Bears' McCaskey doesn't like to deal with hypotheticals

Chairman reflects on first year in charge of Bears; prefers to discuss the here and now

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — After becoming chairman of the board last May, George McCaskey has overseen an interesting year for the team his grandfather George Halas founded. McCaskey sat down with the Tribune at the NFL meetings to discuss the state of the Bears.

What stood out from your first year as chairman of the board?

Probably the most striking thing is when I became chairman we were in the midst of a lockout. People went out of their way to tell me how important football was to them, how important the Bears were to them. It's a very personal thing. That really hit home. I think how close we were to losing games, losing the season. Cooler heads prevailed. It was a reminder of what a great game football is and how fortunate we are to be involved in it.

Once the labor situation was resolved, what stands out?

We didn't make the playoffs. That was disappointing. You saw the last two years, teams that barely made the playoffs won the Super Bowl. You have to get in to make hay. The Giants had lost four in a row and they wanted the head coach's head on a platter. Then they won the Super Bowl. It was a reminder that you have to get in, and when you have the right guy, you have to stick with him.

Do you believe Lovie Smith is the right guy?

We do.

Why?

The players like to play for him. He's consistent. He's fair. He's tough. He knows how to win.

There has been some thought that he has one year to prove himself to new general manager Phil Emery. Do you view it that way?

Lovie will be the first to tell you that everybody in the NFL is there on a prove-it basis. From what I've seen, he and Phil are working very well together. We hope that shows in results on the field.

What does the chairman of the board do?

The most important thing is that you are contributing to a climate, a climate that encourages sustained success. It can be done in big ways. But a lot of times it's done in a lot of little ways, just telling people they did a good job, that their efforts are appreciated, that we are all in this together, pulling in the same direction.

Would the general manager change have happened if you were not in your position?

I don't know about that. It was Ted (Phillips') decision. We supported it, talked about it. We agreed it was necessary. Phil has done a great job. He has outstanding leadership abilities. He's very analytical, very detailed, very meticulous, very thorough. He has a scout's eye.

When did you first think about making a change?

Ted and I talked about it as part of the year-end evaluation.

So you did not talk about it before the season ended?

Evaluation is an ongoing process. Maybe I'll feel differently when I'm on the job longer. But from what I see, there isn't a lot of time during the season to be making a decision like that. The focus each week is on the next week's opponent.

CHICAGO

More