LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Bears chairman George McCaskey met with the media Wednesday at Halas Hall following his team’s disappointing 3-13 season. He answered questions for a little over 12 minutes, addressing why major changes aren’t being made and why he believes patience is needed.
LISTEN: George McCaskey’s entire press conference
Here is a transcription of the entire press conference, with questions edited for clarity:
On his reaction to see 20,000-plus empty seats at the Bears’ last home game on Christmas Eve…
“Well the whole season was disappointing. Ryan (Pace) and John (Fox) touched on that, of course. When I was in the ticket office, I worried about every empty seat. But I also celebrated every occupied seat. The Bears fans that I talked to in the parking lots tailgating and in the seats and so forth, they were telling me, ‘Hang in there. It’s going to get better. We like your general manager. We like your coach.’ And like everybody else, they want more wins. They deserve more wins and we’re going to do everything we can to get them.”
But is the apathy from the fan base concerning?
“We always want everybody engaged and we understand that we need to play better to get people engaged. But Bears fans have been terrific. Through thick and thin. Like I said, when I was in the ticket office, people would tell me with such pride how their grandfather or grandmother acquired the season tickets in the first place and how they have no intention of giving them up and how they want to bring their kids to the games and continue the family tradition. We get that the Bears are such an important part of people’s lives and we need to do our part. Bears fans deserve a winner.”
On if he’s pleased with the job general manager Ryan Pace has done…
“I’m pleased with the job he’s done. He talked from the beginning about how this was going to take time, about how we needed to be patient. I told him I’m not a patient person but I promised him that I would be patient. With all the adversity that we’ve had, I like the steady hand that he and John have had on the team. These guys fought for each other all season. They never pointed fingers. And I think that’s a credit to the type of players that we have. And I think it’s also a credit to John and his coaching staff for keeping them together.”
What is your patience like now?
“Like I said, I’m not a patient person. But I promised Ryan that I would be patient.”
On how his mother, Virginia, is handling the Bears’ troubles…
“She’ll be 94 tomorrow. She has outlived her dad, her mom, her only sibling, her husband and a son. She’s had her share of heartache. But she is a remarkably resilient person. I tell people that she’s tougher than her dad was. And those who know her don’t disagree. This is hard for her. Every loss is painful. But she supports what we’re doing. She’s on board. Like every Bears fan, she wants more wins. And we intend to get them for her.”
On not making the playoffs in nine of the last 10 seasons…
“It can’t be the norm. The goal everywhere every year is to win the Super Bowl. I think what Alshon (Jeffery) said (guaranteeing a Super Bowl next year) was great. I think he was trying to put his teammates on notice, that winning the Super Bowl begins in the offseason, and that they should get away from the game, rest, heal up, but then get after it in their offseason programs and be ready to go when we start minicamp.”
If 3-13 or 4-12 happen again, what will you and your family do?
“Well, there’s a great line in the movie True Grit: ‘I don’t deal in hypotheticals. The world as it is is vexing enough.’ We’re trying to get better every day. Every season is evaluated at the conclusion of the season on the merits of that season.”
Can you quantify the improvement you need to see to stay the course?
“It’s not a question of quantification—if that’s a word. We need to get better. We need more wins. We want results. But we understand it’s a process. It’s painful at times, but under Ryan’s leadership and with John’s coaching, we think we can get there.”
Did changing the head coach and GM two years ago impact your decision to stay the course?
“No. Like, I said, every season is evaluated on its own merits. Every employee is evaluated on his or her performance.”
What was the difference between this season and Marc Trestman’s final season in 2014?
“I don’t think it would be productive to compare administrations. But the thing I like about Ryan and John is how well they work together. How they have stuck to the plan. How they have weathered adversity and kept this team together.”
On the report during the season that the Bears were considering hiring a consultant in the front office…
“I’ll clarify it for all of you as I did with the reporter who authored that report. There is absolutely no truth to it whatsoever.”
Have you examined the structure of football operations at all at any point throughout this year?
“No. We think we have the right structure. We think we have the right people.”
Would it have been better to publicly deny that report when it came out?
“Yeah, it’s a good question. We talked about it internally. When you start responding to unsubstantiated reports, where do you stop? We talked about it internally. Everybody was on the same page. Ryan called the author of that report and told him it was erroneous, and he didn’t believe it when Ryan said it. So I called him and told him: ‘I don’t know who your sources are. I don’t care who they are. I can tell you right now they’re giving you bad information.’”
But given the significance of that report, doesn’t make sense to shoot it down?
“When you start, where do you stop? I used to be in the news business. It used to be that a rumor was not news. It used to be fact, confirmed. If your mother says she loves you, check it out. Now it’s just, ‘I heard a rumor, so I’m going to put it out there.’”
That was a pretty big rumor though…
“Like I said, if you assemble the press corps and say there’s no truth to that rumor, that creates another story for the guy that started it in the first place. Then what about the next week and the week after that? There just doesn’t seem to be an end to it. we knew that we were all on the same page internally, and that was good enough for us.”
On if he has any problem with John Fox not always being truthful with the media/fans…
“I would dispute that he isn’t always truthful. He understands that you folks have a job to do. He respects that. He has a job to do, too. He has to respect in some cases the player’s privacy over medical information. He’s also being careful I think in what he says so as not to give a competitive advantage to our opponent.”
On what he thinks about Jay Cutler…
“Since you asked the question in the context of a fan, I’ll answer in the context of a fan. I’ve always been a fan of Jay Cutler. I love him as a player. I love him off the field. I think he doesn’t get enough credit for what he does off the field. As far as the football evaluation, that’s up to Ryan and John.”
On the culture that John Fox has built inside Halas Hall…
“I think the culture’s been excellent. Like I said, these players want to be here. They want to win for each other. They want to play for this coach. And I’ve been very impressed with the improvement in the culture since Ryan and John have gotten here.”
Can you speak to any specifics about the culture, other than “want-to”?
“I think that’s a big part of it, that they want to win for each other.”
When you lost to the Cowboys, did you ask Ryan Pace why he didn’t draft Dak Prescott?
“I don’t make player personnel evaluations. I leave that to the experts. I’m a fan. I’ve got my opinions as a fan. What’s the Tommy Lasorda line? ‘If you listen too much to the fans, you wind up sitting next to them.’”
On how the media isn’t hearing the same support from fans that he claims he is hearing…
“Ok. Well, I’m sure you have your finger on the pulse. I’m sure there’s restlessness, there’s discontent, there’s unease. People want to see their Bears do better. But I’d like to invite you, (Chicago Tribune columnist David Haugh), to walk around the South lot with me opening day next year. We’ll see what they have to say.”
Does Pace have the clearance to spend big money in free agency?
“Absolutely. But I’ve told Ryan, ‘You should be criticized every spring for not being more aggressive in free agency because that means we are sticking to the plan of developing our own players, focusing primarily on the draft.’ If there is a special guy out there, do you do what it takes to go get him? Yeah. But I think he’s taken a very measured approach to free agency thus far and I expect that to continue this offseason.”
How long are you willing to wait?
“Every season is evaluated at the end of the season and we make a decision on how to go forward.”
How challenging has it been to be patient?
“Yeah it’s been very challenging. I’ve said many times, our entire family is huge fans and we live and die with our Bears, just like everyone else does. And it has been very difficult. And that’s where I think the important responsibility for me is to show the same kind of discipline with myself that Ryan is demonstrating in the draft and in free agency. You know, sometimes the best thing to do is to keep your mouth shut.”