LAKE FOREST, Ill. — With the Bears making the unprecedented decision to fire both general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman Monday, the search is now underway to remake the Chicago Bears’ identity.
Chairman George McCaskey and team president Ted Phillips held a 42-minute press conference on a historic day at Halas Hall to discuss the changes and the direction of the franchise. Here are 10 things you need to know:
1. The Bears hired former New York Giants GM Ernie Accorsi to assist with their search for a new general manager and head coach. Accorsi, 73, is a former newspaper reporter who worked his way into the NFL and eventually served as GM of the New York Giants from 1998 to 2007. The Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007 before Accorsi retired.
Accorsi is a member of the NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel and he assisted the Carolina Panthers in their search for a general manager in 2012. The Panthers ended up hiring Dave Gettleman, who was the Giants’ senior pro personnel analyst. The Panthers have made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons with Gettleman as GM.
Bears president Ted Phillips said conversations with Accorsi started a few days ago as they determined his interest and availability, but he and Chairman George McCaskey maintain that a final decision on Emery and Trestman was not made until Sunday night after the Bears lost to the Vikings in their season finale.
McCaskey and Phillips would not talk about specific candidates for either job, but in gauging potential options, keep in mind Giants director of college scouting Marc Ross, who the Panthers interviewed in 2012 with Accorsi’s assistance.
Interestingly enough, the Panthers also interviewed Montreal Alouettes vice president Jim Popp, who hired Marc Trestman as Montreal’s head coach in 2008.
2. The Bears didn’t completely dismiss the idea of changing the structure of the organization, but they would clearly prefer to keep it the same. The presence of Phillips at Monday’s press conference immediately signaled that he still has major say in the decisions that will take place over the next month, and McCaskey confirmed that he and Phillips will be the ones making the final call on who is hired as general manager.
However, when asked if the structure could possibly change, this was McCaskey’s response: “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.”
Both McCaskey and Phillips were very careful not to pigeonhole themselves into a specific type of candidate for either open position. Everything and everyone is on the table, meaning if they can hit a home run with an experienced candidate who asks for greater power, they aren’t going to just close the door on that person.
Phillips did say, however, that they would prefer not to have a head coach who serves as GM as well.
“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,” Phillip said. “But then again, we’re not going to foreclose any possibility if the right person comes up.”
3. Jim Harbaugh was not contacted by the Bears, McCaskey said. So that’s that.
4. The Bears will move with “a sense of urgency,” but they have no specific timetable. Obviously, there are attractive places like San Francisco only looking for a head coach right now, not a GM, and it’s important for the Bears not to fall behind in the process of finding a good head coach.
“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,” McCaskey said.
5. The Bears already received “half a dozen inquires” Monday from agents representing interested coaches, according to Phillips.
6. Virginia McCaskey is pissed off. Seriously, she is.
Asked what input his mom had in the decision, George McCaskey choked up and, after a long, 10-second pause, said: “She’s been very supportive.”
Enter another long pause, followed by: “She agrees with the decisions that were made.”
Then, after another pause, McCaskey gave in.
“She’s pissed off,” he said. “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.”
Moments like this made it clear why Monday played out the way it did and it instilled some confidence that the McCaskey and Phillips won’t repeat the same mistakes again.
7. Of course, there were also moments that made you have doubts about the future. When asked why Accorsi wasn’t making the final call on the GM, McCaskey said:
“I think Ted and I understand the history of the Bears.”
Then he went into a tangent about Accorsi understanding the history, saying he’s “a good fit” because “he once worked for George Halas” and “mentioned he was a suite mate of Brian Piccolo’s at Wake Forest.”
Those, of course, are not qualifications for being able to hire a good general manager. Accorsi does indeed have qualifications to make a good hire, but it’s puzzling why McCaskey chose to reference Halas and Piccolo, instead of, say, Accorsi’s Super Bowl ring.
8. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer was also fired Monday. This is significant because assistants are usually kept under contract when a head coach is fired until they find other jobs. This often saves the team money as those coaches negotiate out of their contracts. By cutting ties with Kromer Monday, McCaskey and Phillips sent a clear message that they couldn’t stand for the betrayal of trust Kromer displayed when he privately criticized Jay Cutler to NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport. Unlike Trestman, they held Kromer accountable.
So, yes, defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Joe DeCamillis still have jobs with the Bears — for now. They will be permitted to seek out other jobs as long as they follow NFL protocol and, in the end, the Bears will likely save some money by not firing them right away. Don’t expect either to be back with the Bears next season.
9. As for assistants who could possibly return, keep an eye on wide receivers coach Mike Groh and tight ends coach Andy Bischoff. Groh played a significant role in the development of Alshon Jeffery, while tight end Martellus Bennett praises Bischoff for his improvement the last two seasons.
10. According to McCaskey, they did not consider firing Marc Trestman earlier in the season.
“We thought it would be a disservice to Phil and Marc to make an emotional decision based on the result of just one game,” the Chairman said.
So, maybe it crossed his mind, but obviously they felt like it was best to wait until the end of the season.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for 87.7 The Game and TheGameChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.