CHICAGO BEARS GM RYAN PACE
Over the past week, we interviewed four extremely qualified head-coaching candidates. We started this search knowing that there were many important qualities we were looking for: energy, charisma, discipline, character, are traits that come to mind. As I stated before, I understood the importance of this decision. John Fox is a proven winner and when he became available, honestly, the game changed. The more time I spent with him and his family, the more it became apparent that he’s the perfect man to lead our charge. With that said, I’m extremely excited to introduce the new head coach of the Chicago Bears John Fox.
HEAD COACH JOHN FOX
I’d like to begin first of all by giving thanks to the McCaskey Family, thanks to Ted Phillips and, obviously, thank you to Ryan Pace for this opportunity. I’d like to thank my family, my wife Robin, my four children, three sons Matthew, Mark, Cody and my 15-year-old daughter who will be following us here to Chicago, Halle. This is a great, great honor, privilege to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears. I think the thing that excited me and my family was the storied franchise that this stood for. To be standing here in the same role as George Halas is pretty remarkable and one that I take very seriously with great responsibility moving forward. After that, I’d like to open it up for questions, I know there will be a few. I look forward to getting into relationships and getting to know all of you better.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH RYAN PACE?
Well, I think it’s paramount that relationship, maybe the most important relationship in a NFL building. This is a ‘we’ not ‘me’ profession. That’s true whether it’s upstairs, downstairs or between those lines. I think that culture and that environment is paramount to be successful on the field, one that with help by a lot of the coaching staff that we’ve been able to transpire into the organization we’re in. I’m looking forward to building that with Ryan, with the McCaskeys, with our coaching staff moving forward.
CAN YOU WIN WITH JAY CUTLER?
That’s a lot for a guy who’s not talked to him yet. I feel good about whoever that it is. I’m looking forward to getting to know JAKE. He did text me, welcoming me to Chicago, was very excited that I was coming here, which I thought was a nice move. I just reminded him that this game is only fun when we win and we will, that was looking forward to getting to see him. I’m looking forward to seeing JAKE face to face and we’re going to start that relationship and that process. It doesn’t matter what player here. We’re going to start that process and I’m not there yet.
DID THE BRONCOS TAKE FOR GRANTED YOUR REGULAR-SEASON SUCCESS?
Hey look, I made a release. My feelings haven’t changed whatsoever. We parted ways mutually. I’ve got a lot of great friends there. It was a great four-year run. We hugged and moved on. It happens in football. I learned a long time ago it’s OK to look rear-view mirror but not very long because you better stay staring out the windshield and that’s me right now. I’m looking forward and I’m very excited about it.
Kind of like the first question. My energy right now has been hiring a staff. I think we’re in offseason mode. I know it’s important that we have people in the building to evaluate that roster. Personally, I’ve not dug into that. To the defensive question, with your 3-4, 4-3, spending 25 years in this league as a head coach or a defensive coach, I think sometimes maybe on the outside more is made of that than reality. We’re going to our players in the best position for them to have success and that’s how we’re going to earn their respect moving forward because they know we can help that, whether that’s a 3-4 or 4-3 has not been determined yet.
HOW CLOSE IS THE BEAR ROSTER TO COMPETING IN THE NFC NORTH?
I’ve always been of the thoughts of understate, overproduce. I’ve never predicted records. If I could do that I’d be at a racetrack somewhere. I think I haven’t gotten that far to evaluate it. I can just say that we in the past have made pretty good jumps, so we’re looking to do that. I can’t predict exactly how fast or when that will happen. I just believe it will.
HOW DOES A WEEK GO WITH YOU AND YOUR OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR?
That's a great question. As a head coach my job is to motivate and manage the football team and it's not one phase is bigger and better than the other one, it's all three phases and I'm very tied in. I look at a lot of film, people talk about well, coach you're a defensive coach, well I can promise you I've seen more offense than any offensive coach known to man in 25 years. I know football, that's my job, motivate the coaches motivate the team, prepare the team and that's both strategic and technically. I hope that answered your question.
WILL YOU RETAIN ANY OF THE CURRENT COACHES?
I don't know that yet. This is a very fluid process. I met with all of them all day Saturday, so all but two, There are two guys that were out of town, I talked with everybody that's one the current staff, explained to them that Ryan Pace, myself, the Bears organization with all things going forward, there's a protocol you go through in this league as far as guys changing jobs and that sort of thing, but I can't determine that now. There's obviously some good coaches on this staff. I had a team full of coaches back at Denver, so it's a fluid process and we're going to try to locate the best human talent there is and then move forward to try to motivate them to be the best they can be every day and that's really coaches and players.
WHERE DO YOU START?
Not sure I totally got the first part of that question, but I, these teams basically operate within the same confines, salary cap, rules, the better you do the lower the draft pick. There's great parity in this league, I'm looking forward to this challenge. I can't tell you exactly what that challenge is yet, but I understand that it starts with being successful in your division because the one thing I know is if you win your division you go to the playoffs. That's the first goal for our football team, when those players stand there, they'll know that. There's a lot of work that goes in to it. This is I think the oldest division in football. I understand the rivalries, I understand having supremacy in your division. Our challenge is not different that the other guys in our division.
WHAT CATALYZED YOUR TURNAROUNDS IN CAROLINA AND DENVER?
It's people. It's finding the right kind of people. We look for smart, tough people that condition themselves to be the best they can be, and football is a very combative, physical game, and it takes combative, physical people. We're going to do our best to find, train and compete.
DID YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH PACE PREVIOUSLY?
I think coming in to the process, personally didn't know each other that well. The difference with that is we had people that we respect in the league that knew both of us and felt very, very confident that we'd be perfect together and then I had the opportunity to fly in here Wednesday and I had the opportunity to meet with the committee and had a great feel for Ryan. He flew out to Denver with his wife Stephanie, spent time with my wife and I Robin and just clicked. So I understand the importance of that relationship, the get-along factor of that relationship, and I'm very, very excited about that moving forward.
It’s honesty. Sometimes people are sugarcoating, sometimes it’s third-party conversations, you see a lot in any business and that’s no different in the NFL. I’m brutally honest. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not afraid or intimidated about telling people the truth.
DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER MEMBERS OF YOUR STAFF LINED UP?
In today’s media there’s a lot of not just reporting; it’s predicting. Some of it’s true, some of it’s not. We’re pursuing but I learned a long time ago, if it’s not on the dotted line, it’s not final. So we work very hard gaining information on what we think are the best human talent available in that process. [Special teams coordinator] Jeff Rodgers is on the dotted line; he’s upstairs right now working hard to make the Chicago Bears better.
TURNING THE BRONCOS AROUND, HOW WILL THAT HELP IN THIS TURNAROUND EFFORT?
Like most things, it’s not automatic but the more you do it the better you should get. It’s not always the case but I think if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, it does help you. Sometimes in life, some of the things you make bad decisions on, you learn as much as from good decisions. I hope it helps moving forward, helps me the second time. There’s no manual for being a head coach; people ask me all the time, ‘Do you think this guy will be a head coach?’ I have not idea. I had no idea what kind of head coach I’d be. It’s like holding jell-o. It’s lonely at the top, a very competitive business. I think the experience did help.
YOU’RE ALMOST 60 AND PACE IS 37.
You talk about 60 like I was old or something. I’m very healthy, very energetic, I stay away from mirrors. I truly feel as I did at 36 when I went to work with Chuck Noll and the Pittsburgh Steelers in ’89. At which point that goes away, I’ll go away. I have a great passion for what I do. I try to surround myself with passionate people. This young man [Pace], I don’t care about age. He’s smart, he’s honest, he’s all the things I look for in a guy I want to be in the trenches with. I’m excited about that. I think we can both help each other and that’s what this is about, pulling people together.
YOU TALKED ABOUT MANAGING AND MOTIVATING. HOW HAVE YOU SEEN LEADERSHIP MANIFEST ITSELF IN LOCKER ROOM?
It’s a job. It doesn’t fall out of the sky. Just like your own children, you’re teaching young men how to be better young men. And that’s in this element, in the element of life. It’s not always perfect, but I think to block 36 power, the right footwork, to block a three-technique, which is very important. It’s also important to teach young men about all their relationships of life.
WERE YOU TEMPTED TO TAKE A YEAR OFF?
It’s been a whirlwind, but I consider myself a fairly mentally tough individual. I think, like I preach to players, I try to get better everyday. I try to take it one day at a time. It’s a challenge every day. My wife and I, I didn’t just whatever, not meaningfully, thank them. I’m celebrating my 30th year of marriage. I said I have three grown men and a young daughter. They’re helpful. They have taken this journey with me and they’ll take this journey here in Chicago with the Bears. Every day can be tough. But it’s been fun. It’s been a great ride. I’m excited about this opportunity, as I mentioned before. I hope that answered your question. It’s a little unique, I admit. But it’s been a whirlwind for Ryan. I looked over at him one night and I said, ‘Hey, what about this?’ He goes, ‘Coach, I’ve only been here four more days than you.’ That’s been fun. But it will be fun growing in this together.
YOUR OLD PLAYERS HAVE SAID YOU’VE HANDLED OVER-SIZED EGOS BEFORE. DO YOU TREAT THOSE DUDES THE SAME AS THE OTHER PLAYERS? DIFFERENTLY?
Wow, that’s way too well thought-out. I’m not smart enough to analyze all those things. I’m just me. I’m not smart enough to be anybody else. It’s been this way for a long time. I really can’t pinpoint it — I’m not dodging your question. But I know it’s about bringing people together. That’s going to be what we attempt to do, the best we can, every day.
WHAT ATTRIBUTES DO YOU LOOK FOR IN A QB?
One that wins. I’ve had different ones. They’re just like any other position, from the standpoint of what you’re looking for: decision-making, executing their job, what to do, how to do it and execute it under pressure. That’s what we do. And that translates to every position, in my opinion, whether you’re talking about a kicker, a long snapper. Everybody’s got a job. That’s why this is the ultimate of team games. Relying on the guy next to you to do his job; 11 guys at once doing it, you’re usually successful. I know everybody makes a big deal about the quarterback — and I get that — but it’s still a team game. We all have to do it for our teammates and for something bigger than ourselves. I look for that in any position, to be honest with you.
HOW MUCH AUTHORITY DO YOU NEED OVER A ROSTER? IF YOU’VE GOT GUYS YOU CAN’T WIN WITH, CAN YOU ENACT THAT CHANGE?
That’s a great question. Because in today’s deal, contractually, I just know in 1989 we didn’t have all that. To me, I don’t think you need all that in 2015. I think, just like I talked about with the team, I believe that to be true with the decision makers. If we have a building full of good evaluators, if we work at it very hard, I’ve been places where we never even had in writing what and who and all that. Typically you come to the same agreement, and I predict that’s the way it’s going to be here moving forward.
PACE’S PERSONNEL BACKGROUND, HOW MUCH DOES THAT HELP YOU?
Well first of all, in my opinion, to be the head coach you can’t wear all the hats – there’s just not enough time in the day. To wear all the hats I’m going to wear here on my spot on the team, if I do it right I’m not going to have time for the other stuff. So, look, I’ve been in the league and in football for a long time. I have an eye for talent. I happen to enjoy it. I think to be a good coach you better be a good evaluator, or how do you even select your depth chart? So, to me, it’s back what I said. It’s identifying, selecting the best human talent available. That means the 46 on game day. That means the 53 on the roster. That means the 10 practice squad guys. That means we look out there that we think can improve our football team, and through the season you look to improve your football team on daily basis. You might have injuries. You better have a list ready to go. I don’t have time for all that. Now I think that, respectfully, if we’re looking at things and I have time to do it. If Ryan comes to me and says, coach, can you look at this? I’d say sure and we’d sit down and ... (Beta kappa something or another?) I’ve watched enough football players. A lot of them are in busts. I think as a group … we’re gonna do just fine.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU ARE FEARFUL OF COMING TO A STORIED FRANCHISE?
Fear is probably the wrong word. Are there things I respect about it? Sure. I’ve been in this city and I’m not going to mention names but it’s kind of vicious in the newspapers and all that stuff. I wasn’t on the receiving end, but I still feel for the other guy. But that’s OK. Like I said before, this is a competitive game. We know what we’re signing up for. I tell my players all the time, we’re under attack. You can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen. It’s what we sign up for. It’s why we’re compensated so well for what we do. I explained to my wife one time wondering what time I’m going to be home. I said, ‘honey, I'll get a paper route. I’ll be home but lot, but we got to move a lot.’ I was younger and not as mature when I said that.
WHY IS THIS THE RIGHT PLACE?
I think it starts at the top. The ownership is very respected in the league. I’ve banged around this thing for 25 years. I’m at owners meetings, I kind of know the dynamics of every football team there is. I’m not smart – I’ve just been through it a little bit. So I had great respect for this organization before this happened. I think that one of the reasons why you try and conduct yourself the right way, it’s a small fraternity of people. I try and explain that to players, how they conduct themselves, what people kind of think you are. So it was very appealing. I came here in 1985, I was a college coach and Mike Ditka was the head coach. I know they remodeled this building, this was a completely different building. So I saw what the Bears are about and I’m really excited and honored and proud to be standing here. I can’t make any promises other than I’m gonna give you all I got. And that trophy is kind of lonely out there in the hallway.
BRIAN URLACHER HAS BEEN CRITICAL OF JAY CUTLER.
As mentioned earlier about the quarterback position — and I know Brian. We’re going to make things right with him. I know … I’m excited about meeting with him, both Ryan and I are … what he says is not wrong. But it’s just not related to that position. Much like I answered that other question. You know, it’s not always about talent, whether you’re putting together a Seal Team 6 group — sometimes it’s experience. Sometimes it’s a special skill. It’s not always the most talented tams that win. it’s the best teams that win.
YOUR THOUGHTS ON JOHN ELWAY’S COMMENTS THAT THE BRONCOS COULDN’T WIN A SUPERBOWL WITH YOU AT THE HELM.
You know, I read things, all kind of things. I’ll just say, we did disagree. Not on anything specific, obviously we parted ways. Felt good about it. Hugged walking out. I said that a week ago today and I still feel that.
IS FINDING AN OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR HARDER BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY VACANCIES?
You know, I used to get the question, are you concerned? I’m concerned about everything. Is it difficult? Yeah, everything we do, we’re competing against 31 teams that are the best in the world at what they do. So, it’s all difficult. But you know that going in. We will hire an outstanding offensive coordinator and then we’re not going to predict how he does, we’re just going to go do it.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WANT TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT WITH URLACHER?
Not so much back out of that rear-view mirror. It’s looking forward. I’ve not talked to Brian in awhile. I’ve gathered whatever it was, and our experience has been to reach out. I mean, I’m going to reach out to Mike Ditka. Mike’s a friend I haven’t talked to in a while. Banged into him every once in awhile in Florida. But he understands Chicago, at this point, way better than I do. I’d be crazy not to. With ex-players, I think it’s important to build that relationship. I can’t speak for (mumbling)… I’m ignorant to that. I just know that Ryan and I are going to reach out (to Urlacher) and spend some time.
YOUR PHILOSOPHY ON RUNNING THE FOOTBALL IN A PASS-FIRST LEAGUE.
You know, we talk about the toughness and the personality of running the ball and stopping the run. I think that’s the essence of football. That’s just me and that’s why I bring it up first. But I can promise you, you better be able to throw it, because typically on third down, you gotta throw it. And I can promise you, you better be able to defend the pass. So at the end of the day, to be successful, you better be consistent and good at both. I’m talking about offensively and defensively, and that’s not slighting special teams. If you watched the game the other day, I think that might have been the difference in the game, is fourth down. It’s all important, it’s all a concern and it’s our job to move forward getting better at all of it.
HOW DID YOUR HEART SCARE AFFECT YOU?
Probably taught me to listen to doctors. Health is important. But my issue was not lifestyle, I didn’t have bypass surgery. I was born with something that they didn’t find until I was 42. I thank the New York Giants for that because they found it. I was an athlete my whole life and nobody ever found it. They monitored it for a long time. They told me I probably should gone in in June. I wasn’t quite ready for that. Just for those of you moving forward, it’s not real easy to say, ‘Oh yeah, today’s a great day to go in for open heart surgery.’ And you feel fine. Yeah, it was a little scary. I thought I could get through the season. I made it half way. But with the love and care of my family, luckily I was in a good place when it happened. I knew people, they kind of parted the Red Sea. It was a four-week layover. I was back four weeks post-op, came back and actually got on guys in my training room and said: ‘Dude, that’s a sprained ankle. I just had open heart surgery.’ So it gives me a little juice in the locker room. I would’ve treated it like an injury and I came back pretty fast.
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.