When I asked George McCaskey in wrapping up a sitdown interview Wednesday if he had one final message for Bears fans, the chairman responded: “Keep the faith. Go Bears. And go Giants.”
Well, naturally there’s nothing unusual about rooting for whomever is playing the Packers. But before removing his microphone, McCaskey drew a comparison about keeping patient, as he and management have decided to do with Ryan Pace and John Fox, despite winning half as many games in year two of this regime compared to its first season.
“When they were 4-6, someone in the media said they need to fire somebody just to fire somebody. And they didn’t,” McCaskey told us. “They believed in their people. They stayed the course. The quarterback talked about running the table, but they approached each game as a must-win situation and put themselves in a good situation. I tip my cap to them.”
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Laying the groundwork in hopes of sustained success is why the Packers have controlled the division since the early 90s. They’re already there, a well-run machine, with the help of a second straight great starting quarterback. That’s what McCaskey is expecting from Pace and Fox, even if the Phil Emery-Marc Trestman duo won four more games over their two seasons together before being fired two years ago.
“I don’t think there’s anything to be gained by comparing regimes. We’re in the here-and-now. We’re assessing Ryan and John and their performance. We haven’t seen the results that anyone has wanted, and that’s disappointing, but we’re excited about the future.”
As his mother Virginia McCaskey turns 94-years-old on Thursday, George had to gather his composure for a moment in front of a group of reporters he’d earlier taken questions from. In a perfect world, he’d love nothing more than to have his mom accept the Lombardi Trophy one more time, if time and a successful rebuilding of the roster allows.
“People are surprised when I tell them mom goes to every game, home and away. And the players make way for her as she wheels herself up the stairs to the plane,” said McCaskey. “They want to win for her. But it can’t be just about one person. They want to win for each other, and they want to win for this great city and their great fans.”
As for the general manager he hired two years ago, he likes how Pace hasn’t let a disappointing, step-back season deter the vision with patience even the chairman would find hard to muster.
“He’s a steadying influence. I like the type of players he’s acquiring. Now we just need more “better” players.”
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In his group Q-&-A with the media Wednesday, McCaskey shared the mostly positive face-to-face feedback he gets from the fans, but was challenged about what’s believed to be a growing tune-out factor, anger, even apathy. But in following up with him, McCaskey isn’t naive enough to think it doesn’t exist among some diehards after his team missed the playoffs for a ninth time in ten years since Super Bowl XLI.
“We understand that. It’s not to say that everybody is happy in the stands. That’s certainly not the case. We understand that people are disappointed in their Bears. The way I can best describe it is, Bears fans’ relationship with the team ... like when a loved one disappoints you, the disappointment is more profound because you expect so much. We understand that we’ve fallen short of their expectations. We’ve fallen short of our expectations. Bears fans deserve a winner.
“In some cases, we may have to win people back. But most of the people I’ve been talking to have been saying, `Hang in there. We know you’re on the right track. We know you have the right plan, and we know you’ve got the right people.’”