEW CANDIDATES BY HIMSELF?
TP: That’s a good question. Once this press conference ends we’re going to get into a detailed discussion with Ernie about his thoughts on that. He definitely will be involved in the interview process, as will George and myself.
WHO WILL MAKE FINAL DECISION ON GM AND COACH?
TP: It won’t be Ernie. Ernie is going to make recommendations is the way we look at it and ultimately on the general manager it will be George and myself.
YOU WILL DO IT EQUALLY?
GM: We have an excellent collaboration. Our communication is outstanding. Ted’s been very good about keeping me informed since I’ve been chairman about the actions that he’s taking or is considering taking as president and CEO. It’s very much a collaborative effort. It’s not a voting situation. It’s what do you think, what do you think? I think it’s going to work very positively.
STRUCTURE OF SEARCH; HOW MANY INITIAL CANDIDATES?
TP; We haven’t gotten to that level of detail, but we’ll get there really fast. The advisory panel at the league of which Ernie’s a member has done some of that homework. It’s not an exhaustive list or a list that can’t be added to, but we’ll start talking to Ernie and we’ll get to that level of detail really fast because we’ll obviously have a sense of urgency.
ACCORSI’S LIST OF CANDIDATES
TP: He’s got a list that we went over just briefly over the telephone, and we’re prepared to dive into it as soon as he gets here.
IS THIS IN ANY WAY AN ADMISSION YOU GUYS DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT?
GM: We consider this a tool to assist us in the search process. Several other teams have taken advantage of this resource, and we think it’s a good idea.
HAS THERE BEEN CONTACT WITH JIM HARBAUGH?
DID FAN NO-SHOWS THIS YEAR AFFECT THIS DECISION?
GM: I would say it didn’t have a direct impact on the decision obviously we care deeply about what our fans think, how they react to our team’s performance. we weren’t happy with that this year. We listened to our fans from the standpoint of wanting to understand that they want what we want and that’s to win championships. That’s the goal of today to get us off on the right foot and get back to winning championships for the Chicago Bears.
TP: Had discussions with several members of the advisory panel and felt that Ernie was the best fit for us in terms of his breadth of experience and being in it with a traditional team and understanding what the fan base is all about. I’ve known him for a very long time, from back in the days when I used to negotiate player contracts and he’s a high-quality character guy. I think he’ll be a great fit.
HOW HAS VIRGINIA BEEN AFFECTED?
(10 second pause)She’s been very supportive. She agrees with the decisions that we made. She’s pissed off. I can’t think of a 91-year-old woman that that description would apply to, but in this case, I can’t think of a more accurate description.
She’s been on this Earth for eight of the Bears’ nine championships, and she wants more. She feels that it’s been too long since the last one, and that dissatisfaction is shared by her children, her grandchildren and her great grandchildren.
She’s fed up with mediocrity. She feels that she and Bears fans everywhere deserve better.
GEORGE WILL YOUR ROLE CHANGE AT ALL?
GM: It's a delicate balance because if ownership is too involved, then our friends in the media and fans say that we're meddling. And we feel that the correct course of action is to hire the best people that we can, and stay out of their way and let them do their jobs. I don't know that 'more involved' is an accurate description. I was involved in the last hiring process and I'm going to be involved in this hiring process. I'm very much looking forward to working with Ted and working with Ernie to get the best possible general manager and head coach for the Bears.
WITH ACCORSI’S EXPERIENCE, WHY DOESN’T HE JUST PICK THE GM?
GM: I think Ted and I understand the history of the Bears. One of the things that Ernie said right away, he was quick to say - and this is why we thought I would be such a good fit - that, at least on paper, he once worked for George Halas. When George Halas was president of the National Football Conference, Ernie was assistant to the president. He mentioned he was a suite mate of Brian Piccolo's at Wake Forest University. I think he gets what we're looking for. It's an appreciation of the history, the legacy of the Bears, but Ted and I have lived it. Ted, for the last 30-plus years, me, for my entire life, and we feel that a collaborative effort is the best way to go.
WAS THERE A MEETING AFTER THE PACKERS GAME?
GM: I've heard that such a meeting occurred. If it occurred, I wasn't there.
TP: I wasn't there either.
GM: Our family talks all the time and when we talk, we love to talk about the Bears. That’s one of the fun things about owning the Bears is being able to talk about them. We’re talking all the time and we have very independent thinkers who aren’t afraid to share their opinions with other members of the family. That’s what we do. I’m sure in that regard we’re like a lot of Bears fan families.
WAS THERE A POINT WHERE VIRGINIA GOT PISSED OFF?
GM: Like I said, I don’t think it was one particular play or series or half or game.
RE-ESTABLISHING IDENTITY AS DEFENSIVE TEAM
GM: When you look at successful teams, they have an identity. There will usually be, at some point in the season, they’ll be called upon to overcome adversity. There will be a point in the season where the team jells, where they come together. That’s what you want to see. That’s what we’re looking to see, somebody who can help make those things happen for our Bears.
DID THE DEAL WITH ACCORSI TAKE PLACE TODAY?
TP: We had conversations a few days ago about if he would be available if we decided to make changes. Ernie did not have any involvement in the decision to release Marc and Phil.
DID PHIL AND MARC LOBBY FOR THEIR JOBS?
GM: I think out of respect for Phil and Marc, if they want to share details of our conversation, that’s entirely up to them. But we won’t be sharing details of those conversations.
WAS THE GREEN BAY GAME THE FINAL STRAW?
GM: We’ve had a great rivalry with the Packers going back to 1921 and we enjoy very much disliking them very much. They are a division rival, so that makes a game more important. There’s also the natural geographic rivalry and the time-honored rivalry going back to 1921. Part of the successful formula is controlling your division. We have to attend to the Packers and the Lions and the Vikings.
DO YOU STILL BELIEVE IN CUTLER?
GM: I’m a fan of Jay’s personally and I’m a fan of Jay’s professionally but all of the personnel decisions are going to be up to the new general manager and the new head coach.
WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE OF HIRING GM AND A COACH AT THE SAME TIME?
TP: I look at it less of a challenge and more of an opportunity to bring the Bears back to greatness. That’s the goal.
SHOULDN’T SOMEONE TAKE THE FALL FOR EMERY?
GM: I don’t view it as taking the fall. Like I said, everyone is accountable. Everybody who walks through the doors of Halas Hall see the quote from George Halas, ‘Nobody whoever gave their best regretted it.’ The best is expected from everyone. Excellence is expected from everyone. And each individual is judged on his or her body of work. In the case of the body of work of the general manager and the head coach, we felt that a change was necessary.
ARE YOU SEEKING A COACH THAT IS MORE OUTWARDLY EXPRESSIVE?
GM: I don’t think that’s a prerequisite. We’ve seen various successful coaches who were outwardly emotional and we’ve seen various successful coaches who have had a very calm demeanor on the sideline. Tom Landry comes immediately to mind. You know, Mike Ditka is said to have had a fiery sideline demeanor and to me it’s unfair to attribute his success to his fiery sideline demeanor. He had a lot of other things going for him that made him a great coach.
HAVE THE BEARS LOST THE BEAR WAY?
GM: I thought Ted made excellent reference to that. We need to re-establish our identity. People need to know that when they play the Chicago Bears, that they’ve been through hell.
WILL ERNIE’S EXISTING LIST EXPAND?
TP: It could expand because today alone I’ve gotten inquiries from at least half a dozen individuals representing different coaches, so once we flush all that out we’ll take a look and see if there’s additional names to be added.
ARE COLLEGE COACHES CANDIDATES?
GM: We’re not foreclosing any possibilities, college experience, pro experience, previous head coaching experience, offensive-minded, defensive-minded.
DO YOU WANT A COACH WITH A FIERY PERSONALITY?
GM: Like I said we’re not foreclosing any possibility. It may be that the person that we identify as the best next head coach of the Bears has a fiery sideline demeanor. It may be that that person is the picture of calm. Sometimes players respond better to a fiery demeanor, sometimes they respond to a calm demeanor.
CAN YOU SENSE THE FANS WANT A FIERY COACH?
TP: I think what the fans want is an identity of the team, and as I mentioned before, the three different phases, they need to show some toughness. Whether that’s coming from a fiery sideline demeanor, I think we want to see a team that is tough in all three phases, so that when teams come into Soldier Field or play the Bears, they’re fearing coming in to play us. That’s what we need.
WHAT’S MISSING IN CONTROLLING THE NFC NORTH
TP: We were 1-5, I think, in the division. We were 2-6 at home. We need to turn that around.
WHAT’S YOUR ASSESSMENT ON THE QUALITY OF TALENT ON THE ROSTER?
TP: I don’t think you probably want me to access the quality of the talent. I think I know enough to understand that we have some good building blocks, both young and veterans, and when we get a new coach and GM in here, I’ll look forward to hearing their analysis of what we need.
CONSIDERING A HEAD COACH/GM?
TP: That’s not the preference, but again, I would say that I think recent history shows that that doesn’t work as much as it may have in the past, because the job is too big. But then again, we’re not going to foreclose any possibility if the right person comes up.
ARE YOU SAYING BEARS LACKED TOUGHNESS THIS YEAR?
TP: Look, we were 5-11. Clearly we weren’t good in any phase. We seemed to regress during the year. So, I think that’s the way I’ll answer that.
IS IT REALISTIC YOU CAN COMPETE FOR A SUPER BOWL IN 2015?
TP: I think that after the 2013 season, there were high expectations for good reason. It didn’t translate, obviously, on the field, but there have been many examples of teams who have turned it around in one year and we aim to be one of those.
WOULD IT HAVE HELPED TO GO INTO LOCKER ROOM AND TELL THE PLAYERS HOW PISSED OFF THE FAMILY IS?
GM: Absolutely not. Sunday is for the players. Our job on Sunday is to watch. I’m sure that if one us had taken that action, that somebody would opine that we’re meddling. To me, it comes to down to Sunday, game day, is for the players and the coaches. And our job is to watch and root.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter.